NIU Police Chief Donald Grady will fight his termination through “every avenue of due process available,” according to his attorney, Michael Fox.
News that Grady had been terminated was released Tuesday evening. According to Grady’s notice of termination, which the Northern Star obtained through a FOIA request on Tuesday, he was terminated because “of the failure of the NIU Police Department of Public Safety (the ‘Department’) to disclose and turn over exculpatory ‘Brady’ evidence in the case of The People of the State of Illinois vs. Andrew Rifkin” and because of a “failure to appropriately supervise the Department.”
Grady had been on leave since Nov. 10 in response to Judge Robbin Stuckert’s ruling that there had been purposeful hiding of evidence by members of the NIU Police Department in regard to the case against Andrew Rifkin, a former NIU police officer who was accused of sexual assault. Rifkin’s attorney argued that NIU police did not provide the DeKalb County State’s Attorney’s office with two key witness statements. The charges against Rifkin, who has filed a lawsuit against the university, have been dropped.
Grady declined to comment on his termination and directed questions to Fox, who said he and Grady would say the grounds set forth by the university are not proper for an involuntary termination.
“Due process provided by the university is sketchy, to say the least, but there are other courts and forums that will be available to pursue remedies,” Fox said. “We believe that the justification for the termination for Chief Grady is totally unfounded.”
According to a news release from NIU, the decision to dismiss Grady was made after an administrative evaluation.
“Based on all the evidence, and consistent with the court’s findings, I do not believe there was merely a mistaken withholding of evidence on the part of the Department in the Rifkin case,” Bill Nicklas, acting director of Public Safety, wrote in the termination notice to Grady. “Moreover, I do not find credible your claim that you were not involved in the purposeful withholding of exculpatory evidence. Like Judge Stuckert, I believe the testimony at the hearing supports the conclusion there was a purposeful withholding and non-disclosure of the exculpatory evidence, and I further find that you, acting in your capacity as Chief of Police and Public Safety, hold responsibility either for the purposeful withholding and nondisclosure of Brady evidence, or the negligent nondisclosure of the Brady evidence by individuals under your supervision.”
However, Fox said Grady could only be dismissed for “good cause,” which he said typically involves some sort of intentional wrongdoing.
“The allegation against the chief is, ‘We think you knew about something, but if you didn’t know about something, you should have known about something,’” Fox said. “That’s the heart and substance of the allegation and that is the heart and substance of the allegation that we will be taking on vigorously when we challenge the university on this termination.”
By challenging the university’s decision, Fox said he and Grady hope to restore “the good name to the chief.”
“When this happens to somebody, if it is an injustice, it is difficult to repair that. But there are remedies provided by various statutes...,” Fox said. “[We] will put people under oath...and that will be the people at the university who were supposedly investigating this matter. We will pursue depositions of those individuals...and that will include individuals of the very highest levels of the university.”
Darren Mitchell is still the acting chief of NIU police. According to Nicklas, there is no immediate schedule to find a permanent replacement for Grady, who had a salary of about $206,000.
“Right now there is no timeline for either a search or final decision on the acting positions in the department,” Nicklas said.