Algonquin Township Highway Department to settle FOIA lawsuit for $40K

Money transfer required to cover Gasser’s legal fees

The attorney representing the Algonquin Township Highway Department has negotiated a deal to cut a $40,000 payment to a downstate watchdog group to settle a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

Road district attorney Robert Hanlon negotiated the settlement deal with Crystal Lake attorney Denise Ambroziak to pay the Edgar County Watchdogs $40,000 to take the road district out of the lawsuit.

“This settlement removes the road district from the case,” Highway Commissioner Andrew Gasser said after Wednesday night’s township board meeting.

Township officials still are tied to the lawsuit.

If the Edgar County Watchdogs win in court, the township must pay for lawyer’s fees and could face fines up to $5,000 for each FOIA violation. 

For Gasser to make the payment, township trustees must now hold a special meeting to transfer more money into his budget for legal fees. Without transferring money, Gasser would exceed his $150,000 legal budget by $4,000, officials said.

The lawsuit from Edgar County Watchdogs founders Kirk Allen and John Kraft names both Algonquin Township and the Algonquin Township Highway Department.

The April complaint alleges the governments did not comply with the Freedom of Information Act on 16 occasions.

The records requests asked for surveillance footage; protective orders; credit card transactions and billings; phone bills; the board meeting agenda and minutes from Aug. 8, 2008; resolutions regarding the salaries of public officials; annual reports from former Highway Commissioner Bob Miller; a letter detailing Miller’s accumulated sick time in office; Miller’s emails; contracts; and subpoenas, according to the complaint.

Counts listed in the lawsuit name Clerk Karen Lukasik as the first point of contact for each records request.

“They buried me with FOIAs; they have records I don’t even have, and then they filed a lawsuit,” Lukasik said. “This is the game they play at the taxpayer’s expense.”

Since taking office in May 2017, she has received more than 100 FOIA requests.

Algonquin Township officials expect to have a special meeting at 5 p.m. Monday at 3702 Route 14 in Crystal Lake to address Gasser’s legal fees.

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