NIU investigation
6:55 pm
Thu August 30, 2012

NIU Confirms 'Coffee Fund;' Four Employees Put On Leave

Northern Illinois University has confirmed the existence of an unauthorized bank account known as the "coffee fund" and taken steps toward potential discipline of four materials management employees.

NIU says records show the fund was used not for individual gain but for retirement celebrations, holiday parties and similar activities. However, the university says it is looking into whether this use of the fund violated university policy and/or state law.

In an NIU Today posting at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, the university reported:

The fund, which apparently has existed in some form for over 20 years at a local bank, had a balance of approximately $2,100 as of August 2012. The coffee fund bank account was not an authorized NIU account and has been closed with the remaining funds deposited in the university’s general fund.

The university says it has placed four employees in the Materials Management Department on paid administrative leave for a maximum of 30 days and made unspecified staff reassignments.

In addition, a policy review headed by Steve Cunningham, NIU Vice President for Administration, will examine procedures for property control, cash receipts, recycling and disposing of surplus materials. At least some of the money in the "coffee fund" account reportedly came from selling scrap material to a local metals recycling company. The material was left over from various university projects.

NIU says it will take "appropriate administrative action" as additional information comes to light. Findings from the investigation also will be passed on to the DeKalb County State's Attorney to determine whether criminal charges are warranted.

The NIU Today posting did not indicate any connection between the "coffee fund" and the July departure of two NIU administrators under termination agreements. NIU reported early this month that Robert Albanese, Associate Vice President for Facilities & Operations, and  John Gordon, NIU Convocation Center Director, had resigned for "personal reasons."

It was later revealed that the university had hired an outside attorney to investigate allegations against the men, who had been placed on administrative leave, stepped down after the results of the investigation were presented to them. Their departures included agreements that NIU would not pursue those allegations.

The "coffee fund" was revealed two weeks later.