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.


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

DeKalb’s mayor vying to become DeKalb Park District’s chief information officer as well

DeKalb Park District put out a Request for Proposals for a new IT contract. Eight firms applied. Of these, staff whittled down the list to three finalists: CMJ IT Solutions of Sycamore, Noventech of Lombard, and Sundog IT of DeKalb. The park board will probably be making a decision tomorrow.

I’ve read the three proposals and believe all of them merit consideration. However, Sundog presents special problems because its president is DeKalb Mayor Cohen Barnes and he wants to deliver his own hands-on personal service. From his proposal:

Cohen Barnes will also be assigned the role of VCIO and be available for broader IT related discussions, discussions with the DeKalb Park District Leadership Team and Board when necessary. Cohen will also be directly involved in budget creation and discussions with District Staff.

VCIO stands for virtual chief information officer. Normally, a CIO of any sort would be an employee of the organization being served, with a legitimate role in budget creation, as opposed to a salesperson working an upsell strategy.

Contrast Mr. VCIO’s approach with Noventech’s proposal:

The performance by Provider of its duties and obligations under this Agreement will be that of an independent contractor, and nothing herein will create or imply an agency relationship between Provider and Client, nor will this Agreement be deemed to constitute a joint venture or partnership between the parties.

Noventech’s proposal also would cost $1,500 less per month than Sundog’s.

Regardless of the board’s choice, the park district should designate its own CIO or liaison, and not allow contractors to insinuate themselves into inappropriate roles.