The Algonquin Township Board forestalled a vote on submitting a referendum question on the November 2020 ballot asking residents whether to dissolve the Algonquin Road District, and tabled the action, during its April 10 regular meeting.
Family issues prevented Township Trustee Rachel Lawrence, who has championed the resolution, from attending the session.
The proposed referendum question was brought forward by Lawrence at a July 2018 board meeting, when the motion failed, and last month, when the measure was tabled. Documents show the binding referendum question as: “Shall the road district of the Township of Algonquin be abolished with all rights, powers, duties, assets, property, liabilities, obligations, and responsibilities being assumed by the township of Algonquin?”
Permission for the question was passed by the state legislature, and effectuated into law through former Gov. Bruce Rauner last year, whereby township residents can vote for the dissolution of a township highway district through a simple majority vote. Authorities of the township highway district would be assumed by that township.
While the resolution appears aimed at the long-running disputes between the road district and township board, Lawrence had said there was a lack of accountability and oversight at the road district. During the same meeting, township trustees rejected a second submission for payment of nearly 1,200 tons of road salt, and a $107,000 bill from the road district, by a 4-0 vote.
It had previously been submitted during the February business session, and denied by a 5-0 vote. Trustees maintained the 2018 purchase from Kansas-based Compass Materials Inc. did not follow the normal bidding process and violated state-mandated protocol. Last year, the county sheriff’s office served a McHenry County grand jury subpoena on the road district to obtain records for its investigation on the allegations.
The results were forwarded to the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office for the prosecution of the district’s supervisor, Andrew Gasser, but he wasn’t charged. Citing a conflict of interest, the case was forwarded to the Illinois State’s Attorney’s Office of the Special Prosecutor for disposition.
“At this time, we haven’t heard back from them, nor have we been given a timetable,” McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally said. “Remember, all these allegations resulted in thousands of pages of documents to review. They have to look into the material very thoroughly before issuing a determination.”
During his tenure, which began in 2017, Gasser filed a civil action suit in January against Township Supervisor Charles Lutzow seeking a minimum $1 million in compensatory and punitive damages.
The lawsuit alleges constructive fraud, committed by Lutzow, in his capacity of highway department treasurer, when he closed an account at the local Fifth Third Bank and transferred the funds to the Crystal Lake American Community Bank. New accounts were opened under titles such as “Algonquin Township Highway Equipment and Building,” and “Algonquin Township Highway Road and Bridge Fund.”
Lutzow said he opened the accounts corresponding to different funds within the township and highway department. “There’s so many lawsuits, I literally don’t know which one you’re talking about,” he said, when contacted. “We’re like the ugly step-child … it’s a lot to keep up with. The issue is the legal bills that the township has to pay, more than $250,000 and that’s all taxpayer money.”
The initial hearing against Lutzow came April 11, before McHenry County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Meyer. Two months ago, the Township Board approved Woodstock-based attorney Phillip Prossnitz to represent him at a rate of $250 per hour.
In the meantime, Gasser avoided contempt of court charges, when Lake County Circuit Court Judge Dan Jasca ruled April 9 that the threshold was met substantively for arbitration hearings in a lawsuit filed by the Lakemoor-based International Order of Operating Engineers Local 150 against the road district. The two-year-old court case stemmed from Gasser firing three employees upon assuming office.
“This is all taxpayer money, and we’re coming up to budgeting for the new fiscal year,” said Lutzow.
Gasser was unavailable for comment at press time.