2008 Timeline for Wogen & Masonry Works, LLC

January 2008: Third Ward alderman Victor Wogen files with the Illinois Secretary of State to do business as Masonry Works, LLC. He votes to approve the purchase of the building at 231 E. Lincoln.

March 2008: Wogen votes to request a permit to facilitate demolition preparations at 231 E. Lincoln.

July 2008: Masonry Works receives payment of $31,500 for two invoices submitted for jobs at the 231 E. Lincoln demolition site. The jobs are listed in the check register as 229 and 235 E. Lincoln and the invoices are numbered 3 and 4.

August 2008: Wogen votes to authorize the purchase of 345 E. Lincoln and demolition is discussed. Masonry works receives two payments for work at First and Locust totaling $3380 and the invoices are numbered 1 and 9.

September 2008: Wogen votes to approve waiving the bidding process in awarding the demolition of 345 E. Lincoln. He abstains on the vote for a streetscape improvement project for which Masonry Works, LLC, is seeking a role as subcontractor.

November 2008: Illinois Department of Labor notifies Victor Wogen that an investigation found two employees on the Coleman Elementary School job were not paid prevailing wage by Masonry Works. Wogen is ordered to redress the underpayment of $2805 and to pay a fine equal to 20% of the underpayment.

December 2008: Masonry Works receives payments totaling $18,000 for a third job at 231 E. Lincoln and facade work at 345 E. Lincoln. The invoices are numbered 2 and 3a.

Related post: Alderman Renews DeKalb for TIF Money

22 thoughts on “2008 Timeline for Wogen & Masonry Works, LLC”

  1. Thanks for posting the timeline because it’s very helpful and telling. I find it hard to believe that Alderman Wogen didn’t anticipate there would be construction work he could take advantage of when he originally ran for office – especially given city plans for revitalization and the fact these properties fall within the Third Ward. How this has all unfolded (or shall I say ‘uncovered’ thanks to City Barbs) is way too convenient for our local officials to explain away. The fact that they don’t come forward to discuss matters and have to be ‘found out’ says something about their approach to governance.

  2. Thanks John. Some of the questions here at the site made me realize a timeline might be helpful. They are generally kind of a pain to compile, but usually very much worth the effort. I may add to it when the repair estimates are all to hand. There are interesting events in 2009 as well.

  3. Wonderful effort here, Lynn! Let me throw another couple data points into the mix:

    In the Chronicle piece of 10/22/09, “DeKalb contracts for alderman prompt policy talk”, the Mayor had an interesting quote:

    “Povlsen said Thursday that, when he learned a few months ago about the work performed by Masonry Works, he asked that the purchasing policy be reviewed by the city council.”

    So, what’s the definition of a few months ago? Has the council really been so busy that it couldn’t have considered this matter before the cat scratched its way out of the bag?

    Mr. Povlsen was named interim mayor August 11, 2008 — which means he was in office when THREE of the FOUR known checks were issued! This was FOURTEEN MONTHS AGO. Does that fall under the definition of “a few” months?

  4. Hi Anson! I’ll be glad to add that as soon as the date is known. It has also come to my attention that Wogen submitted proposals at least as late as February or March 2009 — Masonry Works was not dissolved until last July, so who knows? As for:

    Has the council really been so busy that it couldn’t have considered this matter before the cat scratched its way out of the bag?

    I am 99.999% sure that the consideration got placed on the table as soon as the Northern Star submitted FOIA requests asking for the Masonry Works information, which tipped them off that they were busted. (I was aware of the FOIA requests because I typically stop in with my own requests once or twice per month. Most of my information on Masonry Works, however, was pulled off the city’s website.)

    Think about that. The act of turning in a FOIA request probably set this in motion. There’s a lesson in that for other publications.

  5. Is it really the city clerk’s job to notify the mayor, city manager, and aldermen of each and every FOIA? Or is the city clerk picking and choosing which requests get sent upstairs?

    My understanding is that with the city clerk being elected that the clerk is supposed to be the check and balance within city hall. I’m not too happy that the clerk is letting them know that there is interest in a particular subject matter which gives those involved time to come up with an excuse.

    I’m also wondering what is the chip that the Chronicle seems to have for the NIU Police Department and its Chief Grady. I wish they would show the same type of energy in city and school issues as they have Grady and the NIU PD. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the Chronicle sits on the Renew:DeKalb schools committee, the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce and Renew:DeKalb.

