Algonquin Road District motion seeks to void collective-bargaining agreement with Local 150
An attorney for the Algonquin Township highway commissioner filed a motion in early December seeking to counter arguments from a local union by arguing that the union’s agreement with the Algonquin Township Road District should be voided, according to a copy of the motion published by the McHenry County Blog.
According to the motion, Algonquin Township Highway Commissioner Andrew Gasser campaigned on an anti-nepotism platform centered on his predecessor, Robert Miller. Miller’s father and grandfather had preceded him in the position, and Miller served as the highway commissioner for nearly a quarter of a century before being voted out of office in early 2017.
When Miller vacated the office, his sons-in-law Derek Lee and Andrew Rosencrans were employed at the commission. Gasser immediately fired both of them, as well as a third man, Nick Chirikos.
In response, the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 sued the commission for violating a collective-bargaining agreement between the two parties. Grasser and the commission, through attorney Robert Hanlon, are arguing that the purported agreement should be invalidated on four counts.
First, the motion argues that the agreement qualifies for an Illinois Township Code requirement for Township Board approval, as the value of the contract exceeds $20,000. The motion notes that the cellphone stipend of $50 per month for employees is enough to push the contract over that threshold when multiplied by 10 employees for five years. Beyond that, however, the motion estimates that the total cost of the contract exceeds $2.9 million.
The second count of the motion argues that the powers given to township highway commissioners are statutory and that the only entity with authority to change those powers is the legislature. The agreement limits the powers of the township’s highway commissioner through measures such as limiting sales of equipment that could lead to layoffs and establishing a seniority system.
In its the third count, the motion argues that process of negotiating the agreement should invalidate it, as the Township Board did not consider the agreement at a meeting, did not appoint anyone to negotiate with Local 150, did not put consideration of the agreement on any agenda and did not vote on the agreement. Further, the motion notes that the agreement extends beyond the term of Miller and affects Gasser’s powers now that he holds that office.
The final count is based on information and belief and not statutory arguments, but purports that there was direct dealing between Miller and the union during the negotiation process. The count accuses Miller and family members involved in drafting the agreement of designing it to benefit the Miller family. It also contends that Local 150 was aware of this direct dealing.
Algonquin Township’s legal fees over the past six months exceed $312,000, with just over $202,000 of that coming from 571 hours billed by Hanlon’s law firm, according to a late December Northwest Herald report. Almost $15,500 comes from bills for Thomas Gooch, a lawyer representing Miller, with the township’s insurance covering his fees due to Miller’s status as a former employee.