Fox River Grove resident Mary Lu Seidel showed up to a special Algonquin Township meeting Tuesday night to call for the resignation of Highway Commissioner Andrew Gasser.
The only Algonquin Township resident to speak during public comment, Seidel said Gasser’s use of a government-owned sign to “attack the free press with fascist-like language” was grounds for the road commissioner to step down.
On the afternoon of Aug. 17, Gasser used the department’s marquee at 3702 Route 14 to share a message assailing the Northwest Herald. “THE NORTHWORST HERALD IS FAKE NEWS,” the sign read.
“When I saw the sign and I heard about the sign, I was stunned that a public, elected official was behaving in such a way and using such hateful rhetoric on a publicly funded sign,” Seidel said. “I feel like his behavior is like an 11-year-old boy in control of a sign that’s on public land funded by public dollars.”
A lawyer who co-wrote the handbook for township officials in Illinois said the statement was improper use of government property. The next day, Trustee Rachael Lawrence removed the message from the marquee and later removed a second message that appeared the following week. The incident sparked headlines in Chicago and the nation’s capital.
“That he felt it was appropriate to vent in that way when there’s other means to address any grievances he might have is beyond me, and I’m embarrassed that he’s an elected official in my township,” Seidel said. “He should resign.”
The Northwest Herald could not reach Gasser for comment. He did not attend the meeting.
Seidel encouraged township officials to “get that sign off of the property as long as he has control of it, because he’s not acting like a reasonable, intelligent, fully competent elected official,” she said.
Officials called the special meeting to discuss an intergovernmental agreement Gasser’s department has been negotiating for months with Supervisor Charles Lutzow’s office.
The absence of an agreement stirred up recent turmoil between the township and highway department.
In an Aug. 3 email, Gasser announced: “Effective immediately the Algonquin Township Highway Department will no longer be participating in the following functions ... ”
Gasser offered a bullet-point list of the things his department no longer would do, including bingo setup, emptying recycling dumpsters, prework premises inspection (walkabout), mowing or watering on township property, building maintenance or trash collection, scheduling of new bus rides after Aug. 17, maintenance of township buses, fueling of the township bus and paying bus drivers. After each service, Gasser noted, “... this is a township responsibility.”
The subject of the email was “Lack of IGA,” or intergovernmental agreement – a reference to a contract the road district and township have been negotiating to split costs on rent and services such as recycling and bus transportation.
Township officials unanimously approved the agreement, 5-0.
The agreement asks the road district to pay rent ($60,000 a year in monthly installments of $5,000), split the recycling costs with the township and consider duties around the property, including snow removal and bingo setup.
The document is not valid until Gasser signs it.
“While we may pass it tonight or make our approval of it, it actually will not be effective unless it is signed by both [the highway department and the township],” Lawrence said.
Gasser’s absence at Tuesday’s meeting disappointed her.
“Given my previous conversations with Highway Commissioner Gasser and what appeared to be his expression of how important this was for him, I am disappointed that he is not here tonight to sign it,” Lawrence said.