CRYSTAL LAKE – Jennie McCracken showed up to an Algonquin Township meeting Nov. 8 to call for an investigation into Robert Hanlon, the attorney representing Highway Commissioner Andrew Gasser.
The next day, Hanlon subpoenaed her.
“I think it’s dirty and unprofessional,” said McCracken, a 33-year-old freelance graphic designer and mother who lives in Lake in the Hills, a village in Algonquin Township, where she has been vocal on social media and at public meetings about her distaste for how officials have been spending taxpayers’ money. “It’s like he’s trying to create another line item to bill [the township] as research.”
The daughter of McHenry County Board member Don Kopsell and a family friend of embattled former Highway Commissioner Bob Miller, McCracken contends that she is a political target of Gasser and his attorney – a pair she believes is out to silence her.
Gasser, who served on the McHenry County Board with Kopsell, would not comment on his attorney’s strategy or pending litigation. Hanlon would not comment on why he subpoenaed McCracken, saying only that he had good reason for doing so.
“I don’t litigate my cases in the newspaper,” Hanlon said.
McCracken attended the
Nov. 8 meeting at Algonquin Township headquarters to share concerns with trustees about the use of taxpayers’ money to pay for legal battles and to call for an investigation of Hanlon – a lawyer whose firm had billed the township more than $130,000 for legal services through October.
The next day, Nov. 9, someone from Hanlon’s firm visited McCracken’s home and served her a subpoena for deposition, she said.
“I look forward to taking your deposition on Dec. 8, 2017,” Hanlon wrote in a letter to McCracken.
The subpoena offers few details, other than that the deposition is tied to a lawsuit between Gasser and a menagerie of past and present township officials: Township Supervisor Charles Lutzow, Township Clerk Karen Lukasik, Miller and his wife, Anna May Miller.
McCracken was confused about why Hanlon would rope her into a legal battle she read about in the Northwest Herald. She texted a picture of the subpoena to her husband, Eric McCracken. He called the attorney for information.
“He said he was representing Gasser,” Eric McCracken said. “I asked, ‘Why are you even bothering to subpoena my wife?’ ”
Hanlon said he felt Jennie McCracken does have something to do with the case, her husband said.
“He believes [my] wife is being employed by someone to disrupt the meetings,” Eric McCracken said.
Hanlon denied saying that to McCracken’s husband and would not comment on the strategy behind the subpoena.
At the Nov. 8 meeting, Jennie McCracken raised concerns to Algonquin Township trustees “about Robert Hanlon abusing the taxpayer money.”
In May, Gasser hired Hanlon, an attorney who donated $1,000 to Gasser’s campaign, at a rate of $375 an hour to represent the highway commissioner in multiple lawsuits. Hanlon’s standard rate is $400 an hour, but he notes on bills that the price was reduced to $375 “as a courtesy” to Gasser.
Although Hanlon’s firm has billed the township more than $131,000 for legal services, Gasser has been ordered to rehire the employees whom he fired on his first day in office.
Administrative Law Judge Deena Sanceda ordered the highway department to rehire the three employees and repay them for all financial losses, including wages and benefits with compounded interest at a rate of
7 percent, according to a Illinois Labor Relations Board ruling dated Sept. 28. Gasser has not rehired the employees and is fighting the order to do so.
Records show that Hanlon’s firm billed the township $131,016.60 for 368.44 hours of work on the cases. Robert T. Hanlon & Associates Inc. has charged the department as much as $515 an hour for legal work, records show, although Sanceda ruled that the township never filed a response to the labor complaint, which resulted in a default judgment.
“He didn’t even show up,” Jennie McCracken said in front of Algonquin Township trustees Nov. 8. “I’ve come with information to report Hanlon for dishonest and unethical conduct in his work.”
McCracken printed out 10 complaint forms from the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, and welcomed people attending the meeting to fill out and send them to the ARDC’s Chicago and Springfield offices. The ARDC investigates lawyer malpractice.
To McCracken, her husband and at least one other lawyer involved in Gasser’s lawsuit, Hanlon’s actions smell of intimidation.
“I question the basis and his motivation for serving the subpoena,” said Steven Brody, an attorney representing Anna May Miller. “To my knowledge, [Jennie McCracken] has got absolutely nothing to do with the case.”
Eric McCracken, a product specialist who works in Schaumburg, is concerned, too.
“She has a right to go to these meetings,” he said. “The only thing you have to gain in participating in these intimidation tactics is to stop her from participating in her civic duties.”
Although Jennie McCracken contends that she has no connection to ongoing lawsuits, and that she’s never been hired to disrupt meetings, she believes Hanlon’s subpoena stems from her family ties.
“They tried to invalidate me, and now they’re trying to intimidate me,” McCracken said. “Anytime I write something [online], they just say, ‘Oh, she’s the daughter of Don Kopsell.’ ”
Kopsell is the former highway commissioner of Nunda Township and a good friend of Bob Miller. After Miller lost the election in February, Jennie McCracken picked up a phone and called the losing road boss to commiserate.
“My family went through the same thing,” McCracken said. “When my dad lost the election, it struck all of us.”
Kopsell still holds his District 3 seat on the McHenry County Board, where he served with Gasser. Gasser gave up his County Board seat to run for Algonquin Township’s Highway Department.
Kopsell is not shy about his bad blood with Gasser.
“Andrew Gasser is the biggest mistake ever made in the state of Illinois,” Kopsell told the Northwest Herald. “He’s going to bankrupt [Algonquin Township] and put them out of business. He’s the perfect example of why people should get rid of townships.”
Gasser said he’s a good guy who’s dealing with past corruption in a road district he inherited.
“The practices of Bob Miller have done more to destroy township government than Andrew Gasser ever could,” Gasser said. “The silence of other township officials only validates the problems with Bob Miller.”
Jennie McCracken is the administrator of a Facebook group called Citizens of Algonquin Township. Its members include people involved in ongoing turmoil inside Algonquin Township, including Bob Miller, Anna May Miller and Karen Lukasik.
On Nov. 17, a judge stopped all discovery proceedings in one of Gasser’s lawsuits, a ruling that now prohibits Hanlon from taking any more depositions. Jennie McCracken plans to hire an attorney should Hanlon subpoena her in the future. As of Wednesday, she had received no correspondence from Hanlon’s office updating her on the case.
“Why are they going after a resident that has nothing to do with that board?” Kopsell said. “This turns my stomach. It really does.”
Jim Grogan, deputy administrator of the ARDC, said he could not confirm or deny any investigations made into Hanlon’s work as an attorney.
In general, the ARDC warns lawyers about using intimidation in their practices, Grogan said.
“We would be concerned if there was any intent to intimidate” someone trying to communicate with the ARDC, Grogan said.