CRYSTAL LAKE – Taxpayers could be on the hook for more legal fees if new lawsuits are filed regarding Algonquin Township employees and elected officials – and township leaders are getting prepared.
After less than 10 minutes of open session at a special meeting Friday afternoon, officials went into executive session to talk about pending and “probable” litigation, township attorney James Kelly said.
Discussion during executive session can be kept secret under provisions of the state’s Open Meetings Act. Trustees and Supervisor Charles Lutzow declined to comment on what they talked about for more than an hour behind closed doors.
However, township sources said the officials expect to field lawsuits related to recent flare-ups among public officials – including the firing of Ryan Provenzano, the supervisor’s former chief of staff, and video footage with audio showing Clerk Karen Lukasik looking through records with Fox River Grove Trustee Jennifer Curtiss.
Provenzano, a political insider who earned more than $33 an hour in two Algonquin Township offices, was fired Tuesday. Lutzow has not said why he fired his chief of staff and banned him from the premises.
Provenzano’s roles in two offices raised questions from some township officials and road district employees who contend that his hiring was the product of patronage and cronyism.
Provenzano could not be reached for comment Friday on his cellphone.
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.
It is unclear if Provenzano will continue working for the road district.
Other litigation may sprout from a 15-minute video obtained by the Northwest Herald that shows Lukasik and Curtiss riffling through records inside the supervisor’s office – but officials would not comment on what that litigation might entail.
The video spurred Trustee Rachael Lawrence to call for the clerk’s resignation – but Lukasik, who had a key to the township office where the camera recorded her, said the video is misleading and she only was doing her job: organizing, taking inventory and securing township records.
The security camera footage underscores the turmoil that has turned Algonquin Township into a hostile political environment engulfed with infighting and secrecy.
Trustees said they are tired of the township’s involvement in expensive litigation – officials have approved more than $312,000 in legal bills since June of last year.
“The legal fees are completely out of control, and the legal fees need to stop,” Trustee Melissa Victor said. “This has turned into a political game – not about what is right or wrong. It needs to end.”
Algonquin Township officials called the special meeting to approve more than $700 in backlogged bills to pay two contract workers who plowed snow.
Highway Commissioner Andrew Gasser failed to submit a bill to pay the workers before the township’s Jan. 10 meeting.
Gasser did not return phone calls to his cellphone and office phone Friday.
Residents showed up more interested in witnessing the latest drama.
“This is not good public management,” 49-year-old Peter Suffield said.
Retired Algonquin Township resident Michael Racana attended the meeting to see firsthand what has pitted the public officials that represent him against each other.
“These people should be quiet and keep their bickering off the public forum,” Racana said. “This is a circus.”