Algonquin Township demands former roads commissioner return district property, repay funds
Algonquin Township recently demanded the return of property totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars from former Road District Commissioner Robert Miller and his wife, Anna Miller.
In a nine-page letter sent to the couple on May 7, current Algonquin Road District Commissioner Andrew Gasser outlined what he called “items of property ... paid for by the Algonquin Township Road District.”
The letter was made public through a Freedom of Information Act request from the Edgar County Watchdogs and posted on the group's Illinois Leaks website.
Miller, who was defeated by Gasser in the February 2017 elections, had been roads commissioner for 24 years and his family had overseen the department since 1960.
He is now the subject of a grand jury investigation into allegations of corruption related to the spending, according to the Northwest Herald.
The items listed in the letter include multiple credit cards and the thousands of dollars in credit applied to them, seven mobile phones, iPads, expensive clothing items for Miller and his wife, gift cards, jewelry and several women’s leather bags.
Miller also spent thousands of dollars at restaurants such as Hooters and tickets to Disneyland.
Algonquin Township Clerk Karen Lukasik originally claimed in a Facebook post that the tickets were for a board-approved American Public Works Association conference. However, the association's conference brochures show the conference had nothing to do with Disneyland other than recommending conferences attendees “combine business with pleasure and incorporate your ... trip into your vacation plans,” according to a November 2017 article from Illinois Leaks.
“Public funds, property or credit shall be used only for public purposes,” according to Article VIII, Section One of the Illinois State Constitution.
The constitution also states expenses and payments made with state funds “only as authorized by law or ordinance,” and “reports and records” of all expenditures must be kept and made available to the public.
Gasser’s letter also demands the Millers provide unaccounted-for receipts for many of the purchases and credit card statements.
Not all of the Miller’s purchases were for themselves. The township also is seeking repayment for donations made to Birch totaling $13,644.40 and to Behm Paving totaling $110,062 “for the benefit of others and not the Algonquin Township Road District,” according to the letter.
The legal backing behind the demand for reimbursement and return of property comes from a law known as “The Dillon Rule,” named after John Forrest Dillon, who was an Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice 121 years ago.
In his 1872 article “Municipal Corporations,” Dillon argued the state government has only the powers given to it by the legislature and may only use the power, such as spending taxpayer money, for things “that are essential and indispensable to the municipality's existence and functioning.”
Since it was adopted by the Supreme Court in the 1907 case Hunter v. City of Pittsburgh, Dillon’s Rule has been used to ensure that state departments spend taxpayer money only on things that are essential to the state and the benefit of the public.
Gasser’s letter states hundreds of thousands of dollars spent by the Millers violated Dillon’s Rule.
The letter also claimed Miller’s daughter, Rebecca Lee, was the recipient of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money for personal use.
In December 2017, Gasser published Verizon bills to his website that he said showed Lee’s phone bill was paid by the Algonquin Township Highway Department.
“This is unethical at best,” Gasser said.
Lee disputed Gasser’s claim in a Northwest Herald online article.
“Much like everything else Gasser says, it’s smoke and mirrors,” she said.
Lee said she never had a phone bill through the highway department and that the line was for a smartwatch that employees in Miller’s department chipped in to buy for their boss.
“It has a reasonable and lawful explanation. He just doesn’t want to hear it,” Lee said.
Gasser, who has made an issue of reforming the highway department on his website, said he was elected on his promise to “improve transparency.”
“Never in a billion years did I think we would find an eighth of the stuff that we did – but we have – and you cannot make this stuff up,” he said.