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Education

NIU, ex-administrators reach settlements

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.”

The university provided $45,000 to Albanese at the time of his resignation, the agreement shows. University spokesman Paul Palian said the amount was based on his annual salary of $198,553.

The university provided Gordon with six months of health insurance and three months’ salary when he resigned, which amounts to roughly $36,240 total.

The agreements also settle any claims, for all time, that the University might have against Gordon or Albanese, or vice-versa.

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.

“At the point when the resignation agreements were reached, there had been no finding [that allegations were true],” said Steven Cunningham, associate vice president for administration and human resource services.

Gordon reported to Albanese, and Albanese reported to Eddie Williams, executive vice president of the Division of Finance and Facilities. Williams did not return a call seeking comment.

Cunningham said he couldn’t comment on investigations or the allegations.

“The university was investigating allegations and that was it,” he said. “During that time, they entered resignation agreements.”

NIU police launched an investigation earlier this month after a local scrap metal company employee said university employees had been selling NIU-owned property and depositing the proceeds into a bank account called the “coffee fund.”

The coffee fund checks were deposited by an employee within the Division of Finance and Facilities.

Albanese and Gordon are barred from future employment with NIU as part of the agreements. They also agreed not to discuss “internal operations, personnel matters related to the university, the division and any internal departments with employees, media reporters, the public, and former and future employees.”

Cunningham said the university has trained staff members dedicated to conducting investigations whenever grievances are filed. Whistleblower laws protect the identities of those who file complaints. Cunningham said the university conducts dozens of investigations each year for a wide range of reasons, such as discrimination complaints and ethics violations.

“The goal is to always ensure that staff and supervisors are complying with university statutes,” he said.

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