ALGONQUIN TOWNSHIP – For the second time in six months, a circuit court judge dismissed Algonquin Township Highway Commissioner Andrew Gasser’s lawsuit against the labor union that represents his department employees.
On Thursday, Lake County Circuit Judge Daniel L. Jasica dismissed the suit that Gasser’s attorney, Robert Hanlon, brought against the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150.
Hanlon’s argument boils down to this: Former Highway Commissioner Bob Miller did not have the authority to execute a contract with Local 150.
The back-and-forth legal acrobatics stem from a June 23 lawsuit filed against the Algonquin Township Highway Department by James Sweeney, the union’s president-business manager. The lawsuit alleges that the department violated the Illinois Freedom of Information Act after Gasser wholly denied a request for being “unduly burdensome,” according to the Local 150 legal team.
Records show that the FOIA request was seeking “all emails to and from Andrew Gasser from April 15, 2017, to present, including personal emails used for Algonquin Township business.”
Gasser and the highway department challenged the legitimacy of the union’s collective bargaining agreement, which Local 150 associate general counsel Rob Paszta said has nothing to do with the FOIA request. He also said Local 150 responded to Gasser’s counterclaim with a motion to dismiss.
On Nov. 16, the McHenry County Circuit Court dismissed the lawsuit, in which Hanlon said the highway department’s collective bargaining agreement with Local 150 is null and void. The court granted Gasser and Hanlon 21 days to refile the counterclaim, which they did Dec. 7.
The amended lawsuit argued four main points:
• The Algonquin Township Board had to approve the collective bargaining agreement and did not.
• Miller did not have the authority to bind the first-term highway commissioner with a multiyear collective bargaining agreement.
• Local 150 violated the Open Meetings Act.
• Miller engaged in unlawful dealing by negotiating with bargaining union members.
But Jasica – who took the case after all McHenry County judges recused themselves from the battle – ruled that Hanlon’s arguments were not good enough, and he dismissed every count of the counterclaim.
Hanlon and Gasser now have until
April 11 to file a second amended complaint.
Gasser and Hanlon both declined to comment for this story.
“Local 150 has a valid collective bargaining agreement with the road district,” Local 150 attorney Bryan Diemer said. “We have always believed Gasser’s attempts to invalidate the parties’ agreement to be frivolous.”
The losers, Diemer said, are the taxpayers of Algonquin Township, who are footing the fees to support this legal battle.
“At some point,” Diemer said, “this madness must come to an end.”