Payroll records revealed that McHenry County’s most populous township paid Provenzano, a political insider who at one time earned more than $32 an hour in two Algonquin Township offices, a gross of $7,245.
About $2,600 of Provenzano’s last paycheck was characterized as a miscellaneous payment and represents two weeks of earnings – the equivalent of 80 hours at about $32.50 an hour. Supervisor Charles Lutzow authorized it as a severance for his former employee.
“That’s something I decided to do,” Lutzow told the Northwest Herald.
He would not comment further on personnel matters.
The attorney who helped write the handbook for township officials said the severance deal should raise red flags for Algonquin Township trustees and taxpayers.
“You don’t just pay out an employee you’ve terminated,” said Keri-Lyn Krafthefer, an Ancel Glink attorney who co-authored the Township Officials of Illinois’ “Laws & Duties Handbook.” “Tax dollars aren’t supposed to be treated as a parting gift to terminated employees.”
Severance pay is a common practice in private business and government under two circumstances, Krafthefer said.
Those conditions are if there’s a legal contract in place explaining a severance agreement should the employee face termination, or if there’s an exchange – a severance payout in return for a waiver and release form signed by the terminated employee promising they won’t sue the township, she said.
Algonquin Township officials have no contract on record with Provenzano.
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 said no such documents exist.
Lutzow confirmed that Provenzano did not receive or sign a waiver and release form. Provenzano left the building on the morning of Jan. 17 with a termination letter, the supervisor said.
“If they weren’t required to pay it by law, why did they pay it?” Krafthefer said of Provenzano’s last check. “You don’t just give terminated employees money just to give them money.”
Trustees in attendance at Algonquin Township’s Feb. 14 meeting approved the previous month’s bills and raised no questions about Provenzano’s payout. In addition to the severance, the township paid him for 37½ hours of regular pay, 58 hours of vacation, 40 hours of sick time and eight hours of holiday pay.
The severance concerns the one Algonquin Township trustee who was not in attendance at that meeting.
“I have yet to see an employee policy granting such excessive and outrageous paid time off and severance benefits to a township employee,” Trustee Rachael Lawrence said. “In the absence of a corroborating policy substantiating the lawful payment of such benefits, I will not be approving such payments.”
In an effort to help township officials make informed decisions about future monthly bill audits, Lawrence said, she has requested that elected officials provide detailed payroll reports and substantiating documents to trustees each month.
Provenzano remains employed in the Algonquin Township Highway Department, where he earns $33 an hour as deputy highway commissioner. His roles in two offices raised questions among township officials and highway department employees who contend that his hiring was the product of patronage and cronyism.
Provenzano is the son of former McHenry County Board member Nick Provenzano, a staffer in U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren’s office, and the nephew of former Maine Township Highway Commissioner Robert Provenzano.
The Northwest Herald could not reach Ryan Provenzano for comment.