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Algonquin Highway Department ordered to rehire 3 fired Local 150 employees

ALGONQUIN – A judge has ordered Algonquin Township Highway Commissioner Andrew Gasser to rehire three employees he fired on his first day on the job with back pay and interest.

Administrative Law Judge Deena Sanceda ordered the employees be rehired because Gasser and his $375-an-hour attorney – who billed the township more than $100,000 between May and September – never responded to the labor complaint.

Sanceda ordered the Algonquin Township Highway Department to rehire the three employees and repay them for all financial losses, including wages and benefits with compounded interest at a rate of 7 percent, according to a Sept. 28 Illinois Labor Relations Board document.

Gasser’s attorney, Robert Hanlon, said the matter isn’t settled. He filed a motion Oct. 6 for the labor board to throw out the order, claiming the highway department was not served with the complaint.

“It’s far from being over,” Hanlon said.

Hanlon argues in his motion he appeared in the matter as a lawyer representing the Algonquin Township Road District – but he received a complaint addressing the Algonquin Township Highway Department. He claims that because the road district and highway department are two separate entities, the complaint was served to the wrong entity.

Lawyers for the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 have since filed a motion to change the name on the complaint from “Algonquin Highway Department” to “Algonquin Township Road District a/k/a Algonquin Township Highway Department.”

Local 150 officials are confident a judge will uphold the order.

“This changes nothing,” Local 150 spokesman Ed Maher said. “This is a play on semantics. We feel very confident that the decision will be upheld.”

Gasser declined to comment and directed questions to his attorney. Hanlon gave $1,000 to Gasser’s election campaign in January, according to campaign finance records.

In May, minutes after he was sworn in as highway commissioner, Gasser fired the two sons-in-law of predecessor Robert Miller – Derek Lee and Andrew Rosencrans – and former McHenry County Board member Nick Chirikos. That sparked the labor dispute between Gasser and Local 150. The union reported the firings to the labor board in June.

In August, the labor board issued a complaint against Gasser and the Algonquin Township Highway Department for unfair labor practice.

In a complaint mailed to Hanlon on Aug. 21, the labor board alleged the firings were unlawful and Gasser failed to bargain in good faith after he publicly abandoned the highway department’s contract with the union. The complaint said that the highway department had to respond within 15 days.

The highway department did not respond to the complaint in time, prompting Local 150 attorneys to file a motion for a default judgment. On Sept. 28, Sanceda granted that request. By not responding, the highway department waived its right to a hearing and admitted to the unfair labor allegations, Sanceda said.

Gasser claimed in a court filing that he was never served with the complaint and the complaint has never been presented to the highway department.

“I have never been served with a complaint in the above captioned matter,” Gasser said in a signed affidavit Oct. 5. “No attorney has appeared on behalf of the Algonquin Township Highway Department. I was not aware that a complaint had been filed.”

Billing records suggest otherwise. Hanlon billed the highway department for legal research, discussions and meetings with Gasser about the Labor Relations Board and unfair labor practice issue. Hanlon and his office were representing Gasser in a McHenry County Circuit Court case at the same time. Hanlon billed the highway department under the circuit court case number, but the records showed overlap with the Labor Relations Board issue.

The bills also show Hanlon and his associates were preparing a response to the labor board.

Hanlon billed the highway department for a total of $107,504.60 between May and September, according to billing records obtained by the Northwest Herald. Hanlon is working on more than one case for the highway department.

Gasser declined to comment on the legal costs or Hanlon’s hourly rate citing pending legal matters.

The mounting legal bills and unresolved labor issues have raised concerns within the township.

“I wish there was a better way to solve this than spending all kinds of money on legal bills,” Algonquin Township Supervisor Charles Lutzow said. “If we lose the case, we owe money on the legal bills and the back pay to the employees. It’s certainly a scary proposition.”

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