According to this report filed by the Daily Chronicle’s Nicole Weskerna, two of NIU’s top administrators, Robert Albanese, the former associate vice president of the Division of Finance, Facilities and Operations, and John Gordon, former director of the Convocation Center, were paid tens of thousands of dollars in settlements that called for the University to stop the administrative process of “prospective dismissal from service for cause” against both men “for reasons directly associated with serious and substantial allegations of misconduct.” Albanese was given $45,000 as part of the settlement. Gordon received roughly $36,240 total.
Exactly what the two allegedly did is to remain untold per terms of the agreement.
Around the middle of July rumors began circulating about misconduct, slush funds and possible theft at the university. Inquiries and news tips began to grow and on Tuesday, July 31, 2012 I sent Paul Palian, spokesman for NIU the following email:
As editor of DeKalb County Online I receive news tips from time to time. I received the following tip:
Have you heard about the shake up at NIU?
They had a bunch of people who were either fired or forced to resign for having university property inappropriately in their possession at their residences. Almost all of the people fall under Dr. Eddie Williams departments. Dr. Williams, however, is not one of them being investigated by the campus police. Could it be because the Chief of Police reports to him and he hired the Chief and they are good friends. so far Bob Albanese is leaving, John Gordon from the Convo is leaving, and two Building Services janitorial heads are leaving, a [redacted] and a [redacted]. They say that more are being interviewed and that more dismissals may happen.
This is the 3rd related tip this week. I’m not looking for a scoop but I would appreciate accurate information. That’s what I try to provide our readers.
Could you point me in the right direction or provide any information in this matter?
Mac A McIntyre
It didn’t take too long for Mr. Palian to respond:
Mac–The email you sent me contains a number of inaccuracies. I can confirm that John Gordon resigned. Bob Albanese retired. To the best of our knowledge, [redacted] and [redacted] are active status in terms of our payroll. There has not been a police investigation of any sort regarding these men. We just released the following information on NIU Today regarding a new acting director at the Convocation Center…
You can read the press release, here.
Weskerna and the Daily Chronicle kept their (and our) eyes on this one. A local scrap metal company employee told them that over the years his business has paid thousands of dollars to Northern Illinois University employees selling scrap metal from the university, who then deposited the money in an account known as “the coffee fund.” That was news to the administration at NIU when confronted by the Chronicle on Friday, August 3. The NIU police department allegedly began an investigation after learning of the Coffee Fund.
Retiring (Albanese) and resigning for personal reasons (Gordon) is a bit different than negotiating a separation agreement to stop the administrative process of “prospective dismissal from service for cause” against both men “for reasons directly associated with serious and substantial allegations of misconduct.”
Many of the news tips that came in and much of the comments offered since the Coffee Fund story broke have come from NIU employees, past and present. It would seem that all is not well at the university. Information has been sent to Clay Campbell, DeKalb County States Attorney, and to Gary S. Shapiro, Acting United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. This is not a matter to be handled internally.
Considering the enormous amount of state and federal tax supported grants ran through the Division of Finance, Facilities and Operations and the Convocation Center there should be no questions unanswered or doubts left by the public. Dr. John Peters, president at NIU, and the NIU Board of Trustees, need to get in front of and to the bottom of this situation quickly and transparently. Hush money agreements binding all parties to silence will turn the gathering storm clouds into a full blown public and alumni relations hurricane.
Note to NIU friends: Marcy Bailey, a 22 years old, newly married, four months pregnant, a farmer’s daughter from Southern Illinois blew the whistle on her troubled state agency using taxpayer funds to require her and up to 76 of her cohorts to attend a political event in Chicago which is 500 miles from her home. She did the right thing and should be applauded. Hint. Hint.