    Tough to report important stories within a community if you are hogtied of your independence to these types of groups.

  6. Ivan, contrary to popular belief, there are many records that do not reside with the City Clerk. That is main reason there is a form; it’s for routing from department to department to pick up all the relevant documents.

    Perhaps this should change. Maybe it will as they look at electronic storage options.

    I also don’t know what all the implications of the FOIA amendments are, Anson. I know about a few of the changes — provisions dealing with fulfilling requests with greater speed and less cost — but have not studied it yet.

  7. Thanks Yinn, I thought the city clerk kept all of the information within its walls especially with those of public matter involving money. You are right when you say that this should probably be changed.

    I wonder if a little of this and a little of that now coming out in the open will have any affect on how business is done within the general fund.

  8. I echo what Lynn says about the clerk being a routing agent, but also an advocate for prompt and full release of relevant records. The clerk is also supposed to formally log all FOIA requests, track progress of fulfillment and coordinate inspection or dissemination of the records.

    Otherwise, the clerk’s office retains records on most licenses and some permits, the minutes, the ordinances and the codes of the city. Beyond that, record keeping at City Hall is pretty decentralized. They should be tied together by a common system, but such is not the case right now. (There is a $12,000 proposed expenditure in the 5 year financial plan for a document management system — and that is scheduled for FY 2010, but it’s yet to come before Council formally). To physically retain a copy of all city records in the clerk’s office — as suggested above — would be wasteful and counter-productive.

    Ivan’s suggestion that the clerk was inappropriately tipping off the Mayor or the City Manager by forwarding this FOIA request is RIDICULOUS. Information doesn’t magically show up when a FOIA is submitted. As Lynn can attest, sometimes it takes quite a bit of clarification, coaxing, negotiation, compromise, resubmission, appeal, etc.

    As to the new FOIA law, it actually EXTENDS the period of reply for commercial requests, but Lynn is right in that it shortens the timeframe for citizen inquiries from 7 business days to 5 days. Sadly, most of the requests received in DeKalb are COMMERCIAL. Heroic citizen inquiries as frequently submitted by Lynn are few and far between.

    Those interested in the new FOIA law will be interested to know there will be a seminar held here in DeKalb November 4th. I’ll provide Lynn with the time and place when it is confirmed up. The changes are exciting, but at this point the City of DeKalb is largely unprepared (what else is new).

    The two best things about the new law are:

    1) the General Assembly FORMALLY adopted the notion that providing open access to records is a PRIMARY RESPONSIBILITY of a public body while recognizing that there may be substantial costs associated with this duty; and

    2) any denials of records go DIRECTLY to the Public Access Counselor (of the Attorney General’s office) bypassing the City Manager appeal process as is our current approach in DeKalb).

  9. I was merely asking how everyone was being tipped off at city hall on the FOIA’s and knowing that the city clerk’s office receives the FOIA requests was wondering what the procedure was.

    If every department especially including the city managers office had to document expenditures below and above the $20,000.00 line with the city clerks office, maybe this would be enough to help control how many checks were discretionarily paid out by the city manager.

    I think many including myself have much to learn yet on how city hall actually works and not how we have thought that city hall works. This could be the first step in educating voters as to how business is getting done at city hall especially the “behind closed doors” business.

  10. Yes, Ivan, education is a good thing. Have you ever submitted a FOIA request to the city? You’ve gotten involved reviewing the school project and the community should appreciate that. But that doesn’t make you an expert on all things city-related. Perhaps a little firsthand engagement with city records would provide you that orientation you seek on behalf of all voters. From my experience, the City Clerk’s office has not been the problem since that last person rode off into the sunset.

    Under the new FOIA law (beginning 1/1/10) all public bodies are required to appoint a FOIA Officer (or officers). This has yet to appear on the council agenda and the selection has not been made. It is essential that the elected City Clerk be given these powers but city hall is dragging its feet — and one wonders how the latest events will delay or alter that selection. What’s the hold up?

  11. My involvement with schools and city Bill has been based on actual meetings and handouts. Being a participant in many of the meetings and first hand experience with many of the city issues has not made it necessary for me to look up information due to the fact that in many of if not most of opinions and concerns have drawn from that first hand experience, discussion and conclusion.

    I also have to give credit where credit is due to say that the school district has been very cooperate with me anytime I have openly asked for information. I have to say on the most part that most on the school board, the FPC and the districts administration have remained opened to my questions and concerns. We have a decent working relationship as I hope they realize that I am concerned about the overall of the school district and their mission.

