Algonquin Township Board members refused to even second a motion by Trustee Rachael Lawrence to place a referendum on the fall ballot that would abolish the Township Road District in 2021
After abolition of the department, now virtually independent of oversight, it its operation would be placed under the Township Board elected in 2021.
Everyone in the audience who expressed an opinion was in favor of allowing the voters to say their piece.
[CORRECTION: Mike Tauler spoke against approval. See Tauler’s “Bullshit Deflector – Algonquin Township Highway Department ear piece here.]]
Even Highway Commissioner Andrew Gasser endorsed the idea.
Here’s what he said in public comment:
Friends and Neighbors,
I come before you today, not as the duly elected highway commissioner, but as a 46 year resident of McHenry County and Fox River Grove.
I ask that you approve the proposed resolution to abolish the Algonquin Township Highway Commissioner and bring it under the auspices of the Township Supervisor and the Board.
The people of Algonquin Township are smart enough to know that what has taken place in this township and are demanding more oversite – oversite in township highway departments, by law, are almost non-existent.
I trust the voters.
You should to.
People from different political parties and points of view are calling for this resolution to pass.
Some in the elite, McHenry County political class are using their backdoor connections, grandstanding with press releases, and manipulating the Northwest Herald to advance their agenda – this is truly unfortunate.
There is no need for mudslinging, placing blame, or political paybacks – this is all about good, honest, open and transparent government.
While the Algonquin Township Highway Department has reformed itself enormously from May 15th, 2017, we still have a very long way to go. Some of our remarkable accomplishments include:
- The first township highway department in Illinois to put ALL their bills online from day one of this administration
- Creating a new credit card policy with two person integrity on ALL purchases and requiring receipts to end questionable purchases
- Ending the “miscellaneous pay” inside the highway department
- Ending Nepotism and putting in place an anti-nepotism policy
- WE CUT TAXES – not the political trick of abating taxes and calling it a tax cut for the front page of the local paper
We look forward to the findings of the audit and implementing even more internal controls inside the highway department to improve our transparency.
That being said, all of these reforms should not fall on the shoulders of the highway commissioner.
Our government is a system of checks and balances that as of right now, under Illinois Township and Highway Code, does not exist.
By approving this resolution to trust the people to make the right decision you are also re-affirming our founding fathers, the constitution of the United States, and they system of government that was inspired by divinity and which only came to fruition through the grace of God.
Please – do not fall victim to the selfish McHenry County political class but instead trust the voters of Algonquin Township – please pass this resolution.
This was Lawrence’s opening statement:
I think it’s appropriate to preface this agenda item with just a brief explanation to make sure we’re all on the same page and understand exactly what this proposed resolution is and does and why I requested that it be on this month’s agenda.
A new law, specifically called 6 ILCS 5/6-134 also known as Public Act 100-0106 was passed through both houses of congress, signed into law by the Governor, and became effective the start of this new year.
What this law does is allow us to create a public question that would appear on every Algonquin Township voter’s ballot, allowing the citizens themselves to decide whether or not they’d like the Road District to continue as-is, or to be placed under the control of the Township Board.
IF this resolution passes through the township board today, and IF the voters decide so on their November election ballot, the Road District would cease to exist and instead, all of its rights, powers, duties, assets, property, liabilities, obligations, and responsibilities would then be transferred to the Township board, and the elected office of Highway Commissioner would cease to exist as of May, 2021.
ON that day, Road District employees would still report to work just the same, but as TOWNSHIP employees instead, using the same equipment, performing the same vital maintenance duties as before, just with a new employer.
One of the most common questions I’ve heard about this possibility, should it get to that point, is WHAT EFFECT WILL THIS HAVE ON TOWNSHIP MAINTAINED ROADS?
The likely answer is: little to none.
The reason I can say that is that the very law itself guarantees that the township must assume all the existing duties of the Road District.
Those demanding detailed analyses, plans for policy and detailed proposals, etc, are impractical, considering
a) we cannot produce detailed plans for a hypothetical situation which would happen more than 2 ½ years in the future based on a voter decision which hasn’t even been made, and
b) the board does not even have the legal authority to create resolutions on Road District policy until AFTER the voters were to hypothetically make such a decision on their ballot.
What I can say, however, is that IF the board decides to allow the people to vote, it would allow this board more time to research and plan for the transition, than if we were to wait any longer.
IF passed in November, this board would then still have over two years to develop the best possible transition strategy.
WHAT WE KNOW FOR SURE:
–This law was not passed with the intent of slashing costs. We know that because the law itself states its intent as reducing layers of government and increasing efficiency. MY reason for supporting this referendum is primarily because I believe the voters should have a fundamental right to self-governance, that they are smart enough to make their own decision, but also because it could solve some major flaws within the Road District and its lack of oversight.
I refer to my public statement from over a year ago, as this law was a bill making its way through the legislature when I said:
“The position of Highway Commissioner is one of the few governmental positions left in Illinois with virtually no oversight. Aside from the annual budget approval, township boards have no legal authority over RD contracts, bids, purchases, personnel policy, or any other Road District operations.
“In fact, we are required to allow ALL Road District monthly expenditures as long as there is an applicable line item in its budget and enough funds are present. Contrary to popular belief, Trustees cannot tell Highway Commissioners how to spend their budgets.
“This unchecked power leaves taxpayers vulnerable to potential abuse and corruption, or merely unethical practices, as we have seen in townships throughout our state.
“I have been outspoken on this issue and am pleased at the progress being made in our state legislature.
“A step in the right direction, this bill could empower the voters to provide necessary board oversight over the maintenance of township roads and those employed to do so.”
That was May 11 of last year.
Trustee Melissa Victor agreed that there should be more oversight of the Highway Department, but pointed out there has been “no study.”
She contended, “It would be taking power away from the voters,” since the Road Commissioner would not be elected in 2021.
“I take it as a condemnation of the person running the department now,” observed Trustee Dan Shea.
David Chapman added, “There may be a time for this, but it’s not today.”
She said he found it “personally offensive that Rep. Skillicorn said all we do is ‘shrug.'”
All Trustees but Lawrence supported the re-election of Bob Miller as Road Commissioner.
Supervisor Chuck Lutzow, a voting member of the Township Board, said nothing on the subject.
Lawrence pointed out that “the law was not passed with the claim of saving costs.”
She then made this statement:
LASTLY, I do not bring this discussion topic and resolution forth lightly.
I bring it forth after a year-long multi-agency still-ongoing investigation into what our own States Attorney described using 52 pages of behaviors he called “questionable,” “controversial,” flawed,” “inattentive,” “wholly inconsiderate,” and “incompetence, guile, and impropriety.”
I bring this forth after hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent trying to unravel the tangled web of the last half century of one family’s rule over the Road District.
I bring this forth, perhaps MOST importantly based upon the portion of the Declaration of Independence which states: Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it.
It is for these reasons, and not any politician’s flapping, personal agenda, or vendetta, that I bring this forward. I truly believe that this discussion and resolution are long overdue, and that the motives of anyone wishing to deny the people their voice on this issue should be carefully questioned.