By Nona Tepper
The bar manager responsible for filing three nuisance questions that clogged an upcoming election ballot also filed a Freedom of Information Act request to the Cook County Clerk's Office, asking for the emails and job qualifications of a husband and wife in town, according to information obtained by the Forest Park Review through a FOIA request.
Mark Hosty, a River Forest resident, former Forest Park village commissioner and manager of Healy's Westside, FOIA'd the Cook County Clerk's Office on Feb. 7 for all emails between resident Nick Ardinger and his wife, Jessica Rinks, who works in the elections division at the County Clerk.
He also asked for the job posting and qualifications related to her position. In an email, Rinks said that having officials at work go through her emails as part of a FOIA request has been "truly unfortunate and stressful."
"I take public service very seriously," she wrote in an email to the Review. "I abide by all professional standards and ethics at the Cook County Clerk's office. I'm a consummate professional and I don't like the accusation that I am using my position inappropriately. Nothing could be further from the truth."
In response to his FOIA, Hosty received four emails between the couple, all discussing a forwarded invitation from Clerk David Orr to participate in the 2017 Chicago Pride Parade. Half of the email excerpt between the couple reads:
"Want to march in David Orr's contingent in the Pride Parade?" Rinks wrote on June 14, 2017.
"Sure," Ardinger responded.
Hosty did not respond to an interview request about why he FOIA'd Rinks' emails to her husband or what he thought of the documents he received. He is the friend and business partner of Commissioner Thomas Mannix, who alleged in an Aug. 9 post on the "Build Forest Park" Facebook page that he had seen emails implying Ardinger and Rinks engaged in political activity related to video gaming during work hours at their publicly funded institutions.
In a subsequent interview with the Forest Park Review on Aug. 13, Mannix called his tone "slightly harsh" but stood by his comments.
"Nick Ardinger your wife works for the county clerk. In the elections division. What involvement did she have in the signature review? Did she recuse herself from such? What emails texts and phone calls occurred between you and her as the statutorily mandated process? Did she not circulate referendum petitions knowing she could influence the inevitable challenge? These are important questions that need to be answered," Mannix posted on Facebook on Aug. 9. "Also, why was she emailing you asking you to engage in political activity from a government email while on government time? I appreciate you two organizing political activity using my property tax dollars, but come on."
In an email to the Forest Park Review on Aug. 13, Ardinger denied that his wife had anything to do with the effort to a put a binding referendum question related to video gaming on the Nov. 8 ballot.
"Obviously, attacking my wife is totally out of bounds. He wants people to believe that she has behaved in an unethical or illegal way, and believes that simply by putting out the allegation that it will stick," Ardinger wrote. "She hasn't had anything to do with [video gaming]. He knows that, but he wants to spread the innuendo to try to sew doubt in the minds of others."
Ardinger saw Mannix's comments after work while he was walking to the train. At first, he said he felt defensive.
"His comments came across as a clear attempt at intimidation—trying to silence me, trying to smear me and my family. I knew it was baseless, and I knew how he was trying to distort the truth," Ardinger wrote.
But he said now he feels glad Mannix posted the comments. "He showed his true colors," he wrote.
In an interview with the Forest Park Review, Mannix said he made no effort to seek out the couple's emails. He said he posted the comments as a way to defend himself from residents alleging he has engaged in corruption and that his presence on the village electoral board presented a conflict of interest.
Mannix and Hosty operate Mite Limited Corporation, an entity that renovates buildings for sale and rent.
The University of Illinois at Chicago, where Ardinger works, has not yet responded to a FOIA request by the Forest Park Review, asking for a list of everyone who has FOIA'd him over the last two years and the documents received. Ardinger did not respond to interview requests for this story.