Court orders Gasser to arbitration in labor case

Judge denies petition to hold road commissioner in contempt of court

A Lake County judge on Thursday decided that Algonquin Township Highway Commissioner Andrew Gasser should not be held in contempt.

Instead, Gasser got 21 days to pick an arbitrator with the labor union representing his employees, according to court records obtained by the Northwest Herald.

Gasser could not be reached for comment.

On Sept. 20, Lake County Circuit Judge Daniel L. Jasica granted a request from the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 to compel arbitration after the dismissal of a lawsuit Gasser launched in an attempt to invalidate a union contract his predecessor signed.

Local 150’s counsel reached out to the highway department to begin that arbitration process, but they received no response.

The silence led Local 150 to push for Gasser to be held in contempt for failing to sort out grievances related to the firings and wages of several union workers he fired after taking office.

On Dec. 11, Gasser appeared in Lake County court with his Woodstock attorney, Robert Hanlon, to argue why he shouldn’t be held in contempt of court. But his lawyer failed to meet the court’s deadline to file a response to the charge, according to a transcript of the court proceedings obtained by the Northwest Herald. The court granted him another month to prepare.

On Thursday, Gasser’s attorney motioned to have arbitration halted until the road commissioner’s case goes through an appeals process.

Jasica denied the request.

In August, Jasica dismissed with prejudice Gasser’s lawsuit seeking to invalidate a union contract his predecessor signed before leaving office in 2017.

Two times before that judgment, he gave Gasser a chance to refile his complaint with new arguments challenging the collective bargaining agreement.

If an appellate court overturns the judgment, the union contract could be voided. If the dismissal is affirmed, the highway department could be forced to fork over back pay, contract damages and legal fees.

In 2017, minutes after taking officer, Gasser fired three union employees and sparked the labor dispute.

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