DeKALB – The attorney for fired Northern Illinois University Police Chief Donald Grady doesn't believe his handling of a rape case against one of his own officers is the only factor in his termination Tuesday.
Grady, who was lauded for his actions after the Feb. 14, 2008, shootings on the NIU campus, was fired Tuesday after being placed on paid administrative leave Nov. 10. That was eight days after DeKalb County Presiding Judge Robbin Stuckert ruled that Grady's department purposefully withheld witness statements favorable to Andrew Rifkin, an NIU police officer accused of raping a student off-campus and off-duty.
Charges against Rifkin have since been dropped; Rifkin has filed suit against NIU, Grady, and three other NIU police officers who investigated his case.
Grady had been chief since 2001, and earned a salary of $205,987 a year.
Grady's attorney Michael Fox pointed to the "coffee fund" investigation against eight NIU employees and one former employee. The nine people were criminally charged Oct. 16 after an investigation into an off-the-books repository for proceeds from the sale of university-owned scrap metal and other materials.
NIU police began their investigation into the "coffee fund" Aug. 3 and turned it over to the state’s attorney’s office Sept. 4, and the attorney general’s office Sept. 5.
"Is President [John] Peters responsible for those nine individuals?" Fox asked. "Should he have known about that? Why is he treated any differently?"
Fox said university officials have no evidence that Grady knew his subordinate Lt. Kartik Ramakrishnan had placed two witness statements in Rifkin's personnel file instead of turning them over to the state's attorney. He called Grady's termination "very unjust."
Fox was critical of NIU Acting Director of Public Safety Bill Nicklas' handling of Grady's review and the letter of termination he wrote to his client. He said Nicklas had no basis for his findings.
"We asked [Nicklas] what evidence do you have that [Grady] knew? His answer was silence," Fox said. "I think we're entitled to something more than silence when you take the career of a man of chief Grady's status away."
In Nicklas' letter to Grady, he said he did not believe Grady's assertions that he wasn't involved with hiding those documents.
"While I do not find your denials to be credible, even if true, at a minimum, your failure to supervise departmental personnel in this important case represents sufficient cause for dismissal," Nicklas wrote.
Nicklas wrote that Grady knew, or should have known, that the evidence wasn't properly turned over to prosecutors. Grady also should have recognized that allowing NIU police to investigate one of its own officers exposed the department to allegations of a conflict of interest, the letter states.
Fox said one of the most alarming portions of the letter was the reference to university officials including later evidence supporting the termination if they were to find past misconduct after a review of Grady's laptop and thumb drive.
On Nov. 9, the night before he was placed on leave, Grady had an information technology specialist transfer files from the chief’s laptop to the thumb drive, according to court testimony. The specialist said in court that he did not know what files he removed from Grady’s computer other than documents related to Grady’s book, “The Injustice of Justice.”
Fox said Grady voluntarily surrendered both the laptop and the thumb drive to university officials, who have had two months to review the contents.
"We're terminating you and maybe we'll include some evidence we find down the road?" Fox said. "It's one of the most ridiculous reasons I've seen for a termination."
Nicklas' letter also states that when Grady learned that Ramakrishnan had placed the two witness statements in Rifkin's personnel file, he took no disciplinary action aside from reprimanding him.
Fox said that claim is also suspicious considering the university has nine employees who were charged with felonies in the "coffee fund" case and have received minimal if any disciplinary action from NIU officials.
Ramakrishnan remains on paid leave, and Darren Mitchell remains acting police chief.