Local

Algonquin Township officials in conflict over hire of 23-year-old deputy highway commissioner

Published:
Updated:
Ryan Provenzano speaks at an Algonquin Township meeting Dec. 13. Highway Commissioner Andrew Gasser has hired Ryan Provenzano as his deputy highway commissioner for $33.65 an hour, correspondence documents obtained by the Northwest Herald show.[]

ALGONQUIN – The Algonquin Township Road District has a new deputy highway commissioner.

His name is Ryan Provenzano, a 23-year-old graduate of Marian Catholic High School and a former employee of McHenry Harley-Davidson.

And he stands to make a lot of money in Algonquin Township.

The political insider has agreements in place to earn $63,000 a year working full time as the chief of staff at Township Supervisor Charles
Lutzow’s office, making $32 an hour – and another deal working part time as deputy highway commissioner at the Algonquin Township Highway Department, where he makes $33 an hour.

That’s about $4 more an hour than the road district’s highest paid employee, Randy Voss, who has worked for the highway department for
44 years and makes $29.14 an hour.

Provenzano’s roles in two offices have raised questions among township officials and road district employees who contend that his hiring was the product of patronage and cronyism.

“I don’t feel somebody who is 22 or 23 years old should be getting all of this control,” Trustee Melissa Victor said. “I feel he was a patronage hire.”

Provenzano is the son of former McHenry County Board member Nick Provenzano, who now works for U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren, and the nephew of former Maine Township Highway Commissioner Robert Provenzano.

The fresh-faced Republican insider helped city of McHenry Mayor Wayne Jett win election as his campaign manager, and he even worked as a field director for Gov. Bruce Rauner’s campaign operations in McHenry County.

Ryan Provenzano and his father helped Lutzow run his campaign for township supervisor.

Lutzow denied that Ryan Provenzano was hired as a political favor.

“It’s just not true,” Lutzow said.

Despite four phone calls to his cellphone, Ryan Provenzano could not be reached for comment on how he landed the jobs in Algonquin Township. At a township meeting Wednesday night, Ryan Provenzano entered executive session with township officials and did not return to the meeting.

At the same meeting, Trustee Rachael Lawrence asked Highway Commissioner Andrew Gasser to explain why he brought Ryan Provenzano into his office.

“I needed a deputy, and I found one, and Ryan is already at the township, [and] he already has a great understanding of how the township works, and he is not a full-time employee, by any means,” Gasser said. “He’s worth every friggin’ penny, and I am tired – I am tired of certain people coming around here and questioning everything I’ve done.”

Although he’s eligible to enroll in the township’s health insurance program, Ryan Provenzano does not take health benefits; he is on his parents’ insurance plan and can’t bank sick pay, Lutzow said.

He is enrolled in the state’s municipal pension fund, and the township pays for him to carry a cellphone. He also recently used a township credit card to buy a MacBook computer and accessories for $1,700.

As chief of staff at the supervisor’s office, Ryan Provenzano’s responsibilities include managing payroll, shaping the township budget and controlling the township’s building and maintenance. He logs 37.5 hours a week working in the supervisor’s office, Lutzow said.

Gasser would not comment on the specifics of Ryan Provenzano’s duties at the highway department or how many hours he would work every week. Before Ryan Provenzano began working in Gasser’s department in December, Lutzow said he was under the impression that his chief of staff would work up to four hours a week at the road district.

“No comment,” Gasser told the Northwest Herald on Wednesday night.

Former Algonquin Township Supervisor Dianne Klemm hired Ryan Provenzano early last year to help transition the office into the hands of Lutzow, who recently was elected supervisor. Provenzano made $13 an hour.

On May 15, Lutzow’s first day in office, the incoming supervisor signed a one-line memo increasing Ryan Provenzano’s pay, according to documents obtained by the Northwest Herald.

“Please revise Ryan A. Provenzano’s pay rate to $59,000 annual salary,” Lutzow wrote in the memo.

Late last year, Ryan Provenzano switched back to an hourly pay rate, but Lutzow would not offer specifics on why the arrangement changed.

In November, the Northwest Herald filed a Freedom of Information Act request with township officials asking for documents inside Ryan Provenzano’s personnel file, including contracts, résumés and letters of recommendation.

Township attorney James Kelly told the Northwest Herald on Dec. 5 that no contracts, résumés and letters of recommendation with Ryan Provenzano’s name on them exist.

“There are no documents that are responsive to your request,” Kelly wrote.

Dan Morrison has been working with the Algonquin Township Highway Department for four years, and he makes $20 an hour.

In December, a secretary handed him a bundle of paychecks to pass out to road district employees. Sorting through the checks, the 27-year-old employee found one addressed to Ryan Provenzano.

He thought the road district made a mistake.

Morrison called Lawrence. She, too, had no idea why Ryan Provenzano would get a check from the road district.

“I thought it was a mistake, too,” Lawrence said.

On Dec. 30, she emailed Gasser, asking about Ryan Provenzano’s role at the highway department.

Lawrence soon learned that Gasser had hired Ryan Provenzano as deputy highway commissioner.

In a Jan. 9 letter responding to Lawrence’s questions, Gasser explained the decision behind Ryan Provenzano’s hiring.

“Ryan Provenzano is an enormous asset to the entire township,” Gasser wrote. “His work impacts the supervisor’s office, highway department and the assessor’s office. There are times where the highway department requires an inordinate amount of Ryan Provenzano’s time that takes him away from the supervisor’s office.”

Payroll records show that Provenzano worked 10.5 hours at the highway department from Dec. 11 to 13. He earned $268.83.

Provenzano received two checks for work he did from Dec. 14 to Jan. 10 as the supervisor’s chief of staff. His earnings for that one-month period totaled $3,055.

Details about his dual income disturbed trustees and road district employees.

“It’s unacceptable, and it’s unfair,” Morrison said. “I have no idea what he does.”

“I feel for these guys,” Lawrence said.

All township officials agreed that there is little they can do to effect who the highway commissioner hires and how much he or she is compensated.

“The highway commissioner can set the wages for the workers as he sees fit,” Lutzow said.

“I can’t control who Andrew hires, even though it’s patronage,” Trustee Dave Chapman said. “There’s nothing that the board can do about it. ... I don’t think it’s any secret that Ryan was a supporter of the incoming highway commissioner.”

Other officials have questioned why the highway commissioner would hire a deputy highway commissioner with political connections throughout McHenry County over someone with practical experience managing infrastructure as vital as roads.

“Andrew Gasser is all about integrity, but there is no integrity here,” Victor said. “[Ryan Provenzano] is basically running the township. ... He’s a kid. He doesn’t have any experience or knowledge.”