The Northern Star Editorial Board doesn’t think Eddie Williams, executive vice president and chief of operations for Finance and Facilities, is doing his job.
Since the summer, the Finance and Facilities division at NIU has been through controversies that have landed it on the front pages of local and Chicago newspapers.
Employees have been charged with allegations of misconduct, theft and violation of state property. A judge found NIU police officers had mishandled evidence in a sexual assault case. While all this has been happening, not much has been said or done by Williams.
Williams heads the Finance and Facilities division. According to the Finance and Facilities website, he’s responsible for bond revenue financial operations, Budget and Planning, computer support services, the Convocation Center, Employee Services and Human Resources Development, Institutional Research, Materials Management, the Department of Police and Public Safety, and Parking Services, among other things.
As someone who supervises these departments, he should know what is happening within them and he should know if there have been any breaches of ethics or protocol among the employees working in them. It’s his job.
Several employees from one department under Williams’ purview have been put on administrative leave for various allegations. According to an Oct. 16 Northern Star article, seven employees from Materials Management are facing allegations from the DeKalb County State’s Attorney’s office in relation to the “coffee fund.”
The coffee fund is an account where university employees have been allegedly keeping profits made from university scrap metal. The fund was first made known by the Daily Chronicle on Aug. 3, and the NIU Police Department launched an investigation into the fund shortly after hearing of its existence.
Other employees of Finance and Facilities, like Robert Albanese, former associate vice president of Finance and Facilities, and Controller Keith Jackson, have also faced allegations related to the coffee fund. Jackson was placed on a policy review committee to review and update procedures related to the coffee fund right when the university confirmed the existence of the fund. He was put on paid leave when he faced allegations related to the fund.
According to NIU Today, the fund existed in some form for more than 20 years. NIU confirmed the existence of the fund on Aug. 30, only several weeks after the Daily Chronicle wrote an article about it. Why did it take a local newspaper’s work to discover a problem that has been going on as long as this one? Is Williams holding the employees of Finance and Facilities accountable for their actions?
The Convocation Center, another department under Williams’ authority, has also faced problems. According to a Sept. 5 Chicago Tribune article, John Gordon, former Convocation Center director, allegedly had a NIU employee clean his home. He was also alleged to have used NIU property at his home. According to the Tribune article, university officials learned of the allegations and conducted an investigation in May. Gordon resigned in July.
Recently, the NIU Police Department has undergone several changes in response to another incident. The Department was found by Judge Robbin Stuckert to be withholding witness statements in a case where Andrew Rifkin, a former NIU police officer, was charged with sexual assault. NIU Police Chief Donald Grady has been put on administrative paid leave, and Lt. Kartik Ramakrishnan will be discharged from his duties.
Because the Police Department was heading the coffee fund investigation and has endured recent changes in leadership, the progress of that investigation is now under question—as if it wasn’t problematic enough that one department was investigating other departments in the same division Williams presides over.
The Police Department operates under Williams’ authority. Yet when it came to reviewing and taking action on what had happened in response to the court’s finding in the Rifkin case, it was not Williams but Bill Nicklas who did so. He is now acting director of Public Safety, and he answers not to Williams, but to NIU President John Peters.
Nicklas was the one who suspended Grady and fired Ramakrishnan. While Williams did recommend to Peters the changes to the Police Department, he didn’t explain why these changes were made at the time and still hasn’t.
On that note, Williams’ silence on the coffee fund and other issues has been another problem altogether.
In fact, the people who have been most vocal about the coffee fund investigation and the problem in the Police Department have been spokespeople from university public relations departments.
With the exception of Sgt. Alan Smith, those speakers are not involved in Finance and Facilities. They work for the university’s public relations departments.
In the last several weeks, even Peters has spoken up and laid out several measures for evaluating the policies and procedures in the Finance and Facilities division.
But not Williams.
Is he properly supervising the Finance and Facilities division? Is he working to resolve the issues that have been happening within them? Is he making sure the policies and procedures of the division are being evaluated to ensure ethical standards are being met?
Williams is either doing his job or he’s not. The Northern Star Editorial Board doesn’t believe he is.
He’s in charge. He’s had time to explain to the students who pay to attend NIU, the faculty and staff who work here and the public at large what’s been happening these past couple months. He’s had time to show us how he plans to solve the problems happening now and show us how he plans to prevent problems from happening in the future.
We don’t expect him to know everything that every employee in Finance and Facilities has done or will do. But he hasn’t appeared to do much and he hasn’t said much. With all the issues happening in the Finance and Facilities division, we need someone who will act and who will show us exactly what needs to be done.
If that someone isn’t Eddie Williams, then NIU needs to find another person for the job.