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Grady files civil rights lawsuit against NIU

Published: Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014 7:20 p.m. CST • Updated: Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014 7:26 p.m. CST

Fired Northern Illinois University Police Chief Donald Grady has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the university and top administrators seeking to be reinstated with back pay and a public apology.

Grady, who is black, alleges he was fired without being given a fair hearing. He also claims he was treated differently from the white NIU employees implicated in the coffee fund scandal.

"If you look at the comparative treatment of those who are being disciplined, some are getting due process and some are not getting due process," Grady's attorney, Michael Fox, said. "... "We're going to court. We're going to get our due process."

Grady filed the lawsuit Wednesday, a year to the date of his firing, and two days after NIU officials placed Deputy Police Chief Darren Mitchell on paid leave pending an outside investigation.

NIU spokesman Paul Palian said he could not comment on pending litigation.

Grady, who made $205,000 a year as chief, was celebrated for how he handled the 2008 campus shooting but had a reputation for not working well with other area police agencies. He served as NIU's police chief for about 11 1/2 years.

Grady was placed on paid leave in 2009 after the editor of NIU’s student newspaper said Grady harangued him for three hours about the paper’s coverage of a questionable police hire. Grady was reinstated a month later after a performance review.

In November 2012, Grady and Lt. Kartik Ramakrishnan were swiftly placed on paid leave – and ultimately fired – after a judge ruled the department purposefully mishandled evidence in a rape case against an NIU police officer, while most of the eight defendents implicated in an investigation into off-the-books scrap metal recycling operation retained their jobs.

Ramakrishnan successfully appealed his termination and ultimately settled the matter with university officials out of court. In December, he agreed to resign on Nov. 30, 2014, after remaining on paid leave throughout the year, as well as receiving a $25,000 payment for career counseling.

Meanwhile, university officials responded to Grady's discipline "in a manner substantially more aggressive, onerous, and injurious than for Caucasian employees charged with far more serious misconduct," the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit also alleges NIU officials were retaliating against Grady, who the lawsuit characterizes as a whistleblower, for disclosing information about the coffee fund investigation and other investigations on illegal activity by NIU employees and administrative units to DeKalb County State's Attorney Clay Campbell and other law enforcement agencies.

But NIU Vice President of Public Safety and Community Relations Bill Nicklas previously said the FBI, along with the state police and the U.S. Department of Education, were interested in Grady and the reporting of crime statistics during his tenure, among other things. The FBI and other authorities spent a day searching the NIU police department in March 2013 under a board warrant that emcompassed years' of records and specifically named Grady and former NIU Chief of Operations Eddie Williams.

Grady's federal lawsuit names the NIU Board of Trustees, Nicklas, NIU Vice President and General Counsel Jerry D. Blakemore and other NIU staff members.

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