Debate Over Use of Public Signs Continues

Algonquin Township Road Commissioner Andrew Gasser’s posting of a the message, “The Northworst Herald Is Fake News,” continues to be debated in the comment sections of various articles on McHenry County Blog.

On the Algonquin Township Highway Department Route 14 sign appears the message, “The Northworst Herald Is Fake News.” About 60,000 vehicles a day drive past the Township complex.

You can find Illinois Leaks’ Kirk Allen’s original defense here.

Here is what Allen had to say to comments under that article:

Mr. Gasser, in his official capacity as a Highway Whatever, is speaking as a government employee, not as a private citizen (only in his official capacity may he change the sign).”

This is where the conversation needs to begin as there are great points here but also allegations and assumptions that are simply inaccurate.

Kirk Allen of Edgar County Watchdogs taking on Jack Franks at a County Board meetring.

It would be great if we could actually have a discussion without all the claims of partisan/political/right wing claims.
The question is simple, and so far, unanswered except by us.

Does Gasser have a right to use the sign as any other citizen?

We believe the answer is yes.

So how does his message get placed on the sign?

Considering he is the official in charge of the sign, he would have to be the one to do it.

So one could argue that yes, he changed the sign in his official capacity as the Highway Commissioner but considering he took steps to ensure it was done when he was off the clock to avoid the claims he got paid to do it, we find the official capacity argument weak at best.

Lets’ assume for discussion that he was paid to change the sign.

It brings us back to the question, how does he get his message installed on the sign?

Not allowing him to have his message posted because he is in charge would violate his right to post a message just like others.

In fact, to hang the hat on who has authority to change the sign becomes very problematic from a 14th amendment standpoint.

Why does a person authorized to change a sign lose his right to post a message of his personal making?

How is that equal protection under the law?

To argue that since he is the one with the power to change it means he has no constitutional protection to post a message of his making is silly.

There has to be a mechanism for him to post a message, just like anyone else.

I fully agree with this statement “government employees are only protected by the First Amendment when they are speaking as private citizens.”, which is why I said this in the article.

“And yes, he has free speech rights in this case as he was not on the clock.”

It is very clear an accurate argument is made for the changing of the sign is done in an official capacity, however, the changing of the sign message does not mean by default the message is that of a government employee.

We totally DISAGREE with the claim the message was to: “promote an overtly right-wing partisan message while acting as a government employee. First, he can most certainly be fired for doing so.”

The sign-up sheet for the sign is clear, The Township does not necessarily support or endorse the content of the messages on the sign.

I have heard from people on both sides of the political aisle and they saw no politics in the message.

Political speech is well defined and this was not political speech, let alone a “right-wing partisan message”.

The changing of the sign does not mean by default the message is that of a government employee.

Trying to take that position strips a person in that position from EVER posting ANY message and fails on the most basic legal analysis.

He cannot be fired for doing so unless you take the position losing the election is being fired by the voters.

Like I said in our article, I believe his actions will lead to others wanting to post their message and is going to lead to future problems.

Although I agree with the message, I think placing it on the public forum sign is going to be problematic for future messages as people will want to use it to voice their opinion about political figures, which is, in fact, political speech and not allowed on the sign.

So my question still stands for anyone to answer, how does an elected official that is in charge of a sign for public use as a public forum get his personal message posted?


Debate Over Use of Public Signs Continues — 13 Comments

  1. All this outrage over an official’s opinion of temporary messaging on a board!

    Where is the outrage over Miller’s permanently using taxpayers money inappropriately and unethically for personal gain that the taxpayers will never get back?!

    Boy, is Algonquin Township full of a special kind of stupid, or what?

    All this outrage by the local paper appropriately knicknamed ‘Northworst Herald, Nitwits Herald’ because they didn’t cover Miller’s terrible actions!

    They ARE Fake News!

    Nothing but a rag that is only faithful to the highest Advertizer$! (advertizers with taxpayer money)

    Northworst Herald knows about- but still hasn’t reported on Franks agenda item to have county taxpayers foot the bill for his campaign swag with no limit, mind you!!!

    Also, No coverage of Franks’ desire to hire an Inspector General which could enable him to circumvent the Whistle Blowers Law which currently lies within the Auditor’s office and is overseen by the States Atty?

    THESE ARE BIG RED FLAGS, yet no coverage!

