Nine arrest warrants in 'coffee fund' case

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SYCAMORE — DeKalb County State's Attorney Clay Campbell said arrest warrants were issued Tuesday afternoon for nine people in connection to the recent coffee fund controversy at Northern Illinois University.

Those charged are: Robert Albanese, Michael Hall, Lawrence Murray, Susan Zahm, Kenneth Pugh, Keenon Darlinger, Mark Beaird, Joseph Alberti and Keith Jackson.

According to the NIU Materials Management website, Pugh serves as Materials Management Director and also is listed under Furniture Repair Services. Alberti is listed as the manager of Central Stores while Darlinger is listed under Special Orders for Central Stores. Murray is listed as the manager of Receiving and Property Control. Hall is listed as the manager of Distribution Services. Zahm is listed as the inventory record control supervisor of Property Control.

Campbell announced in August that he was monitoring the criminal investigation and alleged misconduct at NIU.

NIU police Sgt. Alan Smith said all of those charged, with the exception of Albanese, continue to work for the university.

According to a news release on NIU Today from Aug. 30, a Keith Jackson identified as an NIU controller was appointed to a three-person policy review committee "charged with reviewing and updating all procedures related to property control, cash receipts, recycling and the disposition of surplus materials."

Ohers appointed to the committee were Vice President for Administration Steve Cunningham and Greg Brady, deputy general counsel for administration.

Albanese, former associate vice president of the Division of Finance and Facilities, left quietly July 31 after signing a separation agreement that showed they faced "serious and substantial allegations of misconduct." John Gordon, former Convocation Center director, also left July 31. He has not been charged in connection with the coffee fund investigation.

Both men worked under the Division of Finance and Facilities, headed by Executive Vice President Eddie Williams.

The Chicago Tribune reported earlier this month that an anonymous source said they both had university property in their homes for personal use, and that Gordon assigned an employee to clean his home during work hours on several occasions.

Their separation agreements showed the university provided Gordon with six months of health insurance and three months' salary when he resigned, worth about $36,240 total.

The university also paid Albanese $45,000 at the time of his resignation, which was based on his annual salary of $198,553.

A DeKalb Iron and Metal Co. employee said NIU employees had been making deposits into the fund with money from sales of university-owned scrap metal for the past 25 years.

The coffee fund held $2,187 when it was closed in August after it had been brought to the university’s attention Aug. 3. Records from DIMCO show that the fund had collected more than $13,000 since 2005.

NIU officials said money from the nonuniversity bank account was deposited into the university’s general fund when it was closed. A spokesman said the money was used for retirement parties and various social events.

Four employees in NIU’s Materials Management Department were placed on paid leave for a maximum of 30 days, and NIU officials formed a committee to review NIU’s property control procedures.