ALGONQUIN TOWNSHIP – Someone reprogrammed Algonquin Township's phone system Wednesday to replace its voice mail greeting with a new message poking fun at Highway Commissioner Andrew Gasser and the township's recent in-house turmoil.
Many residents called Algonquin Township's main line at 847-639-2700 and pressed zero Wednesday morning – but they didn't get connected to an operator.
Instead, they heard this message: "Thank you for calling the Algonquin Township. Our offices are currently closed. For patronage employment information, press one. For information to learn more about how we are wasting taxpayer dollars, press two. To contribute to our legal defense fund, press three. For more options, or to reach gasbag, press five."
The voice message, removed from the system about noon Wednesday, was a clear jab at recent turmoil inside McHenry County's most populous township, where in-house lawsuits, astronomical legal fees, numerous corruption allegations at the highway department and claims of patronage and cronyism have engulfed the community's consciousness in recent months.
"It's horrible that somebody would go and tamper with our phone system to make the township look bad," Algonquin Township Supervisor Charles Lutzow said. "We've had a heck of a lot of struggle in the last couple months."
It is unknown when the message was altered.
Lutzow, who claimed that he hadn't heard about the message until the Northwest Herald called him to ask questions about it, said he had no idea who altered the phone system greeting.
The supervisor said he made some calls and learned that a senior resident notified officials about the message about 10 a.m. Wednesday, when the greeting notified her that the township was closed.
The phone system is attached to a computer in a basement room inside the township – a place where very few people have access, the supervisor said.
"We don't know who did it," Lutzow said, "and we're going to have some type of internal investigation."
Lutzow said he plans to have the township's information technology contractor look into the matter. As of 1 p.m. Wednesday, Lutzow was unsure whether he would get authorities involved.
"This is bizarre," Lutzow said.
Gasser, a target of the message, said he has no idea who broke into the phone system. He called the message a political attack.
"I know it wasn't anybody in my office,” Gasser said. “It wasn’t me."
Gasser speculated on who those hackers might have been aligned with.
The nickname "gasbag," he said, was a nickname given to him by his predecessor's wife and former secretary, Anna May Miller. In a June 29 post on his Facebook page, Gasser called himself "gasbag."
The former McHenry County Board member and Algonquin Township politico denied using the nickname to describe the first-term highway commissioner.
"That is categorically untrue," Miller said. "The man is not right. He was an unremarkable individual. He didn't mean anything to me."
The highway commissioner said it is unacceptable for anyone to break into an official government phone system.
"This is the kind of unethical and childish behavior that got me elected,” Gasser said. "This is a form of government, not a fiefdom."
Gasser said he reached out to authorities about the phone system, but he would not tell the Northwest Herald which authorities he called.
Deputies from the McHenry County Sheriff's Office visited Algonquin Township on Wednesday to look into the matter, Lutzow said.
It is unclear whether a police report has been filed. The Northwest Herald could not reach the sheriff's office for comment.