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Naper Settlement volunteers angered by departure of longtime historian

Bryan Ogg, former research curator for Naper Settlement, shows a china teacup found in a dig at the site of the Joseph Naper Homestead to two of Joseph Naper’s descendants, Paula Almasy, left, and Heather Jackson in 2015. (Susan Frick Carlman / Naperville Sun)

Several volunteers at Naper Settlement are coming to the defense of former research curator Bryan Ogg, questioning whether his departure was voluntary and demanding an investigation.

A letter has been sent to the Naperville Heritage Society, the Naper Settlement Museum Board and Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico asking the situation be reviewed.

"As volunteers and concerned community members who have worked with Mr. Ogg for years, we are shocked and more than a little disappointed in this action," the letter read. It was signed by seven volunteers.

"We have found Mr. Ogg to be a consummate professional in all our dealings with him. Further, there is no one (and that is not an exaggeration) who knows Naperville history like Bryan Ogg: we can testify through our many interactions with him, that he is a walking encyclopedia of Naperville history. He, more than any other person associated with the Settlement or the Heritage Society, has for years been the public face of Naperville history, and one of such extraordinary excellence that the city and the Society should be proud that he is their representative."

Ogg’s departure in early June stemmed from a book on Naperville history he is co-writing with another local historian. He was told he could not write the book, even in his free time, and remain employed by Naper Settlement. His attorney, Chuck Corrigan, said Ogg was fired but Naper Settlement President/CEO Rena Tamayo-Calabrese and the organization’s lawyer, Kevin O’Hagan, say Ogg’s decision to leave was voluntary.

Tamayo-Calabrese and O’Hagan declined to discuss the volunteers’ letter because they had not seen it, they said.

In an emailed response, Tamayo-Calabrese said, "As always, we are grateful to the more than 1,200 volunteers that help and support this institution."

In their letter, the volunteers question Naper Settlement’s handling of the situation, which they said they believe is tied to how administrators learned of Ogg’s participation in the book. The book’s co-author sent an email to Tamayo-Calabrese before Ogg had spoken to her or his immediate supervisor about it, Corrigan said.

"Despite the explanation from Naper Settlement administrators that, ‘Bryan has resigned for a wonderful new opportunity,’ Bryan in fact was released from his job. Unless there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary, what got Mr. Ogg fired would qualify as a ‘first offense’ that might result in a verbal reprimand or at most a letter in his employee file.

"It seems possible that someone above him wanted his dismissal, and found the excuse for which they were looking," the letter goes on to say.

The letter and others were mailed to the board members Monday, volunteer Tim Ory said Wednesday.

Ory has volunteered with Naper Settlement for the past year, and said he worked closely with Ogg in that time and in years prior, while serving as secretary and historian for the Euclid Lodge No. 65 Ancient Free and Accepted Masons.

He said Ogg told him about the book and the administration’s opposition while he was still employed by Naper Settlement. Ogg, a 13-year Naper Settlement employee, was adamant he would fight any effort to oust him, Ory said.

"Bryan told me he would not resign," Ory said.

Corrigan said he welcomed the volunteers’ support, and their request for a review of the situation is the same thing Ogg wants.

"The letter they wrote fairly states what Bryan would like to see happen, and that’s to have the whole board take a look at this," Corrigan said.