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Algonquin Township Highway Department, Local 150 trade emails about possible settlement

Shaw Media file photo
Protestors line Route 14 in front of the Algonquin Road District building Wednesday, June 14, 2017 in Crystal Lake. The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 protested the firing of three members shortly after Algonquin Township Highway Commissioner Andrew Gasser was sworn in.
Shaw Media file photo Protestors line Route 14 in front of the Algonquin Road District building Wednesday, June 14, 2017 in Crystal Lake. The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 protested the firing of three members shortly after Algonquin Township Highway Commissioner Andrew Gasser was sworn in.

ALGONQUIN TOWNSHIP – Algonquin Township Highway Commissioner Andrew Gasser’s fight with the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 now has a new legal term attached to the storyline:

Settlement.

Attorney Robert Hanlon wrote Local 150 lawyers Feb. 9 to ask whether they would discuss ending the long-steeping litigation that has cost Algonquin Township – and its taxpayers – almost a quarter of a million dollars since June.

“Accordingly, perhaps it would benefit everyone if we agree to stop litigating and sit down and negotiate a contract that works for everyone,” Hanlon wrote. “To the extent that you wish to consider this option, please let me know. Perhaps our collective business judgment will avoid further expense to both sides.”

Since June, Robert T. Hanlon & Associates has represented Gasser and the highway department in a battles against Local 150 and the Illinois Labor Relations Board. Hanlon’s firm has charged the highway department more than $240,000, according to billing records.

Local 150 lawyer Bryan Diemer wrote Hanlon back Feb. 14.

“The short answer is that Local 150 is always willing to consider settlement,” wrote Diemer, who laid out the deal that would interest Local 150. “At a minimum, a settlement would have to include reinstatement of the four discharged employees with full back pay, as well as full make-whole relief for all other contract violations from the date Mr. Gasser took office forward, and a commitment to abide by the terms of the [collective bargaining agreement] going forward.”

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 a complaint mailed to Hanlon on Aug. 21, the labor board alleged that 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 labor board, Local 150 and Hanlon have traded numerous court documents over the following months. The legal acrobatics included a law judge issuing a default judgment ordering Gasser to rehire the employees – and Hanlon getting that judgment overturned.

Diemer’s three-page letter to Hanlon dissects how much time and money the legal war has cost Algonquin Township and the taxpayers living there.

“For whatever reason, this litigation has not cost Local 150 nearly as much as it has cost the Algonquin Township Road District,” Diemer wrote.

Diemer said a settlement at this point would seem insignificant when compared to what may come at the end of the case – a final judgment he estimates will exceed $1 million.

“Please contact me if you are interested in pursuing a global settlement of all pending claims,” Diemer said. “If, as I fear, your interest in settlement is limited to rescinding the current CBA and negotiating a new one, Local 150 respectfully declines your offer.”

As of Friday, Hanlon had not responded.

The Northwest Herald reached out to Hanlon to see where he stood on a possible settlement – an outcome, he said, is unlikely.

“They want to stick with the deal that was struck in the dark of night,” Hanlon said.

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