To the Editor:
It is alarming to learn that State’s Attorney Clay Campbell has leveled felony charges against several university employees over the so-called “coffee fund”. Considering the circumstances, this unprecedented step seems to be the equivalent of opening a peanut with a prosecutorial sledgehammer (rather than having it adjudicated rigorously through normal NIU personnel procedures).
Why do I assert this? From reports it appears this practice has been going on well before most if not all were employed at materials management. It is obvious they were not aware of any criminal exposure to this as it was a totally transparent operation. A clerk kept meticulous nonsecret records of all transactions. The checks at the scrap yard were made out on request to the “coffee fund” – obviously no attempt to conceal purpose here. There is no assertion this was done for personal gain. Clearly this process wouldn’t cut mustard with Tony Soprano or the Dixon comptroller who walked off with $53 million.
A primary purpose mentioned for the $13,000 collected in total for the fund over seven years were retirement parties. Many of these I believe are picked up by university budgets in other departments.
As reported, the university controller moved the remaining funds into a university account from the “coffee fund” account after its existence and amount was publically acknowledged. Unbelievably, he has been charged with concealing evidence and obstruction of justice.
This is not the first time State’s Attorney Campbell has revealed his disregard for fairness and proportionality in his conduct. In Jack McCullough’s trial for rape of a half-sister, he forced that person to testify by subpoena against her will. McCullough was found not guilty in April 2012 on the charges and the half-sister wrote a long, moving letter to the Chronicle saying Mr. Campbell’s forcing her testimony on this 50-year-old case “hijacked” her life for a trial she knew was futile, which it was.
What these employees did either knowingly or unknowingly does not nearly rise to the level of a felony. It does generate headlines for an overreaching prosecutor at considerable expense to the personal and financial well-being of ordinary citizens. Their lives too have been “hijacked” by Mr. Campbell.