Contempt charge against Algonquin Township Highway Commissioner Andrew Gasser purged

Algonquin Township Highway Commissioner Andrew Gasser avoided jail time for a civil contempt charge when a judge decided Tuesday that Gasser took steps to select arbitrators in an ongoing dispute with the labor union representing his employees.

In March, Lake County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Jasica found Gasser in indirect civil contempt after failing to comply with a court order requiring him to engage in the arbitration process to sort out grievances with International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150, the union representing three employees Gasser fired without cause within minutes of taking office in 2017.

Gasser faced fines or incarceration if he did not comply with Jasica’s order before Tuesday’s hearing.

Although other steps of the arbitration process were requested, Local 150 attorney Bryan Diemer said Jasica was satisfied with Gasser’s attempts to select arbitrators to purge his contempt charge during Tuesday’s sentencing hearing.

“The court invited us to file new motions if the road district refused to schedule a hearing, so that is a possibility,” Diemer said.

Robert Hanlon, Gasser’s attorney, said in an email to the Northwest Herald that his client was not sentenced to anything on Tuesday “because there was nothing requiring him to be sentenced.”

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, Robert Miller, signed.

After Local 150 heard no response from the highway department to begin arbitration, Gasser was put on the stand in January to defend himself against contempt charges.

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.

After Gasser was questioned by Local 150’s counsel on what steps Gasser took to comply with the court’s order. Jasica would rule in March that Gasser did not take the proper steps to comply.

Diemer said that a petition for attorney fees also has been filed and Hanlon will have 14 days to respond.

This matter will be continued on May 14.