The problem with doing the wrong thing and standing by it is that it makes it difficult when you try to do the right thing down the road.
That’s the pickle in which Northern Illinois University officials could find themselves if they go to court to defend their decision to fire Donald Grady from his $205,987-a-year job as NIU’s police chief.
In a letter to NIU officials Feb. 3, Grady raised an important point: While he is being fired from his job, six people who have been indicted on felony charges stemming from work-related conduct have been welcomed back. (Grady has been named along with the university in a lawsuit filed by a former NIU police officer, but lawsuits are much easier to file than criminal charges.)
Grady claims he is being treated differently because he is black and the “coffee fund” defendants who have been reinstated look white in their police mug shots.
We don’t agree racism is at work. But if Grady does sue the university over his firing, the disparity between the handling of his case and that of the people indicted in connection with the coffee fund investigation will raise eyebrows.
If being charged with a felony for on-the-job conduct isn’t grounds for dismissal – or at least continued suspension – what is?
Those accused in the coffee fund investigation face various charges. All are charged with felonies, and most are charged with violation of the state property control act. The coffee fund was an off-the-books bank account where the employees deposited the proceeds from recycling university-owned scrap metal and later used the money for their own purposes. More than $13,000 was deposited into it over seven years; the fund contained more than $2,000 when it was shut down by the university in August.
The eight employees were suspended with pay, some in August, others in October. In January, the university welcomed six of them back after what it said was a thorough review of records, policies and reports. Two others remain on suspension because they are supervisors whose case requires more review, NIU officials have said.
We opposed their reinstatement because it flies in the face of common sense: What employer would welcome back workers facing felony charges for on-the-job conduct? Would it not make more sense at least to wait for some resolution in the case?
That decision to reinstate these workers but still fire Grady would be hard for NIU officials to explain to jurors who live in the real world, not university-land.
There are good reasons Grady should no longer be the chief of police at NIU. But the people charged in the coffee fund case shouldn’t be back at work, either.
Yes, standing behind bad decisions can make it difficult to justify doing the right thing.