Imagine a city in New York State where a “good-old-boy network” runs things behind the scenes. Maybe that's not much of an imaginative stretch. Now, imagine, too, one of its ranking members, in a phone call, sent out an order to decimate a professional woman's career. On the receiving end of that call, the people expected to execute that order weren't thugs in the way you probably imagine thugs. Instead, they were highly-paid members of the city administration. That's the contention of the two primary interview subjects for this article, the allegedly marked woman and a second woman who claims she overheard the phone call.
I had a loaded question for the marked woman when I interviewed her. Her career appeared to have been decimated based on questionable, if not purely false, accusations. I asked about the city's administration that she was an employee of, "How many people (working) above you would have had their hands on what happened to you?" Her answer,
“I think a lot, actually. I think the city engineer, I think the commissioner, the mayor’s office would have known something. I think council would have known something about these bogus false allegations. I think there were quite a few people who knew something – maybe not the details – but knew something was going on.”
That’s the little bit of political meat upfront.
Following the loss of her employment, Pam Marcotte’s life and emotional health were, by her own estimation, in ruins. But whichever way things had imploded for her, she, of course, couldn’t imagine that a man she’d never met, whose name she was only familiar with, was the one to have put the thumb down on her life.
Why would anyone whose life had gone to hell suspect someone they’d never met of being the person behind their downfall?
And Marcotte never would have known about the man responsible if it hadn't been for the fanaticism of Mary Ellen Belding, a woman who, at a steady clip, is a walking attitude.
Belding, you see, maintains that she overheard the phone call and the order to decimate Marcotte. However, at the time of the phone call – and Belding probably wouldn't want to admit this, knowing now where that conversation led – when she overheard it, Belding may have been more in on the joke than outside it.
Belding was only starting a drama of her own, as detailed in a previous UncoverDC article, around the time of the overheard conversation. At the time of the call, Belding didn't fully appreciate what her employer, Dan Hogan's attitude was toward women in construction.
Belding said the phone conversation took place while she was still working under the same roof as Hogan before she broke ranks with him and legal battles between the two ensued. Marcotte, at the time of the call, was a woman who was largely unfamiliar to Belding. In an interview with Belding about Marcotte, I reviewed that Belding had an office in the same building as Hogan when the overheard conversation took place. She added to that fact,
“I went from being an employee to a subcontractor/consultant, so although I had my own office Hogan wanted me there a lot of the time, and all the files were there so it made sense that acting as a consultant I would go there and do my work. It wasn't unusual for me either before I started the company, or after, that I was there late at night to accomplish everything.”
The call took place one evening in what could, with minor tweaking, make for an exchange in a sitcom. An emotional phone call was overheard, leading Belding to poke her head into Hogan’s office to make a sarcastic comment on her way out the door. Belding explained the physical layout of the office that would make it possible for her to listen in on Hogan,
“It was probably about seven o'clock at night, and his office was on one side of the hallway, and mine was directly across on the other, and the walls were thin, and I heard him on a telephone call.”
Belding requested that co-workers either be left out of this article or that their actions or things said by them not be spelled out as part of the following events. Belding described the phone call for the record,
"I heard the call come in, the secretary buzz him, and then just the things he was saying. And he kept saying, 'Pam this, Pam that,' and I didn't know Pam. I'd seen her name on different documents or just being in the industry; There weren't that many women in construction in Monroe County, and she worked for the City (of Rochester), and Crane-Hogan (Structural Systems) did a lot of work with the City.
“And I heard him … He was angry, extremely agitated, and angry. He was yelling and, y'know, 'I want her gone'. I think his exact words were, 'You're gonna take her down.' I actually did an affidavit for her attorney, and it was much closer to when it happened."
Reality being a complicated thing, there was actually a second "Pam" who showed up in Belding's life at that time. Belding explained the coincidence,
“And, so, there was also another job going on at the same time at M&T Bank in Buffalo, and there was another woman project manager, and her name was Pam, and so you had those two giving him a hard time, and now there's me because I'm not doing what I'm told any longer.”
The fact that there were two "Pams" giving Hogan trouble was reason enough for Belding to needle Hogan a bit on her way out the door. Belding said,
“I kind of have a sarcastic personality, so I was leaving, probably seven, seven-thirty at night, and I think it was in October, it was crisp, and I just sarcastically stuck my head in when he got off the phone and said, 'Boy, sounds like you're havin' a lot of trouble with Pams lately.'
“And I walked out, kind chuckled to myself, and he literally came chasing me out the door. And as I was walking to my car in the parking lot, he was chasing me, shaking his fist at me, going, 'This is why women don't belong in construction. This is exactly why women shouldn't be here.'
“At first – I should preface this – at first, I thought he was he was joking, y' know, I had my back to him. I was walking, and I turned around and I saw the look on his face and went, ‘Oh my god, he's furious.’”
I asked Belding for clarification sake how she could be so sure the Pam discussed in the phone call was Marcotte and not the other one from Buffalo.
UncoverDC: You were sure he was talking about Pam Marcotte and not this other Pam?
