Local

Gasser held in contempt of court in Lake County, could face fines, jail time

Road commissioner could face fines, jail

Algonquin Township Highway Commissioner Andrew Gasser (right) speaks during an Algonquin Township Meeting in Crystal Lake Mar. 14.
Algonquin Township Highway Commissioner Andrew Gasser (right) speaks during an Algonquin Township Meeting in Crystal Lake Mar. 14.

Algonquin Township Highway Commissioner Andrew Gasser has been held in contempt of court.

On Friday evening, Lake County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Jasica found Gasser in indirect civil contempt for willfully failing to comply with a court order related to the road commissioner’s ongoing battle with the labor union representing his employees.

Jasica set a sentencing hearing for April 9.

Gasser could not be reached for comment Friday.

The road commissioner now has the keys to the jailhouse door.

Gasser could face fines or incarceration if he does not comply with Jasica’s order before the April 9 hearing.

That order required Gasser to engage in the arbitration process to sort out grievances with the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150, the labor union representing three employees Gasser fired without cause within minutes of taking office.

On Sept. 20, Jasica granted a request from Local 150 to compel arbitration after the dismissal of a lawsuit Gasser launched to try to invalidate a union contract his predecessor signed.

Local 150’s counsel reached out to the highway department to begin that arbitration process, but it received no response. The radio silence put Gasser on the stand in January to defend himself against contempt charges the first time.

“Your honor, I’m a 20-year Air Force officer, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned over this 20 years is that I know how to follow orders when I understand them,” Gasser said. “... Never during this entire process have I willfully or gone out of my way to say I’m not going to comply with something legally. I am very respectful of our judicial system. It’s something that I fought for for 20 years.”

Jasica denied the union’s request to hold Gasser in contempt and gave him 21 days to comply with the court’s order to participate in the arbitration process – but that 21 days came and went with no response, putting the road commissioner in front of contempt charges again.

On Friday, Local 150’s counsel grilled Gasser during cross-examination, asking the highway commissioner questions about what steps he took to comply with the court’s order.

Jasica ruled that Gasser did not take the proper steps to comply with his court order.

Audience members included Local 150 members, Gasser’s predecessor, Bob Miller, and Algonquin Township Trustee Rachael Lawrence.

“I can only hope that the judge’s ruling will signal the beginning of the end of what many view as a futile and foolhardy waste of our taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars,” said Lawrence, who sat front row to witness Gasser, wearing a suit, on the stand.

Gasser is due at 1:30 p.m. April 9 in Room C-406 of the Lake County Courthouse for sentencing.

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