NIU investigates claims of ethical issues at Physical Plant

By Shelby Devitt & Northern Star Staff

According to a Daily Chronicle article, an employee of DeKalb Iron and Metal Company (DIMCO) has said NIU employees have sold scrap metal from the university to DIMCO for the last 25 years – and the money isn’t going back to NIU.

Bill Kunkel, head of transportation for DIMCO, said the money goes into a “coffee fund,” according to the Daily Chronicle article. The Daily Chronicle reported that since February 2005, DIMCO has paid over $13,000 to employees who “often used university-owned vehicles to drop off the scrap,” according to Kunkel.

“If the allegations are true, as they exist, obviously it’s a violation of our ethical standards, which are made known to all employees, who we hold to a certain standard,” said Paul Palian, NIU director of media and public relations.

Palian said an investigation has been launched Aug. 3 in response to the claims.

“The allegations were brought to my attention yesterday and upon consultation, I shared [the allegations] with senior administration officials,” Palian said.

According to the Daily Chronicle article, Kunkel said he grew suspicious several years ago, when NIU employees asked him to pay a small percentage to the university and a larger percentage to the employee dropping off the scrap. Kunkel said he contacted the university and received a letter in February 2000 from a budget analyst int he Physical Plant office which said a university employee would be in charge of dropping off scrap metal from that point forward, according to the Daily Chronicle article. According to the article, Kunkel said he was not to pay the university employee, but was to issue a monthly check to the Physical Plant.

The Daily Chronicle article stated that Kunkel said scrap metal transactions with NIU employees dropped after the new policy was put in place, but new faces later showed up and their checks were directed to the coffee fund.

“[NIU’s response] depends on what the outcome is,” Palian said. “I know very little of the facts. If indeed there is a violation of our policy, the prescribed remedies would take effect. There are measures that are taken.”

Palian said he had no knowledge of the situation prior to Friday and did not know what employees were involved.

Editor’s Note: This news story will be updated with information from the Northern Star staff as more information about the allegations and investigation becomes available.