Watchdogs: Miller, other 'leaders' have failed Algonquin Township
It is people in Algonquin Township's government, particularly its former highway commissioner now embroiled in a legal battle with his successor, who are to blame for the township's failing government.
That's according to the Edgar County Watchdogs, a non-profit group focused on local government accountability.
"Former Algonquin Township Highway Commissioner Robert Miller was elevated to a leadership position numerous times in his life," Kirk Allen, a writer for Edgar County Watchdogs, said in a Nov. 13 post. "He was the former president of the Township Officials of Illinois (TOI), served on the TOI board of directors for several years and then became a TOI officer, formerly serving as secretary, treasurer, 2nd vice president, and 1st vice president. He had also served a term as president of the highway commissioners division, as well as the McHenry County Highway Commissioners and the Northern Illinois Highway Commissioners."
With all those titles, it would be natural to assume that Miller is a leader, Allen wrote. "Such an assumption is the first problem we have as citizens," Allen's article said. "We fail to take the deep dive into facts to support our assumptions and sadly, we end up with what we have in this state because of that."
Allen's observations came on the heels of previous revelations on the Edgar County Watchdogs' website that Miller used a township credit card to purchase "Blink Cameras" and tickets to Disneyland. "Right about now we have an entire group screaming we are against township government based on posting the above information," Allen wrote. "Sadly, they will miss the point we are going to make.
"All units of government in Illinois are only effective if they have the proper leadership as well as accountability to the people and our laws. Accountability comes from the people, ultimately, as they elect those who have the power to enforce our laws in the form of prosecutions. When we fail to truly evaluate actions of those we elect and re-elect, we are the heart of the failed system," Allen wrote.
Allen's observations are among the latest in the ongoing controversy in the township, controversy rooted in the contentious election campaign earlier this year between Miller and his successor as township highway commissioner, Andrew Gasser. The race attracted widespread attention and, after Gasser's win, prompted Chicago-based conservative radio talk show host Dan Proft to reflect that the race had been Illinois politics writ small. "Not something you'd think would normally capture the imagination of the region but it kinda-sorta did," Proft said during an edition of Illinois Rising with co-host Pat Hughes in March. "Because it was such an egregious example of the kleptocracy that pervades Illinois."
Miller's father and grandfather had been Algonquin Township highway commissioners and the three men in total held the office for more than half a century. Miller's wife and two sons-in-law also were on the payroll of the township's highway department, which is responsible for about 50 miles of road.
Gasser, then a McHenry County Board member and chairman of the Algonquin Township Republican Party, went into the race saying he wanted to shake things up. With allegations about long-standing nepotism heating up the race already heated by allegations of nepotism, a YouTube video surfaced that seemed to show Algonquin Township Highway Department employees behaving very badly.
Gasser defeated Miller in February's Republican primary, breezed through the election in April unopposed and officially took office in May. In his first day on the job, Gasser fired Miller's two sons-in-law and former McHenry County Board member Nick Chirikos, which got him into trouble with International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150, the union that represents Gasser's employees.
The lawsuits started shortly after that, including one filed by Gasser in early June seeking a court order to restrain Algonquin Township Clerk Karen Lukasik, Miller and Miller's wife from destroying any township records, according to court documents. In October, an administrative law judge ordered Gasser to rehire the three employees, with back pay and interest.
By the end of October, the township had reportedly racked up more than $130,000 in legal fees for Gasser's litigation with Local 150, and the disputes are still ongoing.
Earlier this month, Gasser proposed that his department's budget be cut by about $200,000, or nearly 5 percent, a reduction that would allow for a drop in township property taxes.
Allen, in his Nov. 13 article on the Edgar County Watchdogs website, took issue with praise Miller recently received from Algonquin Township's clerk on her Facebook page, saying Miller had done nothing illegal. "'I want you to personally say 'thank you' to Bob Miller for his untiring efforts to make a difference in keeping township government and keeping it strong,'" Allen quoted from the post.
"Notice the praise had nothing to do with representing the people, being a good steward of tax dollars, better service etc. No, instead it focused on keeping township government and keeping it strong. Having been a past township supervisor it became clear to me; most associations were not about doing what the people of Illinois needed but were more about keeping their organization alive and lobbying to expand it at every chance, which strengthens the association as they need as much government in place as possible," Allen wrote.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story called Edgar County Watchdogs an activist group. This was incorrect. They are a government watchdog organization.