Algonquin Township Clerk Karen Lukasik has resigned as a Freedom of Information Act officer and will no longer document township meetings with a video camera, according to an email obtained by the Northwest Herald.
The first-term clerk’s decision followed a FOIA lawsuit brought against her by a downstate watchdog group alleging the township violated public records laws on at least 16 occasions. She plans to appoint her assistant, Jack Barrett, as deputy clerk.
“I do not want any liability moving forward with the massive amounts of records that I need to concentrate on,” Lukasik wrote in a resignation email to all township officials except Trustee Rachael Lawrence and Highway Commissioner Andrew Gasser.
The legal dispute that pushed Lukasik to delegate records duties to a deputy came from Edgar County Watchdogs founders Kirk Allen and John Kraft, who allege that Algonquin Township officials – including Lukasik – refused to reply to the group’s FOIA requests on 16 occasions, according to an April 4 complaint filed in McHenry County court.
The complaint represents the latest legal drama to unfold inside the township, where hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorney fees have mounted in multiple lawsuits in the past year, engulfing McHenry County’s most populous township in turmoil.
“Effective immediately, I am resigning as a FOIA officer for the township and will be directing any FOIAs that come in to [Township Attorney] Jim Kelly’s office and the Supervisor’s office,” Lukasik said.
“Unfortunately, since there has been a lawsuit filed, and continued threats of more suits from the Edgar County Watchdogs, we have had to obtain Jim’s assistance even though we have all gone through the FOIA training.”
Since Lukasik took office in May 2017, Algonquin Township officials have received more than 100 FOIA requests from numerous parties interested in exposing misconduct – particularly against former Highway Commissioner Bob Miller.
In a 52-page report released May 31, McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally ruled he would not charge Miller with any crimes.
Lukasik said the township still has four FOIA officers on-site, including Assessor Rich Alexander, Supervisor Charles Lutzow and Gasser.
The clerk also will stop recording meetings with a video camera.
“This has opened up a huge media frenzy, and unfortunately some use it as a political platform and attention seeking tool,” Lukasik wrote. “I do not want that responsibility and feel it best at this time given the legal battles that it not be done. Hopefully someday we will be able to offer this service, but it is not effective or efficient at this time.”
Some trustees have expressed sympathy for the clerk and understand her decision.
“We used to get five FOIAs a year,” Trustee Dan Shea said. “People have used the FOIA business as a harassment. It’s a great idea to have FOIA, but it’s also being used as a weapon.”
Trustee Lawrence said Lukasik should resign from her post.
“If it is true that the clerk wishes to stop video-recording of public board meetings, abandon her post as FOIA officer, and produce a deputy clerk candidate for board approval, my suggestion is that she resign altogether as clerk so that Algonquin Township can continue its mission of full transparency and FOIA compliance that the public demands and is owed,” she said.