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updated: 7/12/2017 6:11 PM

Questions abound regarding former Naper Settlement curator's departure

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  • Longtime Research Curator Bryan Ogg has left Naper Settlement under disputed circumstances.

    Longtime Research Curator Bryan Ogg has left Naper Settlement under disputed circumstances.
    Daily Herald File Photo

  • Bryan Ogg, right, long a fixture at Naper Settlement, is no longer employed at the Naperville museum. Museum officials say he resigned, his supporters say he was forced out.

      Bryan Ogg, right, long a fixture at Naper Settlement, is no longer employed at the Naperville museum. Museum officials say he resigned, his supporters say he was forced out.
    John McGillen | Staff Photographer

 
 

Longtime Naper Settlement research curator Bryan Ogg parted ways with the Naperville museum about a month ago under disputed circumstances and his supporters and attorney still are searching for answers from museum officials as to why he was let go.

Ogg's attorney, Chuck Corrigan, said Ogg was "shown the door" after Settlement officials learned about a Naperville history book he is co-writing with another local historian. Corrigan said Ogg was told he could not write the book, even in his free time, and remain employed by Naper Settlement.

When Ogg said he didn't want to decide between the two, he was told to leave, his attorney said.

"It's going to be a nice book, but you can't live off it. It's not going to provide an income that's going to support a lifestyle," Corrigan said. "The guy had a job. He didn't have to leave his job."

His departure also raised questions among some museum volunteers, who wrote a letter claiming Ogg was treated unfairly.

Naper Settlement President/CEO Rena Tamayo-Calabrese, who joined the museum in July 2014, insists Ogg's departure was voluntary.

"Neither the Naperville Heritage Society nor Naper Settlement comment on any employee matter, especially those pending legal resolution," she said in a statement. "However, we stand firm that all employees past or present have been treated fairly, professionally and with respect."

Corrigan, however, says Ogg wasn't interested in resigning.

"When he said he didn't want to have to choose (between the Settlement and the book project) they said 'Pack up your things and go. We accept your resignation.' He said 'Well, I didn't resign,'" Corrigan said.

"No one can resign for you. You've got to do it yourself," the attorney said. "He never submitted anything that said he was resigning. It made no sense for him to resign. He loved his job."

Corrigan said Ogg is still unemployed and searching for work, even after he went back to the Settlement and "gave them the chance to fix their mistake or bad judgment."

"They're just stonewalling him and saying 'no,'" Corrigan said. "So we'll continue to weigh his options as far as filing a lawsuit."

Meanwhile. volunteers who worked with Ogg at the Settlement have written letters demanding an investigation into Ogg's firing.

Tim Ory, a former Settlement volunteer and current historian for the Naperville Masonic Temple, wrote his most recent letter on July 6.

"As stated in our original letter, we have worked with Bryan for several years. We have found him to be as much of an asset to the Settlement as the collection is. He has shown that he truly cares about our city's history and has done an excellent job of representing Naperville in his capacity at the Naper Settlement as well as out in the community," Ory wrote. "No person has ever promoted Naperville's history better than Bryan Ogg. He is too valuable of an asset to let go."

Ory this week called Ogg's firing surreal.

"We support Bryan because nobody promotes Naperville better than Bryan has," Ory said. "He truly believes in the city and its history. I can't believe the Settlement is OK with losing all of this institutional knowledge by forcing his resignation,"

But Tamayo-Calabrese said the Settlement's institutional knowledge goes far beyond any one person.

"As for the statements that the institution has lost a tremendous source of knowledge, be assured that we have retained all the subject matter knowledge and depth we've always had," she said. "The strength of this institution is that of its collective brain power and subject matter expertise. In historic content knowledge alone, we have more than 150 years worth of expertise, experience and knowledge.

"We have worked very hard to ensure that the information and knowledge is built into the infrastructure of the organization and survives the departure of any one person."

Corrigan and several current and former volunteers who declined to be named, however, say the Settlement has lost about 16 people in the past year and that Ogg is just the most noticeable because he was so well known in the community.

"Why are so many people being forced out, fired or voluntarily leaving since last April?" Corrigan asked. "There's 15 or 16 over that span. It's not that big of a place. What's going on over there?"

Tamayo-Calabrese disputes those numbers.

"I can confirm that that number is incorrect. The number of people let go is less than one-third of that," she said Tuesday.

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