In searching for the right adjectives to describe last night’s city council meeting I found this note on thesaurus.com:
ingenuous means ‘naïve, easily deceived, unsuspecting; foolish’ – and disingenuous means ‘calculating, deceptive’
I’ve been scratching my head ever since. Which is it? Is the DeKalb city council so naive, easily deceived and unsuspectingly foolish that they can’t see or smell the forest fire burning through the trees? Or is it worse.
The mayor and council’s attempt to poo-poo what has been a pattern of, at best, extremely poor judgement and, at worst, borderline criminal behavior is disgusting.
Folks, it doesn’t get any plainer (or uglier) than this:
Third ward alderman, Victor Wogen with assistance from the appointed and paid city administration, was paid some $53,000 for work done in the downtown revitalization without the public’s knowledge. The ‘policy’ employed was the City Manager’s $20,000 discretionary fund account. Such a fund account is needed because emergency repairs cannot await first and second readings and approval by city council. But the splitting of the hairs between the lines of the City Manager’s $20,000 policy used to hide Wogen’s deal from the public.
Of the six under $20,000 jobs Wogen’s now defunct company, Masonry Works LLC, received from the City of DeKalb, three were for work directly related to 231 E. Lincoln Hwy. Two-thirty-one formerly occupied what is now the pending Pedestrian Walkway. On June 27, 2008 two invoices, one for $12,000 and another for $19,500 ($31,500 total), were submitted by Wogen’s company and they were paid (on the same check) on July 11, 2008. One of the invoices was for repairs to 229 E. Lincoln. The other was for 235 E. Lincoln repairs. Then on Dec. 5, 2008 the City was billed $5,500 for repairs to the east wall of 231 E. Lincoln. City Manager, Mark Biernacki, explained at a related press conference that the east wall of 231 was really 235 East Lincoln.
To attempt to suggest that the intent of the City Manager $20,000 Rule was not manipulated is an insult to the public’s intelligence.
Was the law broken? The in-house legal department of our self-insured City says, “No.” However, state statutes, (65 ILCS 5/4‑8‑6), indicate otherwise.
Sec. 4‑8‑6. (a) No officer or employee elected or appointed under this article shall be interested, directly or indirectly, in his own name or in the name of any other person, association, trust or corporation, in any contract for work or materials, or profits thereof, or services to be furnished or performed for the municipality or for any person operating a public utility wholly or partly within the territorial limits of the municipality.
There doesn’t appear to be any wiggle room, or even a Home Rule exemption, in the language above. Elected officials in a municipality can’t do business in that municipality, in any contract for work, unless…
(b) However, any elected or appointed member of the governing body may provide materials, merchandise, property, services or labor, if:
A. the contract is with a person, firm, partnership, association, corporation, or cooperative association in which such interested member of the governing body of the municipality has less than a 7 1/2% share in the ownership; and
B. such interested member publicly discloses the nature and extent of his interest prior to or during deliberations concerning the proposed award of the contract; and
C. such interested member abstains from voting on the award of the contract, though he shall be considered present for the purposes of establishing a quorum; and
D. such contract is approved by a majority vote of those members presently holding office; and
E. the contract is awarded after sealed bids to the lowest responsible bidder if the amount of the contract exceeds $1500, or awarded without bidding if the amount of the contract is less than $1500; and
F. the award of the contract would not cause the aggregate amount of all such contracts so awarded to the same person, firm, association, partnership, corporation, or cooperative association in the same fiscal year to exceed $25,000.
So, in other words, Alderman Wogen: owned too much of Masonry Works, LLC; failed to publicly disclose the nature and extent of his interest; may not have abstained from voting since budget line items attached to the work he performed are approved TIF expenditures for a specific downtown revitalization plan (that he voted to approve); the amount of the contract exceeded $1500 and therefore should have been awarded after sealed bids to the lowest responsible bidder; and; the aggregate total spent with Alderman Wogen’s Masonry Works, LLC exceeded $25,000 in the same fiscal year.
First ward alderman Bertrand Simpson, who states that he does not think taxpayer’s pay him and the other aldermen near enough for their efforts, also thinks everything is fine with the above.
Oh, and if an alderman violates this Section of 65 ILCS 5/4‑8‑6, s/he is guilty of a Class 4 felony and in addition thereto any office held by such person so convicted shall become vacant and shall be so declared as part of the judgment of the court.
Much to the chagrin of Richard Nixon, George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich “all with the best intentions” does not justify breaking the law.
This case and this community needs judgment from the court. All who would interfere with that course of action should be removed from their positions subject to the judgment rendered.
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