Former Algonquin Township Highway Commissioner Bob Miller might have been cleared of criminal allegations leveled against him, but the highway department isn’t off the hook, McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks said.
The Marengo Democrat wrote a letter to Algonquin Township leaders Friday urging them to put a binding referendum to voters in November to give taxpayers a choice to eliminate the department.
“McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally’s decision not to file charges against Robert Miller was not an exoneration of the actions of this or the prior highway commissioner. Instead, it was a laundry list of what is wrong with the highway commissioner’s office because of little to no oversight,” Franks wrote.
In a 52-page report, Kenneally detailed a nearly seven-month corruption probe into a “convulsion” of criminal allegations aimed at Miller – accusations claiming that he spent public funds in a reckless manner. There was not enough – or, in some cases, any – evidence to prosecute.
At the end of his report, Kenneally encouraged township officials to consider consolidation.
“You do not have to make the difficult decision here – the voters have to do that,” Franks said. “All you have to do is put the question on the ballot. Algonquin Township taxpayers have the right to decide whether they want this office to continue to exist.”
Franks highlighted a “nonstop barrage of negative headlines” about ongoing turmoil and questionable behavior inside Algonquin Township.
The chairman pointed to current Highway Commissioner Andrew Gasser’s secret report from paving magnate Gary Rabine. Gasser and Rabine have declined to share the information they exchanged in 2017. The highway commissioner contends that it is not a public record.
“If you really believe that Andrew Gasser and [Deputy Highway Commissioner] Ryan Provenzano are the best and brightest to work on Algonquin Township’s roads, you are free to hire them,” Franks wrote.
“[At] least the taxpayers will have direct oversight through its trustees and have the ability to hold the township accountable and to rein in the carnival.”
Trustee Melissa Victor replied to Franks on Saturday morning.
“I am not in favor of this,” she wrote. “One bad experience with a highway commissioner in the past 30 years isn’t enough for me to support this referendum.”
Instead, laws need to change to allow more board oversight of the highway department, Victor wrote, along with “criteria and expectations in place in order to run for the commissioner position.”
An Air Force veteran and former County Board representative, Gasser had zero experience managing roads before he took office.
“You have the tools right now for additional oversight and to let the voters decide,” Franks said. “Should you refuse to do so, you would, in my opinion, be derelict in your duty.”
Franks said it’s wrong to protect a “broken system” and perpetuate the “status quo.”