A YouTube video showing what appears to be Algonquin Township Highway Department employees firing multiple firearms at a junk car at what could be the township facility has become a last-minute electoral headache for longtime incumbent Highway Commissioner Robert Miller.
The 8 1/2-minute video, posted back in 2009, was made public Friday by candidate Andrew Gasser, who is challenging Miller in Tuesday’s township GOP primary – the victor will proceed, uncontested, to the April 4 consolidated election.
While Gasser points to the video as proof that Miller is unfit to lead, Miller calls the video release a politically motivated stunt and Gasser's description of it inaccurate.
The video shows three men, not counting a fourth holding the camera, firing hundreds of rounds from long rifles, shotguns and handguns into a compact car parked in front of a sand berm. At least part of the video, in which they drive the car around to see whether it still runs, appears to take place at the 3702 Route 14 township building.
One of the men then smashes it with a loader.
“Yeah, baby! Highway department at work! You stall on the side of the road, watch out, man," one of them says off camera right before the loader starts smashing.
“When nobody’s looking, let’s go throw it on [Route] 14!” someone yells.
The statute of limitations – three years for felonies and 18 months for misdemeanors – is long passed.
Besides the potentially illegal acts depicted on the video, the three violate commonly accepted shooting safety rules. Behind the sand and material berms on the Algonquin Township property is land belonging to The Hollows, a conservation area criss-crossed by hiking trails maintained by the McHenry County Conservation District.
Gasser, who said he just learned of the video Friday and posted it, called the incident “a direct reflection of Bob Miller’s leadership and management.”
“I wonder how the McHenry County Conservation District feels about the Algonquin Township employees setting up a dangerously unsafe, uncertified firing range where ricochets could enter their property, endangering life and contaminating environmentally sensitive land? Thank God no one was hurt in this reckless incident,” Gasser said in a statement.
Miller blasted Gasser’s accusations on his Facebook and campaign pages. Miller said the employee he recognized in the video, who he said “was let go some time ago,” told him the video was shot more than a decade ago, after hours, and alleged that it took place on the property of a nearby gravel company that was not, at the time the video was shot, part of the township complex.
He also said the loader used to smash the car was not township property, and belonged to the gravel company.
But Miller said that “does not make it any more appropriate.”
“I believe that the video is distressing and think that if the motivation of its release was, in fact, concern for our township, that it would have been brought directly to me," Miller wrote. "Because it was obviously politically motivated, I found it on social media."
The Northwest Herald was made aware of the video Friday, but was cautious of the video’s legitimacy until Miller commented on it.
Miller supporters have called Gasser, a McHenry County Board member and chairman of the township Republican Party, unqualified for the position of highway commissioner. Gasser supporters allege that Miller is a good-old-boy politician and flagrant practitioner of nepotism – his wife and two sons-in-law are on the township payroll.
The office of highway commissioner has been in Miller’s family since the mid-1960s – Miller’s father, and his father’s father-in-law, previously held it. Robert Miller first joined the highway department as an employee in 1972. Miller was elected late last year to be president of the board of directors of Township Officials of Illinois.
Although the original poster took down the video – his name appears on a list of supporters on Miller’s website – it has since resurfaced on an account that at first glance poses as the official one for the township. That account also includes a video of what appears to be township employees paying someone $20 to absorb the recoil of a 10-gauge shotgun blast with his groin.