The arbitrator assigned to former Algonquin Township Highway Department employee Nick Chirikos’ case withdrew herself Friday, causing the already-delayed case to stall once again.
In an email dated Friday to International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 attorney Bryan Diemer and Algonquin Township Highway Commissioner Andrew Gasser’s attorney, Robert Hanlon, arbitrator Mary Ellen Shea said she made her decision “with regret and the hope that the parties will have better luck scheduling with another arbitrator.”
Shortly after taking his oath of office in January 2018, Gasser fired Chirikos, a former McHenry County Board member, and the sons-in-law of former Highway Commissioner Bob Miller, Andrew Rosencrans and former road district foreman Derek Lee.
This prompted Local 150 to file grievances for all three employees. Rosencrans and Lee’s arbitration cases resulted in rulings that they had to be hired again, with full back pay wages and benefits.
Another employee, Daniel Morrison – who was fired Jan. 11 for smoking in the Algonquin Township and road district buildings and vehicles – received a similar ruling in his arbitration case.
Chirikos’ case still has not yet been heard in arbitration.
Shea wrote in her email that many dates were offered to schedule a hearing on Chirikos’ case since she received her appointment April 1.
Although the union consistently responded in a timely fashion and has been willing to schedule on any of the offered dates, except for three or four, according to Shea’s email, the township agreed to two of the offered dates, but neither worked out.
In July 29, Shea was able to confirm a hearing date, but it was canceled when Hanlon said he withdrew as counsel for the township.
Despite what Shea said were “repeated emails” offering new dates to reschedule, none of Hanlon, Gasser or any other township representative responded to emails from July 16 through Nov. 15.
Although another hearing date was made with Hanlon for Dec. 2, the attorney ended up canceling that one, as well, for “family medical reasons.”
“Since then, five alternate dates have been offered, but Mr. Gasser is not available for the last date under consideration,” Shea wrote.
Most recently, Hanlon said Gasser was not available Dec. 19 for arbitration in the case.
“This grievance concerns a discharge and should have been heard long before this,” Shea wrote. “I hope the parties are able to schedule more promptly with another arbitrator.”
Shea could not be reached for comment Saturday.
The case now has been sent back to the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.
Both parties will have to select a new arbitrator and hearing date.
Diemer said he likely will be in contact with Hanlon next week to see what he wants to do.
Although he remains “hopeful” they can resolve this case, Diemer said, given its history, he is never surprised when there are delays because of the road district’s actions.
“If we have to go back in front of a circuit court judge to do that, we’ll do that,” he said Saturday.
Gasser could not be reached for comment, and Hanlon did not return a call seeking comment.
Gasser was held in indirect civil contempt of court in March by Lake County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Jasica, who found that the highway commissioner willfully failed to comply with a court order related to his ongoing battle with the labor union. These charges were later purged.
Diemer said he has not seen an arbitrator withdraw his or her appointment on a case before.
“We are so outside the realm of anything resembling normal,” Diemer said. “The road district has gone to extraordinary efforts to avoid a hearing on the merits [of the case].”