“We Are Taking Edgebrook”

The following is a report from DeKalb Police of a gathering on the 800 block of Edgebrook Drive in the wee hours of Saturday, August 25.

Due to a large crowd gathering the previous night, I assigned officer Boldt to monitor the lot at 809 Edgebrook and to advise me of any large parties forming.

He advised me that there was a party at apartment 8 and the apartment was full with some people standing outside. We arrived and advised the occupant to move everyone inside and not allow any more people inside. He was warned that if a crowd gathered outside his apartment, that he would be cited. During this time other officers cleared the lot of approximately 10 cars and 30 people who did not reside at the complex.

Cars that had exited the lot were stuck in traffic from other cars wanting to enter the lot. The lot was blocked as was the intersection of Normal and Edgebrook. During the time it took to clear the road, two groups of people began to gather on opposite sides of the street where officers were directing traffic.

Officer Boldt was getting names of tenants in other apartments with loud parties. While preparing to clear officers from the scene, I heard a passerby speaking on his phone. I heard him say, “We are taking Edgebrook.” Read the rest of this entry

The Northern Star is Tweeting (from about 4:40 p.m.) NIU enrollment numbers obtained from a press release:

  • Fall 2012 new freshman enrollment is up 2.9%.

  • There’s an increase of 25.7% in the Honors Program incoming class since 2010, and the number of minority students in the Honors Program has more than doubled, to 253.

  • New transfer admissions are down 10.4% from last year.

  • Total enrollment went from 22,990 in fall 2011 to 21,869 for fall 2012, a drop of 4.9%.

Northern Star Online will publish a full article tomorrow.

**Update 9/7: Here’s an image of yesterday’s print edition of the Northern Star with synopses and photos. In reading it again I’m struck at how much time and money have been spent already and still NIU is unable to determine whether any of its employees have done anything wrong.**

…and the Trib has more about specific allegations than we’ve heard before. (What we’ve heard before is mostly here and here, and if you still want more check the NIU tag.)

One of the two employees who resigned in July was John Gordon, director of the university’s 10,000-seat Convocation Center, which hosts about 200 events a year, including concerts, athletic events and meetings. Gordon allegedly had a Convocation Center custodian go at least four times in the past year to his home, where she cleaned the windows and floors, washed dishes and vacuumed, according to an interview and documents obtained by the Tribune.

The employee told the Tribune she was picked up in the morning at the loading dock outside the Convocation Center and driven to Gordon’s home about two miles away. She said she was given a “tip” of $20 to $40 for the work.

According the the article, the employee filed a grievance about this treatment in May.

Other allegations against both Gordon and Robert Albanese, the other NIU administrator who resigned under a cloud, include accusations that they kept NIU property at their homes, according to the report. For example, Gordon was said to have kept a snowblower and vacuum cleaner.

And, yes, the “coffee fund” information is there, too.

The article was written by Chicago Tribune reporter Jodi S. Cohen and front-paged for print subscribers this morning. The link to the online article is here, but it’s behind a subscription gate. The Northern Star and the Daily Chronicle also posted stories today on their own websites that contain the allegations uncovered by the Trib.

**Update 9/1: DC has significantly re-worked the story, so the quote below no longer appears there.**

I very much appreciate the Daily Chronicle‘s continued persistence and endurance with the NIU “coffee fund” story, especially as things get curioser.

DeKALB – Northern Illinois University has located the “coffee fund” and shut it down.

University officials said the private, non-university bank account, which contained about $2,100, has been closed, with the money deposited into the university’s general fund.

Four employees in NIU’s Materials Management Department have been placed on paid leave for a maximum of 30 days, but NIU spokesman Paul Palian did not know the names of those employees.

If the account was a private, non-university account, how is it that NIU was able to determine it was NIU money, and how did NIU close it? And if NIU knows the money from the account is NIU money, why are people being put on vacations instead of being charged with crimes?

And speaking of crimes, where is our able State’s Attorney and his much-ballyhooed (well, self-ballyhooed) anti-corruption unit?

NIU “Coffee Fund” Updates

NIU Today: NIU confirms the existence of a “private, non-university bank account named ‘coffee fund.'” In the article, NIU says, “Any determination of criminal charges will be made by the DeKalb County State’s Attorney’s office after reviewing the evidence collected during the criminal investigation.”

Northern Star: State police are now involved as far as advising “how to proceed.”

In “NIU hired outside firm to investigate employees” we learn that NIU paid about $25,000 for investigations into what have previously been described as serious allegations of misconduct.

