CRYSTAL LAKE – After hidden camera footage surfaced of Algonquin Township Clerk Karen Lukasik and a friend thumbing through records after hours, one township trustee is calling for the clerk to step down.
A 15-minute video with enhanced audio obtained by the Northwest Herald shows Lukasik and Fox River Grove Trustee Jennifer Curtiss riffling through records inside Supervisor Charles Lutzow’s office.
Lukasik, who had a key to the township office where the camera captured her, said the video is misleading and she only was doing her job: organizing, taking inventory and securing township records.
At 12 minutes, 19 seconds into the video, Curtiss asks Lukasik, “Karen, do you have authority to go through this stuff?”
“I can do whatever I want,” Lukasik says.
The video – showing Lukasik taking pictures of certain records, including the salary of Lutzow’s former chief of staff, Ryan Provenzano, disturbed Trustee Rachael Lawrence.
“The conduct exhibited by public officials Karen Lukasik and Jennifer Curtiss in this video is shocking and disappointing,” Lawrence said. “Secretly riffling through my trustee mailbox, employee personnel files and desks, as well as confidential financial aid recipients’ files, I believe to be extremely inappropriate, if not illegal. I condemn her actions as unprofessional and unworthy of the public’s trust, and call for her immediate resignation.”
Although Lukasik contends that she did nothing wrong, the 15-minute video underscores the turmoil that has turned Algonquin Township into a hostile political environment engulfed with infighting and secrecy. The video footage also helps close a chapter on the mystery surrounding one of four Nest security cameras township officials bought last summer.
Footage of the clerk was recorded on a hidden Nest security camera, said Lukasik and other township officials familiar with the matter. The camera had been tucked into a bookshelf inside Lutzow’s office, overlooking the desk of Provenzano, who was fired Tuesday morning.
The video likely was recorded in June, shortly after the clerk took office, Lukasik said.
“I had just been sued,” Lukasik said. “I got sued by [Highway Commissioner] Andrew Gasser [who said] I had intent to destroy records. ... I was doing my job.”
At one point in the video, Lukasik opens a filing cabinet filled with records.
“Let’s see,” she says, putting a hand to her chin.
She runs a hand over the records and closes the cabinet. She opens the filing cabinet next to it.
Curtiss walks into the room. She looks around, and within seconds, reaches inside a mailbox and pulls out a document. She reads it aloud. “Ms. Lawrence,” Curtiss says, reading from a letter tucked into Lawrence’s mailbox, “I have these files from a township attorney. You may keep these for your personal files. Thank you.”
Seconds later, Curtiss says, “Where were the bills?”
“The bills were right here,” Lukasik says, opening a filing cabinet.
Curtiss thumbs through the records.
Lukasik told the Northwest Herald that a cluster of records went missing shortly after she took office – billing documents from April 1, 2016, to April 1, 2017.
“I did nothing wrong,” Lukasik said. “Records have been missing. Of course I’m going in the desk.”
At one point in the video, Curtiss walks to Provenzano’s desk and looks at records placed there.
Asked about what she was doing looking at documents on Provenzano’s desk, Curtiss initially said, “I don’t remember.” She later said she was caught off guard by the question.
“I was helping [Lukasik] get organized,” Curtiss said. “Karen had access to that office.”
Although he did not see the video himself, Fox River Grove Village President Robert Nunamaker said there was nothing nefarious about Curtiss’ appearance at Algonquin Township offices going through file cabinets.
“She’s got as much rights as we do [as private citizens],” Nunamaker told the Northwest Herald. “I assume she’s helping her friend get organized.”
The leaked footage from inside the supervisor’s office is not the first time Lukasik has been captured on camera on township property.
For months, Lukasik, a 52-year-old substitute teacher elected clerk in May, has been locked in a court battle with a man who works feet away from her in another office: Gasser. Gasser said 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 from the seat to focus on being highway commissioner.
Bob Miller could not be reached for comment Thursday.
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 claimed that Lukasik “articulated” intentions to destroy records. A judge did not grant Gasser’s restraining order.
Despite repeated phone calls to Gasser’s cellphone this week, the Northwest Herald could not reach him for comment.
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 into the trash.
Lukasik discovered a compact Nest camera tucked above the doorway to the records room 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 said he did not.
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.
Lutzow declined to comment on the video.
Some trustees said Lukasik’s rummaging through records is part of her job description.
“The records belong to the clerk,” Trustee Dave Chapman said. “Wherever they are, it’s her job to find them. The clerk has access to all documents.”