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Grady raises race as factor in punishment

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013 1:40 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013 1:54 p.m. CDT
(Nam Y. Huh STF)
FILE - In this Feb. 20, 2008 file photo, Northern Illinois University Police Chief Donald Grady speaks at a news conference about the Feb. 14 campus shooting that left five students and the gunman dead in DeKalb, Ill. On Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013, officials at NIU fired Grady. The dismissal comes in the wake of the case against a former NIU officer who was charged with sexually assaulting a student. Grady was placed on leave during an investigation of the department's handling of that case. Charges against the officer accused were eventually dismissed. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

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DeKALB – Ousted Northern Illinois University Police Chief Donald Grady told university officials Feb. 3 that he thought race had been a factor in his punishment.

After a pre-termination meeting with university officials on Feb. 1, Grady wrote a letter to university officials in which he pointed out differences in the way he was treated during the discipline process compared with white employees who were indicted in the "coffee fund" case.

Grady, who was fired Tuesday for his department's mishandling of a rape case against one of his own officers, said in his letter there were "clear disparities" between the treatment of the eight employees charged with felonies in the "coffee fund" case compared to officials swift decision to place him and Lt. Kartik Ramakrishnan – who is Asian – on paid administrative leave.

The "coffee fund" was an off-the-books bank account where NIU employees deposited the proceeds from recycling university-owned scrap metal. Eight current and one former employee have been charged in connection with the investigation.

"Despite the fact that many of them have been indicted by a grand jury, most have been allowed to return to their posts," Grady wrote. "Not a single one of these employees has been subjected to the all-out effort to sever their relationship with the University that has been directed at me."

For example, Grady pointed to Robert Albanese, who quit as associate vice president of the division of finance and facilities last summer amid allegations. Albanese, Grady wrote, was not placed on administrative leave until university officials completed a two-and-a-half-month investigation. Albanese was also placed on leave with the agreement he would either resign or retire, according to the letter.

Grady and Ramakrishnan were placed on leave eight days after Judge Robbin Stuckert ruled they withheld evidence that would have supported then-NIU police officer Andrew Rifkin is his defense against rape allegations.

"Is racial discrimination at play here?" Grady asked in his letter. "If not, would you please provide me with the bona fide occupational qualifier that allows for the disparity in treatment demonstrated in this circumstance?"

Grady also said the university repeatedly declined to respond to his request for counsel and failed to pay an educational stipend to him and Ramakrishnan in December.

Bill Nicklas, acting director of public safety, said race was not a factor in any decision and the letter of termination contained all the reasons for the firing.

"It is not surprising Mr. Grady or his legal counsel would want to distract the observer from the facts" Nicklas said. "But the facts were stated clearly in the letter of dismissal and the university stands by that letter."

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