CRYSTAL LAKE – Algonquin Township Highway Commissioner Andrew Gasser says he has the smoking gun in his war against corruption in government, but his targets said his most recent tactics are smoke and mirrors.
On Monday, Gasser published Verizon bills to his website that he said show Rebecca Lee, the daughter of former Highway Commissioner Bob Miller, had a Verizon data plan provided to her through the Algonquin Township Highway Department.
“This is unethical at best,” Gasser wrote. “Through inspection you will notice that as soon as the election was held this practice stopped. Was it stopped because her father lost his election or was it because they knew this was a bad idea but never gave the election the respect it truly deserved?”
Lee said the wireless bill at issue was never paid for with taxpayer money.
“I don’t have a cellphone or any other data device that was or is paid for by the township,” said Lee, an attorney and partner at Wand Lee Wambacher LLC. “Much like everything else Gasser says, it’s smoke and mirrors. It has a reasonable and lawful explanation. He just doesn’t want to hear it.”
Gasser published PDF copies of Verizon Wireless bills addressed to the township’s Road District from October 2016 through May 2017.
The bills show Verizon billed the Algonquin Township Road District $38.30 a month for a “Verizon Plan Small 1GB” package between October and March totalling more than $200. The package was tied to a phone number and a name: “Rebecca Lee.”
Lee is Miller’s daughter and the wife of Derek Lee, one of the union workers Gasser fired from the Algonquin Township Road District in May, minutes after Gasser took over the highway department.
Between October 2015 and March 2017, the Verizon bills show the line was used very little. For example, in December, the line used 0.006 GB of the 1GB allowance. In January, the line used 0.003 GB.
That’s because the data plan was not for a cellphone, Lee said. The plan was for a Samsung Gear 2 smart watch – a Christmas gift road district employees chipped in to buy for their boss, Bob Miller.
For years, employees of the road district split the costs of a gift for Miller, using their own money. In 2015, Derek Lee was in charge of orchestrating the holiday purchase. He delegated the job to his wife, Rebecca Lee.
“You can’t activate [the smart watch] unless it’s attached to a phone,” Derek Lee said. “My phone was a government account, and I didn’t want to activate it on my account. I called my wife and had her put it on her account.”
On Dec. 18, Rebecca Lee walked into a Verizon Wireless store in Crystal Lake and bought a Samsung Gear 2 watch for $323.24. She paid for the watch with her personal Chase credit card, according to documents obtained by the Northwest Herald. Road district employees later paid her back, she said.
After Bob Miller received the gift from the employees, he visited at a Verizon store and had the device linked to his township cell phone, Rebecca Lee said.
“Why does Rebecca Miller Lee need a cell phone data plan paid for by the taxpayers?” Gasser asked in his post. “What was that data used for? As the duly elected Algonquin Township Highway Commissioner I will be contacting Verizon to see what that data was used for. The people have a right to know if their tax dollars were funding a telecommunications data plan for a private use.”
Though Gasser’s post implies Algonquin Township dollars paid the Verizon bills, records show otherwise. In October, November, December and January, Miller paid Verizon $38.30 using his personal American Express Gold Card stamped with the name, “ROBERT J MILLER.”
“I wasn’t the recipient of the services,” Rebecca Lee said. “I can’t control how Verizon bills something.”
In April, two months after Miller lost in an upset February primary election to Gasser, Verizon refunded the Road District money for used data and began canceling the plan, records show.
Gasser didn’t respond to phone calls, voice mails and text messages on Monday.
His Dec. 4 post, “Rebecca Miller Lee’s Name on Algonquin Township Highway Department Phone Bill,” runs tandem with Gasser’s campaign to fight nepotism in government.
“When you elected me to be your Algonquin Township Highway Commissioner I promised you I wouldn’t take the health care plan, pension plan, and improve transparency,” Gasser wrote. “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.”
Rebecca Lee’s name on township phone bills show how intertwined Bob Miller’s family had become with Algonquin Township business over the 45 years he spent there as an employee and commissioner.
Before Miller lost his seat, his family had controlled the department since the 1960s. Miller, who served as highway commissioner for 24 years, now is the subject of a grand jury investigation of road district spending over the last decade.
Miller declined to comment on this story. His wife and former secretary, Anna May Miller, told the Northwest Herald there is nothing crooked about the bills.
“I am here to tell you, the township never paid for a cell phone for Rebecca,” Anna May Miller said. “There is a clear, straightforward explanation.”