Algonquin Township Highway Commissioner Andrew Gasser has been ordered to show up in court next week to defend himself for a second time against civil contempt charges for failing to comply with a judge’s orders.
But lawyers on the other side of the case are having trouble tracking down the road commissioner to serve him the legal documents.
“He is avoiding service,” a manager at Blue 22, a Chicago-based private investigation company, said in an email to a legal assistant at the International Union of Operating Engineers
On Tuesday, the company sent a process server – a contractor dispatched from an agency to deliver court documents to compel a person to appear in court – to the road district to serve Gasser documents related to the contempt hearing.
“The server was told [Gasser] was on the phone and would be a while,” the company said, according to an email chain obtained by the Northwest Herald. “He waited approximately
30 minutes. Gasser knew [the server] was there waiting, and he went out the backdoor and left.”
The Northwest Herald reached out to Gasser with an email Thursday and asked whether he left out the backdoor to evade service. He did not reply.
On Thursday, Local 150 attorney Rob Paszta wrote an email to Gasser’s Woodstock-based attorney, Robert Hanlon, to make him aware of the process server’s report from the road district.
“It has been reported to us by the process server that Mr. Gasser seems to be avoiding service,” Paszta wrote.
If true, the lawyer added, Gasser’s conduct appears to be in violation of an Illinois law that says anyone who knowingly resists or obstructs service of any civil or criminal order of any court commits a Class B misdemeanor.
“Accordingly, we want to give you the opportunity to communicate this to your client and let me know when and where he will be available for service today or tomorrow,” Paszta wrote. “Obviously, a strategy to avoid service is shortsighted, as we will continue to attempt service, refile our petition for rule to show cause (if needed), and seek all remedies available under the law stemming from Mr. Gasser’s conduct, including our costs and fees.”
In a reply, Hanlon said he lacked “any knowledge that Mr. Gasser is avoiding service, and I certainly did not advise him to do so.”
“I have no idea where Mr. Gasser is or where he will be today or tomorrow,” Hanlon wrote. “I am not his keeper. If I was to play such a game, I would not have previously accepted service for him when I was authorized. I simply have not been authorized to accept service for Mr. Gasser, and therefore will not do so.”
The Northwest Herald reached out to Hanlon with an email to ask whether his client left out the backdoor of his office to evade service and whether Gasser plans to show up in court next week.
“I have no knowledge of the allegations to which you refer,” Hanlon said. “As always, I do not discuss any of my client’s business, or allegations concerning my clients, with the tabloids.”
On Feb. 8, Lake County Circuit Judge Daniel Jasica for the second time signed a court order issuing a rule to show cause for indirect civil contempt against Gasser and set a
1:30 p.m. hearing for March 1.
In January, Gasser took the stand to defend himself against the first contempt charge for allegedly defying a court order to begin the arbitration process to sort through the many grievances tied to his firing of three union employees within minutes after taking office.
In more than 10 instances during the Jan. 10 hearing, the road commissioner fielded questions by saying, “I don’t remember.”
On Sept. 20, Jasica granted a request from Local 150 to compel arbitration after the dismissal of a lawsuit Gasser launched to try to invalidate a union contract his predecessor signed.
Local 150’s counsel reached out to the highway department to begin that arbitration process, but it received no response, which led to the first contempt hearing.
“Your honor, I’m a 20-year Air Force officer, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned over this 20 years is that I know how to follow orders when I understand them,” Gasser said. “... Never during this entire process have I willfully or gone out of my way to say I’m not going to comply with something legally. I am very respectful of our judicial system. It’s something that I fought for for 20 years.”
Jasica denied the union’s request to hold Gasser in contempt and gave him 21 days to comply with the court’s order to participate in the arbitration process – but that 21 days came and went with no response, putting the road commissioner in front of contempt charges again.
If Gasser does not show up to court March 1, the judge likely will issue another ruling to show cause, Local 150 attorney Bryan Diemer said.
“If Andrew Gasser doesn’t show up, his lawyer is still going to show up,” Local 150 spokesman Ed Maher said. “This is just a reckless game that’s continuing to cost the taxpayers exorbitant amounts of money.”