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Grievance began NIU departures

Published: Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012 5:30 a.m. CST

DeKALB – A grievance by an employee was the impetus for the dismissal process Convocation Center Director John Gordon, Northern Illinois University officials confirmed Wednesday.

“When presented with the allegations, Mr. Gordon did choose to resign.” NIU spokesman Paul Palian said. “We can also confirm that a grievance was included as part of the allegations against Mr. Gordon.”

NIU officials would not discuss the content of the grievance, citing employee confidentiality and state whistleblower laws.

However, a report in Wednesday’s Chicago Tribune, citing anonymous sources, said that a custodian from the Convocation Center had complained after being assigned to clean Gordon’s home during work hours on several occasions.

Gordon also was accused of having a university-owned snowblower and vacuum at his home, the Tribune reported.

Both Gordon and Robert Albanese, the associate vice president of the Division of Finance and Facilities, left the university July 31 after signing separation agreements that settled all claims that the university might have against them.

The agreements show both were investigated for misconduct, and both sides agreed not to discuss internal matters as part of the agreement.

The Tribune also reported that Albanese had kept university property, including printer ink cartridges, at his home for personal use.

NIU hired attorney John Countryman of the Sycamore law firm Foster & Buick Law Group to investigate Albanese and Gordon in June, records show and officials have said.

The university has denied requests for documents produced or compiled in the investigation.

“There hasn’t been an official finding of fact in the case,” Palian said. “We can’t really say anything about it.”

The separation agreements also showed the university provided Gordon with six months of health insurance and three months’ salary when he resigned, worth about $36,240 total.

The university also paid Albanese $45,000 at the time of his resignation, which was based on his annual salary of $198,553.

Palian said the cost of any misconduct by Albanese and Gordon was negligible.

The university is moving to correct issues that have come to light in the Finance and Facilities Division, in part with a three-member policy review committee to scrutinize procedures for property control, cash receipts, recycling and disposition of materials, Palian said.

The committee was formed in reaction to the discovery that employees from NIU’s Materials Management Department were recycling scrap metal from university-owned properties and depositing the proceeds in a private bank account called the “coffee fund.”

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