ALGONQUIN TOWNSHIP – Amid scrutiny of more than a quarter of a million dollars in unexplained bonuses distributed inside the Algonquin Township Highway Department, some township officials are defending a $250 payment Clerk Karen Lukasik received from former Highway Commissioner Bob Miller months before she won election.
“I have no problem with that money,” Trustee Dave Chapman said. “Especially when Andy [Gasser] has that procedure going on in his department today.”
The $250 payment popped up in a Feb. 20 court filing – an amended complaint tied to the highway commissioner’s June 1 lawsuit against Lukasik, Miller and Miller’s wife, Anna May Miller, who worked as secretary of the highway department. The complaint requests that Lukasik give back that money.
But the clerk said she earned every penny.
“[That] was for work above and beyond my curb-to-curb responsibilities as a bus driver for the seniors, and I earned that pay, as did the other employees that received it,” Lukasik said in a statement. “Mr. Gasser has the same system in place today, as there is no mechanism in our payroll system to identify pay that is above and beyond hourly pay, such as shift differential, foreman and assistant foreman pay [or] helping the community – such as seniors with salting a driveway, taking groceries to their door for them, etc.”
Miller distributed about $242,000 in bonuses to employees from May 2013 to May 2017, according to a Northwest Herald investigation of payroll documents. The payments are in payroll reports under a line item labeled “Misc.” Pay for regular hours, overtime, vacation, holidays and sick leave are listed as separate earnings. The flat payments ranged from $100 to $1,900 a period, according to payroll reports.
Township officials have no written policy explaining or supporting those payments.
Gasser has continued the payments on a smaller scale, but he said he put policies in place to codify the pay practices. Gasser has not provided those policies to the Northwest Herald. He could not be reached for comment Monday.
Some Algonquin Township officials contend that Gasser’s latest legal move is a waste of taxpayer money.
“It’s going to cost us more in legal fees to defend the township clerk than the $250 that’s being requested,” Supervisor Charles Lutzow said.
“As far as I’m concerned, I’m not sure why he singled one person out,” Trustee Dan Shea said. “I think it’s kind of irrational, particularly if you don’t know why the person got the money to begin with.”
Lukasik received her bonus in December 2016 – more than two months before voters elected her as Algonquin Township’s clerk. During that time, Lukasik was not a full-time employee, but she drove a bus for the highway department on an hourly, part-time basis.
“She earned it as an employee, and all of the other employees earned it, too,” Trustee Melissa Victor said. “I think he’s just trying to mess with her.”
Township Trustee Rachael Lawrence said she has no opinion on the matter.
“As a trustee,” Lawrence said, “it’s none of my business. That’s not my public entity.”