    With regards to the city. Many of my emails to city aldermen and the mayor have not been returned. I will have to say that although I may not agree with Mark Biernacki on how he is operating the city managers office he has always given me the courtesy of returning my emails along with many other of the departments within the city.

    With regards to the city manager and how he is conducting business. I’m not sure that it is fair to blame him. The blame should entirely fall upon the mayor and council. They are they ones who have given him the tools to operate his office and until they either change those rules or policies, they, the council must be entirely happy with how the city is being managed. Mark Biernacki is a professional who just plugs along and goes about his business, the business of operating this city.

    Any complaints to how that office is run should be place entirely on Mayor Povlsen, Alderman Simpson, Teresinski, Wogen, Gallagher, Naylor, Baker and Keller. They have the ability to bring forward motions, they have the ability to lessen the amount of closed meetings, they have the ability to change policy and practice……. they have chosen to allow Mr. Biernacki to plug along and conduct business as directed by mayor and council.

    We can all agree to disagree on many matters but things won’t change until the mayor and council address many of what we perceive as problems is hit head on in council chambers. If we are going to have a transparent administration led by Mayor Kris Povlsen, then by all means let’s get it started mayor. That would eliminate many FOIA requests.

  12. Ivan: Greetings from the East, 25 miles or so, anyway. I am still pleased to hold your coat in these discussions. For Mr. Feldman’s benefit and in response to what I consdier a snide remark and cheap shot, let me share how it works in Crystal Lake. In attending school board and city council meetings here, it is reported in the meeting and the minutes as to FOIA requests that were received and the response that was made to those requests. This also is recorded in the meeting minutes. In my exposure to past DeKalb City Circus meetings, such requests were never publicly acknowledged. So I think your supposition has some validity and the apologists should take a breath.

    Also here, discretionary purchases/contracts have a $10,000 threshold. Of course, we’re still trying to get the council back up material posted on line, but hey, one thing at a time.

    Best regards to you, Mac, yinn and the right-thinking people.

  13. You could make that suggestion to him, Lynn. Or they could be listed in the council meeting backup materials — or a posting log could be developed on the city’s website (with a status — IN PROGRESS, FULFILLED, DENIED, etc.). But there is nothing in either the new or old state protocols about a body publishing or announcing all FOIA’s. Having covered many different governmental bodies over the years as a reporter, I can honestly say I’ve never heard of this practice. As I stated in a prior post, most of DeKalb’s FOIA requests are commercial in nature and we’re well over 100 in total so far this year. Some of these are pre-litigious and could be potentially embarrassing to certain people. Doing a little math, do folks wanna sit through the clerk reading five or six FOIA requests each meeting? I’d rather use that time to hear more detailed reports from all department heads regarding the use of staff resources and project updates.

  14. Thanks alot Paul. Always good to hear from you although at times it seems that it is not enough. Thanks for the suggestion and hopefully if our city clerk is reading…hint..hint… that he will implement this. I think this could help start this transparency that has been promised by our mayor during his efforts to be elected.

    You are right Bill and we also need to realize that there are more than one way to skin a cat. I do feel however that we and I do mean we as in everyone who is demanding some responsibility and accountablility within the walls at City Hall may be starting to work positively for those of us who reside in DeKalb. We must push today and all the way up to the next election to get citizens to remember that their vote IS important and that WE as a community need THEM all to participate and allow us to get this fine community back on track and truly TRANSPARENT. (not yelling at anyone, just keying in on importance).

  15. The CoW WAS disgusting. I can’t decide if it was CYA or they actually don’t know how utterly wrong this is.

    But it is far from hopeless. And, we have useful information: obviously this must be fixed from the outside. Fine.

    My e-mail is yinn422[at]yahoo[dot]com. Let me know if you are willing to participate in some way. I know not everyone can come to/speak at meetings. There are other things you can do.

  16. Why was this framed as a discussion of Chapter 54, thoroughly avoiding the ominous implications of Chapter 8, the Ethics Act? Does the council recognize that the city manager wields incredible power by determining how issues are packaged for discussion before the council? Ethical conduct and the necessity to avoid conflicts of interest are much more than just appearances, Mr. Mayor, it is the law of the state which has been adopted by extension here. What has this city manager done during his tenure to enhance the ethical conduct of city operations?

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