    ‘NW Herald Fake News?’

    You Betcha!

  2. This defense would get you cut from the JV high school debate team

  3. The debate isn’t about the newspaper, it’s about calling someone out on a public sign.

    He’s probably got more people reading the Northwest Herald than ever which is hilariously unintentional.

    Also hilarious is all the talk of bias and slant at the paper while this blog tells one side at all times.

  4. **So my question still stands for anyone to answer, how does an elected official that is in charge of a sign for public use as a public forum get his personal message posted?**

    Short answer: he doesn’t.

    A library board member shouldn’t use the public space in a library for a political or personal event.

    A school board member shouldn’t use on of the schools under his/her purview for a political or personal event.

    A highway commissioner shouldn’t use government resources/property for a personal/political message.

    It is an abuse of power.


    Further, such personal attacks on businesses should have no place on a government sign, regardless of who it is attacking and who is sayin git.

    What if I’m pissed off at the Crystal Lake movie theater.

    Should Gasser allow me to post something on the sign about it?

  5. And, let me be clear.

    This doesn’t necessarily mean that was Gasser did and is doing is illegal.

    But it is totally inappropriate and abuse of his position.

    And it is especially ironic being that Gasser has claimed to want to clean up the Highway Commission post the allegedly corrupt Miller, who abused his position in numerous ways.

  6. That explains McHenry County Blog having been the only publication to report on the Algonquin Township’s loss in court on Tuesday, right?

    See “Algonquin Township Road Commissioner Andrew Gasser Loses Suit to Void Local 150 Contract Signed by Predecessor Bob Miller after His GOP Primary Election Loss.”

  7. That sign structure has words stating: “Algonquin Township Highway Department”. Being that, Township citizens and others passing by it and reading it have an expectation that the messages displayed there pertain to official Highway Department business and matters such as: “Road X will be repaved starting on ….” or “Bridge on Road Y will be reduced to one lane for week Aug ……”, etc. Messages to the public about safety would be OK, such as “Don’t text and Drive” or “Don’t drink and drive” or “Buckle up in your vehicle”, etc. Other public messages such as in late October might be: “Remember to vote”.

    If no issues going on about highways, bridges, roads in the Township and the Highway Department does not wish to display safety or other public and factual statements, then the sign should be blank. That sign belongs to all citizens of the Township and should be always devoid of political commentary or opinions of Highway Department personnel nor any other citizen.

    Of course, others such as visitors to the Township passing through, citizens of other countries as well as illegal aliens should also never be allowed to post a message or opinion on the sign.

  8. Does Gasser or the road district even own the sign?

    Gasser and the Highway dept are renters on township land.

    I wouldn’t piss my landlord off if I was him.

  9. “Gasser and the Highway dept are renters on township land.
    I wouldn’t piss my landlord off if I was him.”


    They have already proved that they have no cahonees.

    Gasser wants the road commissioner position eliminated and consolidated into the township.

    They have refused.

    If brains were dynamite the entire township board couldn’t muster enough energy to blow a fart.

  10. The point is, that while various civic groups may be allowed to post messages on the sign, they are not allowed to post political messages.

    Moreover the person who decides what goes on the sign is the Road Commissioner so there is some oversight if someone wants to post something that is not appropriate.

    When the Road Commissioner himself decides to post something, there is no one to oversee that.

    That is why it is wrong, regardless of whether or not you agree with the content.

    Agreement or disagreement with the message is not the point.

    The point is appropriateness, not content.

    The Edgar County folks have lost credibility on this one.

  11. Dear Mr. Gasser, being aware of your impeccable reputation and skills, I respectfully submit the proposal of posting the following message on the Algonquin Township Highway Department sign: “The McHenry County sunshine blog is the safe haven for pathetic racists and charlatans.” I am sure Klaatu Barada Nikto will approve this message. Stay tuned…tic, tock, tic, tock, tic, tock, meeeeeoooooowwwwwwwww…

  12. Well, if opinions by “citizens” of the US only will someday have a legal procedure to put an opinion on the Algonquin Township Highway Department sign, then someone could opine that the McHenry County Blog allows Freedom of Speech by anyone whether or not they are morons or imbeciles.

  13. McHenry Township has its own “LGBTQ Awareness Program” in full throttle.

    But what is it?

    Who’s paying for this?

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