Hidden camera? Algonquin Township supervisor pleads the 5th

CRYSTAL LAKE – Algonquin Township Supervisor Charles Lutzow refused to testify when asked who installed a video camera that the township clerk claims was used to spy on her in a records room.

On Nov. 17, standing before McHenry County Circuit Judge Michael Caldwell, Township Clerk Karen Lukasik’s attorney, David McArdle, questioned Lutzow about his role with Algonquin Township and his knowledge of court proceedings so far.

McArdle pointed to a court order entered July 14.

“Do you recognize it?” McArdle asked, according to a transcript of the hearing.

“Yes, sir,” Lutzow said.

On July 14, a judge granted Lukasik a restraining order to prevent anyone from destroying township records. Lutzow agreed to ask township officials to provide Lukasik a place to secure documents – areas only Lukasik and her “designee(s) shall have access to,” according to records. The supervisor found two large rooms on township property and agreed to share a room in the basement of the town hall where road district records are kept.

At Friday’s hearing, McArdle pressed Lutzow on the subject, naming Ryan Provenzano, the supervisor’s chief of staff.

“After July 14, 2017, you directed Ryan Provenzano, your employee, to install a Nest camera and audio camera in that storage room, correct?” McArdle said.

Lutzow’s attorney, Philip Prossnitz, jumped in.

“Objection,” Prossnitz said. “Judge, on behalf of my client, I would assert his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.”

“Mr. McArdle?” Caldwell said.

“I don’t have a response to that, Judge,” McArdle said.

To clarify, Caldwell turned to Lutzow.

“Are you asserting your Fifth Amendment rights, Mr. Lutzow?”

“Yes, your honor,” Lutzow said.

The Fifth Amendment pleading is the next chapter of turmoil that has overtaken Algonquin Township, where officials are trading expensive lawsuits.

For months, Lukasik, a 52-year-old teacher elected clerk in May, has been locked in a court battle with a man who works feet away from her in another office: Highway Commissioner Andrew Gasser. Gasser claimed in a June 1 court filing that the clerk was out to destroy records to cover up years of wrongdoing by Gasser’s predecessor.

Gasser alleged that Lukasik intended to destroy township records, including receipts he said show that Bob Miller, the former highway commissioner, used public funds to buy handbags, women’s clothing and other personal items. Gasser’s injunction names Lukasik, Miller and Miller’s wife, Anna May Miller, who worked as her husband’s secretary.

Bob Miller, who denied Gasser’s allegations, previously said that the new highway commissioner cooked up the whole thing to torpedo his bid to be appointed to fill out the remainder of Gasser’s term on the County Board. Gasser resigned the seat to focus on being highway commissioner. Bob Miller could not be reached for comment on this story.

Gasser, who narrowly unseated Bob Miller in the Feb. 28 township GOP primary, requested a restraining order to prevent Lukasik and the Millers from destroying records after he saw a Facebook post that the clerk published about getting a destruction order from the state. The injunction claims that Lukasik “articulated” intentions to destroy records, but the filing does not mention the Facebook post. A judge did not grant Gasser’s restraining order.

In June, Lukasik asked a judge for relief from Gasser’s injunction and an order preventing the highway commissioner or anyone else from destroying records – particularly security camera footage that allegedly shows Lutzow and his chief of staff dumping township documents in the trash.

Lukasik discovered a compact Nest camera tucked above the doorway Aug. 25. Someone had snaked the camera’s power cord into the drop ceiling outside the room, effectively concealing any trail leading to the camera, Lukasik said. The clerk took it down and asked the township’s information technology manager whether he knew about the camera, a device not connected to a township server, but he was not aware of it.

McArdle asked township officials for the login information to access the camera, but township attorney James Kelly said in a court filing that the login information and footage is confidential. Granting access to the camera would compromise township security, he said.

Kelly told the Northwest Herald that the camera was installed in the spirit of the July 14 order, but he would not say who installed the camera.

On Sept. 28, McArdle moved to have Lutzow found to be in contempt of court for violating both the court order granting Lukasik sole access to the record storage room and the Freedom of Information Act request for camera data. On Friday, Caldwell denied McArdle’s request.

Records show that Algonquin Township ordered the camera June 5 – four days after Gasser filed his complaint against Lukasik and the Millers.

In July, Lutzow approved a bill voucher that included a receipt for the camera from Quill, a Philadelphia office supply company. The voucher covering the Quill bill did not name or describe the camera – only its price: $199.99.

The township later bought three more Nest cameras from Best Buy in Crystal Lake, according to billing records. The receipt lists a $499.99 MasterCard transaction and a name: Charles Lutzow.

Reached by telephone Monday afternoon, Lutzow could not offer many details on his courtroom strategy in his legal battle with the clerk.

“I followed my attorney’s advice,” Lutzow said.

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