Algonquin Township Highway Department ordered to pay $33K in fees from union lawsuit

The Algonquin Township Highway Department was ordered to pay more than $33,000 in attorneys fees and court costs related to a two-year legal dispute with the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150, according to court records.

Local 150 and James Sweeney, the union’s president and business manager, filed a suit against the road district in June 2017, claiming violations of the Illinois Freedom of Information Act after Highway Commissioner Andrew Gasser denied a request for being “unduly burdensome,” according to Local 150 counsel.

In January, Lake County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Jasica granted a petition for fees under the Freedom of Information Act in part to the tune of $33,742.78.

Gasser, meanwhile, was ordered in June to pay $8,400 in attorneys fees and court costs after being found in contempt.

In March, 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 Local 150, which represents three employees Gasser fired without cause within minutes of taking office in 2017.

In April, Jasica was satisfied with Gasser's efforts to select arbitrators in the matter and purged the civil contempt charge, which prevented Gasser from facing jail time.

However, Local 150’s counsel filed a petition for attorneys fees and costs related to the contempt charge.

“I think Mr. Gasser made decisions eyes wide open, and he should bear the cost of those decisions, not the taxpayers of Algonquin Township,” Local 150 attorney Bryan Diemer said in court. “And so I would ask that the order be entered against Mr. Gasser individually.”

Jasica limited Local 150’s request to attorneys fees incurred in preparation and presentation of a renewed petition for indirect civil contempt. In total, Jasica awarded $8,050 in attorneys fees in favor of Local 150 against Gasser. The judge also awarded an additional $350 in court costs.

Robert Hanlon, Gasser’s attorney, argued that the road district or Gasser in his professional capacity as highway commissioner should be listed as the payee since the lawsuit and petition for fees both referred to him as highway commissioner.

However, Jasica ruled that because it was Gasser who was held in contempt, the judgment will be awarded against him.

“Again, certainly without prejudice for [Gasser] to seek whatever reimbursement or indemnity he believes he’s entitled to for the road district, but I think the award, since he is the individual that was held in contempt, the award enters against him,” Jasica said.