Second NIU employee sees charges dropped in coffee fund case

By Northern Star Staff

For the second time, charges have been dropped in a “Coffee Fund” case.

Susan Zahm, property control inventory specialist, had been charged with theft (Class 2 Felony), theft (class 3 Felony), official misconduct (Class 3 Felony), and violation of State Property Control Act (Class B Misdemeanor). She “worked under the supervision and direction of, and reported to, the NIU officials who had actual operational control over recycling at the University and ultimate control over the account in question,” according to a news release from the county state’s attorney’s office.

“While her actions certainly contributed to the diversion of funds from Central Management Services, she would have performed the same, or similar, work activities had her supervisors been directing the funds to the proper place,” according to the county state’s attorney’s office.

On March 19, Robert Albanese, former associate vice president of Finance and Facilities, accepted a plea deal for charges he faced in the case. He pleaded guilty to violating the State Property Conduct Act, a class B misdemeanor. Albanese was fined $825 and was sentenced to 18 months of court supervision. As part of the plea deal, felony charges of theft and misconduct were dropped.

On March 21, charges were dropped against Keenon Darlinger, a storekeeper in Materials Management.

In August, allegations surfaced that university employees had been selling NIU-owned scrap metal and depositing the profits into a “coffee fund.” One former and eight current NIU employees were charged with various felonies and misdemeanors in relation to the fund in October. Donald Grady, former chief of the NIU Police Department, requested FBI assistance with the coffee fund investigations, according to the Chicago Tribune.

As of August, the fund had about $2,100 in it.