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Ald. Tim Cullerton: Alley Argument Not 'Proudest Moment,' But Not Unethical

By Heather Cherone | July 24, 2013 6:30am | Updated on July 24, 2013 1:06pm
 Ald. Tim Cullerton (38th) said he called police on a driver blocking his sister-in-law's garage because he felt threatened.
Ald. Tim Cullerton (38th) said he called police on a driver blocking his sister-in-law's garage because he felt threatened.
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DNAinfo/Justin Breen, 38th Ward Office

PORTAGE PARK — Ald. Tim Cullerton (38th) abused his authority by demanding that Chicago police officers ticket a man involved in a parking dispute with Cullerton's sister-in-law, according to the city's legislative inspector general.

Inspector General Faisal Khan's semiannual report did not name the alderman. But Cullerton said Tuesday he was involved in the August 2012 incident, and denied abusing his power as a member of the City Council.

Cullerton said he intervened in the dispute to protect his sister-in-law from a man who had become verbally abusive.

Khan's report found Cullerton improperly "instructed" a police officer to write the man two tickets, one for parking in the alley and the other for parking in a street-sweeping zone. Cullerton used "his title to effectuate that action, while having no legal authority over the police officer," according to the report.

The dispute began when the man, who was not identified in the inspector general's report, parked his car in the alley behind Cullerton's sister-in-law's home, blocking her garage.

Cullerton, who lives on the same block, was driving by when he noticed the two arguing and stopped. The man, who no longer lives in the area, often parked his car in the alley, blocking his neighbors' garages, Cullerton said.

"He was screaming at her, calling her all sorts of names and threatening her," Cullerton said. "Being Irish, I said a few things back."

The verbal altercation was not his "proudest moment," Cullerton said.

"I would absolutely defend my sister-in-law, or any woman in a similar situation, again," Cullerton said. 

In his complaint to the inspector general's office, the man who was ticketed said Cullerton called him a racial slur.

Cullerton said he did not use a racial slur during the argument. Khan's office said it "could not verify that the alderman used a racial slur toward the complainant."

"Veins were popping out of his head he was so mad," Cullerton said, adding that the man looked like a weightlifter. "So I called the police. His actions were totally uncalled for."

When an officer and a sergeant arrived, they offered to arrest the man for verbally assaulting the alderman and his sister-in-law, Cullerton said.

"I told them I didn't want him to be arrested, but I told them I thought he should be ticketed for parking in the alley and for parking in the street-sweeping zone," Cullerton said. 

The inspector general's finding is a matter of "semantics," Cullerton said.

"I asked the officer to write the ticket. I didn't direct him," Cullerton said. "It is a big to-do about nothing."

The man moved his car from the alley first to the street, which was a no-parking zone because of street sweeping, and then to a legal space before the officers arrived, Cullerton said.

"In hindsight, the officer should have told me he couldn't write the ticket because he didn't see the violations," Cullerton said.

It was his right as a citizen to call the police when he felt threatened, Cullerton said.

The matter was referred by Khan to the Board of Ethics for further review and action.

Cullerton said he welcomed a hearing before the board, tentatively scheduled for August. Cullerton said he expected the inspector general's finding to be dismissed as "unjust."

"I respect the members of the board, and have the utmost confidence in their ability to sort out what happened," Cullerton said.