Algonquin Township

Algonquin Township fires Ryan Provenzano as chief of staff

ALGONQUIN – Ryan Provenzano, a political insider who earned more than $33 an hour in two Algonquin Township offices, has been fired.

Township Supervisor Charles Lutzow terminated his 23-year-old chief of staff Tuesday morning and banned him from the premises.

Lutzow would not comment on why he fired Provenzano, whose roles in two offices have raised questions among township officials and road district employees who contend that his hiring was the product of patronage and cronyism.

Despite several phone calls to his cellphone, Provenzano could not be reached for comment Tuesday. 

The Republican had agreements in place to earn $32 an hour and $63,000 a year working full time as the chief of staff in Lutzow’s office, and another deal working part time as deputy highway commissioner at the Algonquin Township Highway Department, where he made $33 an hour.

That’s about $4 more an hour than the road district’s highest-paid employee, Randy Voss, who has worked for the highway department for 44 years and earns $29.14 an hour.

It is unclear whether Provenzano will continue working for the road district. Highway Commissioner Andrew Gasser could not be reached for comment.

Algonquin Township trustees commended Lutzow’s firing of Provenzano.

“Although there is much more work to be done to repair Algonquin Township, I believe Supervisor Lutzow made the right decision in this instance,” Trustee Rachael Lawrence said.

“It was the only thing that could be done,” Trustee Dan Shea said. “Working for the two departments was ill-advised.”

Provenzano picking up hours across the hall in the road district did not sit well with township officials, Trustee Dave Chapman said.

“Chuck [Lutzow] felt that action brought disrepute upon Algonquin Township,” Chapman said. “It was untenable to have him working there, and every one of us had a bad taste in our mouth.”

Provenzano is the son of former McHenry County Board member Nick Provenzano, who now works for U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren, and the nephew of former Maine Township Highway Commissioner Robert Provenzano. 

He is a graduate of Marian Central Catholic High School and former employee of McHenry Harley-Davidson. Ryan Provenzano spent 10 months as a front house manager at Plum Garden Restaurant – a popular Chinese eatery in McHenry owned by former McHenry County Board member Perry Moy, who donated $550 to Nick Provenzano’s political efforts in 2004, according to campaign finance records.

Ryan Provenzano helped McHenry Mayor Wayne Jett win election as his campaign manager, and he worked as a field director for Gov. Bruce Rauner’s campaign operations in McHenry County.

Ryan Provenzano and his father helped Lutzow run his campaign for township supervisor.

Lutzow has denied that Ryan Provenzano was hired as a political favor.

Former Algonquin Township Supervisor Dianne Klemm hired Ryan Provenzano early last year to help transition the office into the hands of Lutzow, who recently was elected supervisor. Provenzano then earned $13 an hour as an administrative assistant – a job that belonged to Judith Kreklow, who worked at Algonquin Township for more than two decades.

In 2015, Kreklow earned a $70,824 annual salary. The township spent $30,302 to cover her health insurance for a total compensation package of $101,127, according to payroll documents.

On May 15, Lutzow’s first day in office, the incoming supervisor signed a one-line memo increasing Ryan Provenzano’s pay, according to documents obtained by the Northwest Herald.

“Please revise Ryan A. Provenzano’s pay rate to $59,000 annual salary,” wrote Lutzow, who earns $55,000 as supervisor and $1,000 as road district treasurer.

In November, the Northwest Herald filed a Freedom of Information Act request with township officials asking for documents inside Ryan Provenzano’s personnel file, including a job description, contracts, résumés and letters of recommendation.

Township attorney James Kelly told the Northwest Herald on Dec. 5 that no such documents exist.

“There are no documents that are responsive to your request,” Kelly wrote.

As chief of staff at the supervisor’s office, Ryan Provenzano worked full time, logging 37.5 hours a week. His responsibilities included managing payroll, shaping the township budget and controlling the township’s building and maintenance, Lutzow said.

Although he was eligible to enroll in the township’s health insurance program, Ryan Provenzano did not take health benefits; he is on his parents’ insurance plan and could not bank sick pay. 

Ryan Provenzano was enrolled in the state’s municipal pension fund, and the township paid for him to carry a cellphone. He used a township credit card to buy a MacBook computer and accessories for $1,700, according to township billing documents.

On Tuesday, Lutzow ordered Provenzano to return all of his equipment to the township.

In December, Lawrence heard rumblings that Ryan Provenzano had started working full time at the road district.

She emailed Gasser on Dec. 30 and asked about the freshman employee’s role inside the highway commissioner’s office.

She soon learned that Gasser had hired Ryan Provenzano as a deputy highway commissioner who earned $33.65 an hour, according to records.

In a Jan. 9 letter responding to Lawrence’s questions, Gasser explained the decision behind Ryan Provenzano’s hiring.

“Ryan Provenzano is an enormous asset to the entire township,” Gasser wrote. “His work impacts the supervisor’s office, highway department and the assessor’s office. There are times where the highway department requires an inordinate amount of Ryan Provenzano’s time that takes him away from the supervisor’s office.”

Payroll records show that Provenzano worked 16 hours at the highway department from Dec. 6 to 13. He earned $268.83.

Provenzano received two checks for work he did from Dec. 14 to Jan. 10 as the supervisor’s chief of staff. His earnings for that one-month period totaled $3,055.

Questioned by the Northwest Herald at a recent township meeting, Gasser would not comment on the specifics of Ryan Provenzano’s duties at the highway department or how many hours he would work every week. 

Before Ryan Provenzano began working in Gasser’s department in December, Lutzow said he was under the impression that his chief of staff would work up to four hours a week at the road district.

Late last year, Ryan Provenzano switched back to an hourly pay rate, but Lutzow would not offer specifics on why the arrangement changed.

At a Jan. 10 township meeting, Lawrence asked Gasser to explain why he brought Ryan Provenzano into his office.

“I needed a deputy, and I found one, and Ryan is already at the township, [and] he already has a great understanding of how the township works, and he is not a full-time employee, by any means,” Gasser said at the meeting. “He’s worth every friggin’ penny, and I am tired – I am tired of certain people coming around here and questioning everything I’ve done.”

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect the high school Ryan Provenzano attended.
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