A contract between the university and Sycamore law firm Foster & Buick Law Group shows that attorney John Countryman was hired June 4 to investigate “named individuals within the organization.” The contract was obtained by the Daily Chronicle through a Freedom of Information Act request.

NIU hired Countryman at an hourly rate of $300. Palian said he didn’t know the exact amount NIU paid for the full investigation, but said it cost about $25,000.

University officials refused to provide findings and reports compiled by Countryman because they said they are exempt from disclosure.

The Daily Chronicle obtained the employee agreements through a Freedom of Information (FOIA) request, and I hope the paper also requests a review by the attorney general’s office of NIU’s above-claimed exemption.

Meanwhile, between the costs of the “investigation” and the severance for the employees in question, we’re up to $106,000 paid out by a public university that, in effect, keeps the facts from being known.

This is unacceptable, NIU.

In reading “NIU: ‘We Welcome’ State’s Attorney Involvement” we get this:

“The integrity of this great university is not at issue,” the statement continued.

When your PR people claim that the resignations of two of your top employees at the same time were for personal reasons and a coincidence, but later it’s found they actually resigned in the midst of investigations into “serious and substantial allegations of misconduct,” I’d say integrity is exactly the issue.

Good day.

I really hate to pick on Marc Strauss, the only Northern Illinois University trustee who will talk to the press right now, but this doesn’t wash:

“We acted swiftly upon learning of the possibility of impropriety, and I instructed the NIU Police to launch a thorough investigation,” [Eddie] Williams [who is executive vice president of the Division of Finance and Facilities] was quoted as saying. “We are waiting for the police to conclude their investigation. We look forward to receiving the findings in the very near future.”

The NIU Police Department also falls under the Division of Finance and Facilities, and Strauss said he could see why people might be concerned about a conflict of interest.

“It would be different if the allegations were against the police,” he said. “But the allegations aren’t against the police[.]”

Really? Anybody can see that as the investigation travels up the food chain, NIU Police will come face to face with its own boss. Why would you put your police department in that kind of position?

And any attempt whatsoever to justify even the appearance of a conflict of interest is a really bad move — especially if it turns out, as suggested by the resignation/nondisclosure agreements, that a cover-up of misconduct may be involved.

Try again, NIU trustees! An investigation from outside is the only correct answer.

Thank you, Daily Chronicle, for revealing that there indeed is more to the Northern Illinois University Finance & Facilities/Convo shakeup than just a couple of dudes simultaneously deciding they were ready to move on.

DeKALB – Separation agreements for two former Northern Illinois University administrators show they were paid tens of thousands of dollars and were under investigation for misconduct when they quit.

Robert Albanese, former associate vice president of the Division of Finance, Facilities and Operations, and John Gordon, former director of the Convocation Center, submitted signed letters of resignation July 19 and July 20, respectively. The two were on paid leave status from the time they submitted the letters until July 31.

In the agreements, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, the university agrees 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.”

As usual the news raises more questions than it answers, such as why NIU would finalize separation/nondisclosure agreements before determining the validity of the allegations of misconduct — you know, to prevent inadvertent rewarding of bad behavior — and whether NIU spokespersons (who initially claimed that the two resignations were personal and unrelated) should feel ill-used if nobody ever believes another word they say.

Then there’s this:

In response to a FOIA request, university officials said they had no documents from the NIU Department of Police and Public Safety that showed Gordon or Albanese were involved in any reports in 2012.

Does this mean for sure that the “coffee fund,” which according to the Chronicle IS being investigated, is a separate matter from the allegations against Albanese and Gordon? And is anybody investigating the possible “serious and substantial” misconduct or not?

More “Coffee Fund” Stuff

AP has picked up the “NIU Coffee Fund” story from the Daily Chronicle, so it’s all over the state now. Choose your favorite search engine to see for yourself.

Glad as I am to see something hit daylight, though, there’s the feeling we’re being thrown a bone. I’ve pointed out previously that chasing it has taken attention off the NIU Finance-Convo shakeup. Also, who says DIMCO is the only scrap metal recycler and “coffee” the only fund? Here’s the comment I left at the Chronicle website yesterday:

Maybe Crundwell and her brazenness with the passing of time is sticking in my mind, but the “scrap” operation strikes me as somewhat small-time for the number of years involved — not to mention all the construction that has been going on at NIU. And all that iron and steel brought in but not an ounce
of copper?! I hope the DC is on the lookout for more “coffee” accounts and is checking with all recyclers within, say, a 50-mile radius of DeKalb.

Makes sense, doesn’t it, to widen the investigation — and maybe to have somebody besides NIU investigating NIU.