We join the members of the public and the Algonquin Township Board calling for Highway Commissioner Andrew Gasser to resign.
The chaos Gasser has brought to the township highway department in less than two years in office is staggering. From his first day in office, when he fired union employees without cause, to the events of the past week, Gasser has demonstrated that he prioritizes his personal agenda ahead of the public interest.
This week, that meant being in Mississippi rather than leading the highway department during what his own lawyer told a judge was an emergency situation. Gasser says affairs of the heart led him there, but he’s also a student at Mississippi State in Starkville.
The highway department’s legal costs are approaching $500,000 during Gasser’s tenure. It’s also been marked by publicity stunts and attacks on opponents and critics using social media, subpoenas of township electors, and the township’s sign board on Route 14. He’s even suing Township Supervisor Charles Lutzow on behalf of the road district and public, seeking $1 million in a dispute over what Lutzow named Road District accounts at a local bank.
If only he was as good at performing the duties of being highway commissioner.
In July, Gasser didn’t seek bids for 2,500 tons of road salt. He just agreed to purchase it from a Kansas-based company, and in the process, agreed to pay almost twice the going rate.
The township board has refused to pay a $107,000 bill for a portion of that order. Gasser’s effort to get a judge to declare an emergency this week was his latest failed attempt to force them.
What about being accountable to the public? Supporters of township government often tell us it is the form of government “closest to the people.”
The road commissioner hasn’t attended a board meeting since October, although electors and others have voiced concerns about his performance at several recent meetings, including on Wednesday, after which all five board members said Gasser ought to resign.
Gasser prefers one-way communication. On Thursday, he posted a video to the highway department’s Facebook page that he’d recorded in Madison, Mississippi.
An elected official paid $94,000 a year to maintain local roads has no business taking an out-of-state vacation in the middle of winter, especially when they’re arguing in court that a public emergency exists.
Yet there was Gasser, smiling and unbothered, announcing he was spending Valentine’s Day with “my significant other,” and that it was unfortunate people had tried to make it look like he was doing something illegal.
He’s right on that. It’s not illegal to be incompetent.
“We’re going to continue to choose joy at the highway department and township road district,” Gasser said in the video.
Believe it. Gasser will choose his joy and his agenda for as long as he remains in charge, and he will avoid answering to anyone who calls him on it.
Perhaps the best we can hope for is that his personal priorities will make it convenient for him to quit.