A lot of the “little people” at Northern Illinois University had warrants issued for their arrest Tuesday, and as has been the case throughout, those at the top largely have been silent.A total of eight university employees are now on paid leave, pending the results of the criminal investigation and trial.
As scandals have unfolded in the NIU Department of Finance and Facilities, many of those in charge have been conspicuous in their silence.
Eddie Williams, executive vice president and chief of operations, has declined to comment to the Daily Chronicle when approached in person or by phone.
University President John Peters has made no statement about the case either, although we know he is aware of it because the university hired a Chicago criminal attorney to advise him and the Board of Trustees this week.
Williams is at the top of the organizational chart in the Department of Finance and Facilities and earns a salary greater than $300,000 a year. The people who were encouraged to resign while being investigated for misconduct – and now those being arrested on felony theft and other charges – are members of his team.
Since July, under Williams’ watch, two managers, Convocation Center Director John Gordon and Williams’ direct report, Associate Vice President Robert Albanese, resigned after signing separation agreements that showed they were under investigation for misconduct.
Later reports showed they had been taking university property for personal use, and an employee grievance alleged Gordon had university employees clean his home during work hours.
Then Tuesday, nine people – including Albanese and managers in departments overseen by Williams – had warrants issued for their arrests on felony charges, mostly for theft.
Four university employees charged with allegations related to the coffee fund investigation have been put on paid administrative leave.Illinois law provides that public employees being investigated for misconduct can be placed on paid leave. Approximately 2,000 individuals are currently in that status.
Michael Hall, Materials Management traffic manager; Mark Beaird, Materials Management inventory specialist; Joseph Alberti, Materials Management account technician; and Controller Keith Jackson, were all put on administrative leave, according to NIU Today.
During the administrative leave period, the eight employees will receive a regular salary, in accordance with state civil service statutes and university policy.
Materials Management storekeeper Keenon Darlinger; Property Control manager Larry Murray; Susan Zahm, property control inventory specialist; and Materials Management director Kenneth Pugh, were already placed on paid leave in late August in relation to the investigation.
A published report says cash-strapped Illinois has paid state workers about $23 million for administrative leave over the last five years.University employees in that status have, of course, completed their annual ethics training, and the personnel dockets of all such individuals include a record of that completion.
The Chicago Tribune reports that since 2007, more than 2,000 state employees who've stayed at home have continued to receive paychecks and collect benefits. That's even as the state has struggled to pay its own bills.
One wonders about the incentives: is the prospect of paid leave eliciting misconduct at the margin?