Housing authority’s listing of payments to Sundog is not complete

Some readers have expressed interest in how much money Housing Authority of the County of DeKalb (HACD) has paid to Sundog IT over the past few years. My ballpark figure covering the calendar years 2015 through 2020 is $325,000. The rest of the post will be about why we can call it only a ballpark figure.

I requested payment listings of HACD from January 1, 2015 “to date,” which was the tail end of August. I expected they would print off a report, but that’s not what the response looks like to me. A report typically identifies the program user and has dates and page numbers. This looks like somebody made a table in Word in which payment information was copied and pasted.

housing-auth-payments-2015-2020

I’ve seen this kind of thing twice before. The first time was when I served on the board of directors of a not-for-profit organization where the executive was hiding transactions from the board. The second time was in a City of DeKalb executive session during which certain administrators ran a smear campaign against one of their colleagues.

Why HACD decided not to print a report, we may never know. I’m just explaining why this is an automatic red flag to me.

Another red flag: missing information. Look on the third page of the PDF to the start of 2020; you can see no entries for February, March, or April. I have 2020 invoices on hand and in cross-checking I did find payments for March and April, and more for January, too. I’ve asked for February payments now and have no reason to believe I won’t get them.

But I have no reason to trust that the missing payments I’ve found were the only omissions, either.

Looks like DeKalb Park District failed us too

The DeKalb Park District Code devotes 3-1/2 pages to protection of trees in the district. But when it comes to contracting IT services, the district can’t be bothered with boilerplate to protect the interests of its non-arboreal constituents.

I decided to continue my comparison of the relationships the Housing Authority of the County of DeKalb (HACD) and DeKalb Park District (DPD) have with Sundog IT. We’ve already established that HACD did not perform a Request for Proposal bidding process and DPD did, which is how we know what fixed-price services DPD approved and should receive.

Unfortunately for us, that’s where the contrasts end.

sundog-signed-quote

This is what appears at the end of Sundog’s bid and comprises the extent of the terms and conditions, according to DPD’s Freedom of Information Act officer. The problem is, DPD is not just taking delivery of a new lawn mower. It’s an agreement for an ongoing working relationship that includes communications and visits to park facilities by Sundog staff, with all risks and liability borne by DPD. An appropriate contract would require Sundog to abide by DPD’s confidentiality guidelines, sexual harassment policy, and other applicable rules of professional conduct.* Also:

  • The duration of the contract should be clear in the contract.*
  • There should be a termination clause that applies to both parties.*
  • Provisions for handling disputes and breaches of contract should be spelled out.*

DPD signed a $7,000 agreement for architectural services related to a roofing project just a couple months before it approved the $45,000 per year IT “contract.” The roofing services agreement contained duration, termination, and dispute resolution provisions as bulleted above, as well as assignment of authority for safety plans.

Again, as with HACD’s faulty agreements with Sundog IT, we see with DPD a manner of dealing with Sundog that suggests partiality that leads to disregard of the public interest. When a standard contract is not enough, as is clearly the case with Sundog’s, it’s time to get the government’s attorney involved.

DPD, next time you’re fixing to sign an IT agreement, pretend we’re trees, okay?*

*Not professional legal advice.

Continue reading Looks like DeKalb Park District failed us too

Documents continue to suggest housing authority’s pattern of partiality toward its IT vendor

In June, the DeKalb Park District approved a contract with Sundog IT, the company owned by DeKalb’s mayor, Cohen Barnes. We opposed the deal for reasons of conflicts of interests, but the district did run a request for proposal (RFP) bidding process and the buck did stop with the park district board, as one would expect.

Housing Authority of the County of DeKalb, Illinois (HACD) has a similar arrangement with Sundog IT for services. However, there is no evidence among documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act that an RFP process was followed or that the housing authority board voted on the deal.

Question: Why did the park district run an RFP selection process for IT services but HACD did not?

Answer: HACD probably should have done an RFP.

Continue reading Documents continue to suggest housing authority’s pattern of partiality toward its IT vendor

Housing authority helped Cohen Barnes with marketing his company

Besides giving Cohen Barnes of Sundog IT frontrunner status on contracts, including providing him information about his competition, staff at Housing Authority of County of DeKalb (HACD) used their resources to assist him in crafting a testimonial with their name on it.

emails-cohen-asks-viv-for-testimonial

Notice the HACD operations director cc’d the executive director in granting the favor. This is not one rogue staff member. We can therefore regard granting favors to private companies without public discussion as an institutional issue.

The testimonial appeared on Sundog IT’s website until recently, around the time Mayor Barnes became DeKalb Park District’s chief information officer and City of DeKalb found a way to add parking spaces on North Sixth to benefit HACD despite HACD’s not having discussed or documented one iota of need as far as we can see.

I do not blame Cohen Barnes for soliciting marketing help for his company before he became mayor. But he has shown with his recent behavior in park district and housing authority matters that he either cannot or will not make the shift to public ethics that his oath of office requires.

As for HACD, it is funded with federal dollars and I can’t believe HUD would approve of this use of it.

The avaricious romance of the local housing authority & our mayor

***UPDATE 8/21/2021: I’ve come across the rest of the conversation in my giant pile o’ emails and added the new pdf below the first one. In this batch, the operations director shares information about Sundog’s competition and says, “So, please update your quote. I now, officially have 3 bids or contacts so I can move forward with Sundogit replacing/updating our servers.”***

The following is an email conversation between the operations director of the Housing Authority of the County of DeKalb, Illinois (HACD) and Cohen Barnes of Sundog IT (Barnes), who is now mayor of the City of DeKalb. HACD was gathering price quotes for replacement of a failing server at the time.

Barnes: Does this help you with having a competitive quote? If so, what are the next steps for moving forward?

HACD: Thank you so very much Cohen. I also have Impact Networking, LLC…They supposedly also work out of Rockford and now support Ogle County HA — which is a smaller HA. They are coming in next Wednesday to talk servers. Hopefully, I can get a quote out of him ASAP (and yes, I will share that info with you)[.] Once I receive that quote — I will add it to my comparison spreadsheet — run it by the grand pooba (aka Shelly) — I am guessing she will want to give the board a little more in depth facts and figures (they already know our server has to go). And then we will give you the go to order.

Barnes: Let me know when we are closer and I will refresh our quote.

— Email string obtained from HACD under Illinois Freedom of Information Act

One of the basic rules HACD must follow as a government body in buying goods and services is the way they conduct procurement should “maximize competition and competitive pricing among contracts and decrease the Agency’s procurement costs.”

It is difficult to see how HACD can accomplish any increase in competition when it plays favorites, as illustrated by its relationship with Cohen Barnes and Sundog IT in which Sundog is the presumed winner even before all the quotes come in.

Continue reading The avaricious romance of the local housing authority & our mayor