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State report: NIU supervisor required employee to clean boss's home

DeKALB – A Northern Illinois University Convocation Center employee was suspended for seven days after a state investigation revealed he required a subordinate to clean his boss’s home about five times in 2012.

Tom Folowell, the Convocation Center’s former Director of Operations, served the suspension over seven days spread from December to February, according to documents the Illinois Office of the Executive Inspector General made public Friday. Folowell required an employee to clean former Convocation Center Director John Gordon’s home during regular work hours, the inspector general’s investigation found.

University spokesman Paul Palian said Folowell has since retired from NIU. Gordon resigned in July 2012 amid controversy over the employee being assigned to clean his home.

“It was two years ago, and the employees are no longer at the university,” Palian said.

NIU conducted an investigation into the allegations in 2012 after the employee filed a grievance with NIU.

The inspector general’s office found NIU’s investigation wasn’t complete, prompting the subsequent investigation and leading to the agency’s recommendation Folowell be disciplined.

Folowell was placed on unpaid suspension about two years after the incidents took place and two months after the state agency completed its investigation.

According to the inspector general’s report, Folowell admitted he told the employee to go to Gordon’s home on four or five occasions after receiving instructions to do so from Gordon. The employee reported she received $20 tips from Gordon’s wife after cleaning the Gordon home twice while on the clock for NIU. The report also states the employee reported Folowell instructed her to clock out after the second time and NIU records showed four dates in 2011 when she punched out for about 90 minutes after she arrived at work.

“She said she did not tell Mr. Folowell in ‘words’ that she was uncomfortable with the situation, but said that her physical expressions when Mr. Folowell directed her to go to the Gordon home made it clear that she did not want to go there,” the inspector general’s report states.

Folowell told the state investigators he believed the employee “enjoyed” cleaning the Gordon home and “having the extra cash money,” the report states.

The employee said she was “worried she would be fired if she did not clean the Gordon home,” according to the inspector general’s investigation.

Folowell told investigators that other NIU employees cleaned the Gordon home, according to the inspector general’s investigation. Folowell said Gordon used many student and temporary workers from the Convocation Center to clean his home and the employees always clocked out during those times, the report states.

According to the report Folowell told Robert Albanese, the associate vice president of the Division of Finance and Facilities about the practice of having employees clean Gordon’s home. Albanese allegedly told Folowell that based on a conversation with NIU’s ethics officer that it was fine as long as the employees weren’t being forced to do so, were clocked out, not paid with NIU funds and did not receive any special benefits.

Former NIU Ethics officer Steven Cunningham denied Albanese ever asked him about NIU employees working in Gordon’s home.

Albenese resigned in July 2012 after being investigated for alleged misconduct.

The university provided Gordon with six months of health insurance and three months’ salary when he resigned, worth about $36,240 total. The university also paid Albanese $45,000 at the time of his resignation, which was based on his annual salary of $198,553.

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