Belding: Oh, yeah yeah yeah. Because I knew who he was speaking to.
While Belding is confident of the person's identity at the other end of the call, she didn’t offer that.
UncoverDC: And you're sure he was talking to someone with the City of Rochester on that phone call?
Belding: The secretary – we had an intercom system – and she’d go, ‘Dan, so-and-sos on the phone.’ I knew exactly who he was talking to.
UncoverDC: But the person worked with the City of Rochester?
Belding: Yes, and the DES (Department of Environmental Services), one of the top, yes. It was the same person that the letter was addressed to. So, there was no doubt in my mind of who it was. Or what he was saying.
On the subject of "the letter," Belding said much more than she wanted in print. Again, it was her wish that co-workers are left out of the article; although one co-worker was described as involved in a discussion with Belding about the letter's tone they both perceived to be outrageous.
Belding stumbled over the letter left in with other papers recently run off on an office copier. This is what she had to say about its discovery:
“Mixed with my papers was a letter to the City of Rochester about Pam Marcotte, and I physically got ill. At the time, my first thought is, what is he (Hogan) thinking? They will throw us off the job. What is he thinking? We're going to get sued.”
Belding described comments in the letter as "derogatory and defaming." She also used the word "misogynistic."
The charge of “misogyny” in the “age of woke” could seem a little loaded and overused. The ruthless approach that Belding’s employer displayed toward women in construction, however, according to her, was far more pervasive than a phone call and letter. Belding brought up other incidents of intimidation of women beyond Marcotte. One that Belding recalled was,
“There was also another woman contractor that came to me for help. That was involved with the parking garage – with two parking garages – and through no fault of hers, Crane-Hogan had problems. And he went after her. Not only did he go after her, a lot of lies, a lot of untruths about her performance, about things that happened which started controversies within the City. I happened to be investigating one.
“It was my role as a safety consultant, and this woman came to me – Sue Kaiser – and again, I'd heard of her, didn't know her – and she said, 'I need your help, can you help me, blah blah blah,' and she started telling me everything Dan was doing and, y'know, I said, 'Sue, I can't help you now. I have a commitment to him and I can't go against him, but I expect that will be changing soon, and I will help you."'
I contacted Dan Hogan, in a spirit of fairness, about Belding’s most serious charges. After what I'd heard about Hogan from Belding, I expected that he'd be a person with a noticeable chip on his shoulder. Just the opposite; I found him to be surprisingly personable. I’d left a message that I was writing an article that involved Marcotte and Belding and wanted to speak with him; I assumed he knew the reason I called when we eventually caught up on the phone. After introducing myself, I said he was the centerpiece of the article, and he gave a friendly laugh. His reaction almost set me at ease.
As may be expected, Hogan discarded the idea of the alleged call as well as that of the letter. He said,
“I never made a call on it. The only thing I did, was Pam wrote me a letter about when we were supposed to start the project, and the city engineer had called me up and told me that because of ongoing events that we had to delay the project start by a week and a half – which we did – and then she wrote me a letter after that saying, ‘How come you're not on the job?’ So, I wrote her back and said, ‘Because we've been ordered by the city engineer not to be on the job until this date,’ and I don't think there was any other correspondence that I ever had.”
I also asked Hogan if he could recall any tension with Kaiser. Again, nothing to set off alarms. Hogan wasn’t entirely sure he had the right person in mind when talking about Kaiser but offered,
“There was a subcontractor (Kaiser) that was doing work on one of the parking garages, many many years ago, and the work was rejected by the City. So, she had to go back in and redo it. And I think what happened is she did it outside the specification for the temperatures, so she had to go back and repair some work that she did.”
As the general contractor, Hogan included that he passed information to Kaiser that she would have to redo the work. The City withheld money from Kaiser until the work’s completion.
Despite finding Hogan convincing, I also found Belding’s version of events effective. To Belding's credit, there are also the many investigative agencies that have relied on her as a resource – whistleblower and informant – which seems improbable if she is prone to elaborate fantasy scenarios.
Also worth mentioning is an affidavit provided by Belding from a fellow employee written about their time together at Crane-Hogan.
The obvious weakness of the affidavit is that it cannot be reproduced here. When Belding and Hogan were adversaries involved together in legal disputes, Belding collected the testimony from the employee. Belding and the employee had an understanding that the affidavit could only be used as necessary in certain legal proceedings; It wouldn’t be used in any other circumstance to protect the affidavit writer from retaliation. UncoverDC was provided a copy of the affidavit. Although unable to quote from it extensively, I was permitted by Belding to reproduce what I judged to be a few key lines, with the stipulation the lines wouldn’t compromise the writer’s identity. Two passages I believe are relevant:
“Although Mary Ellen received the brunt of his fury, Dan Hogan had a problem with all women who had authority or did not give in to him. He spoke similarly about other women outside the company, women leaders, who confronted him or refused to go along with what he wanted.”
“He hates women who challenge him. He doesn't like it when men tell him no, but he does not try to ruin them the way he does with women.”
*This is a 3 part article, Continued in Part 2