CHICAGO — Despite domestic battery charges against former CeaseFire director Tio Hardiman, some South Side community leaders are skeptical of the organization's decision to fire him.
Hardiman was replaced as director of CeaseFire Illinois Tuesday, after his Friday arrest in west suburban Hillside on misdemeanor domestic battery charges. He is accused of roughing up his wife of 13 years, Alison Hardiman. A judge has issued an order of protection for his wife, and Hardiman is scheduled to return to court July 2.
The Rev. St. John Chisum, chairman of the Pastors of Englewood and pastor of Gifts From God Ministry, is optimistic about his nonprofit organization maintaining a close relationship with CeaseFire.
"Tio deserves due process. It does not appear that he was given the benefit of the doubt, and a rush to judgment sounds like it was rendered instead," Chisum said. "We will wait to see who replaces him and how that person goes about working with us and our community partners before deciding what to do."
CeaseFire announced Monday that Hardiman was placed on a paid, administrative leave until June 30, when his contract is set to expire. On Tuesday, CeaseFire announced that Candice Kane, chief operating officer of Cure Violence, the parent organization for CeaseFire, will replace Hardiman as interim director until a permanent replacement is found.
"Ideally, we would like to have a new director in place in the next three months," said Joshua Gryniewicz, a spokesman for Cure Violence.
The Rev. Michael Pfleger, pastor of St. Sabina Church in Auburn Gresham, said he was disappointed with how CeaseFire handled Hardiman's arrest last week.
"I have worked with Tio before, and our relationship has always been one of mutual respect," said Pfleger. "The decision to let him go so quickly, before the guy even went to court, puts their credibility into question. This is an organization that has built a reputation on giving people second chances after doing wrong. So where's Tio second chance?"
Pfleger added that he was saddened to learn that Hardiman was let go after 13 years with the organization, including the last five at its director.
"You don't throw a person who has brought so much to your organization under the bus like that," Pfleger said. "This sounds like a self-centered decision that I hope CeaseFire can bounce back from, because they have made a difference in many communities plagued by violence."
Even if Hardiman is cleared of the charges, he will not be returning to CeaseFire.
"[Tio] will not be reinstated regardless how his case turns out," Gryniewicz said.
It is that type of mentality that gives people the wrong impression about why Hardiman was really let go, said Diane Latiker, founder and executive director of Kids Off the Block Inc., an anti-violence organization in the Roseland community.
"Some people say he was let go because CeaseFire was afraid of losing its contract with the city. I really don't know," Latiker said. "I do know that Tio was the face of CeaseFire, and he did a lot to stop violence out here, and his presence will be missed. As far as me, I do plan to continue working with CeaseFire, but I was surprised to see him let go."
Hardiman said he is focusing on rebuilding his relationship with his wife, not his career.
"My concern is making sure she is OK and that we reunite one day," Hardiman said. "It's been 23 years since I stopped drinking, and if I got through that, I will get through this, too."