NIU employee on leave pending criminal investigation since August

DeKALB – Justin Bend, chief operating engineer for Northern Illinois University’s heating plant, has been on administrative leave since Aug. 8 pending an administrative and criminal investigation, according to documents obtained by the Daily Chronicle.

In a letter sent from J.V. Heckmann, NIU associate vice president for facilities management and campus services, Bend’s compensation and benefits continue to be in effect as established by his contract. The letter was provided to the Daily Chronicle in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

As chief operating engineer, Bend is responsibie for the overall maintenance of the campus heating ventilation and air conditioning systems, hot water distribution for heating and steam, chilled water distribution for air conditioning and reverse osmosis water systems. Since his suspension, Bend had been paid about $37,000, NIU officials said.

NIU spokesman Joe King said the reason for Bend’s suspension is a confidential personnel matter and the Human Resources Services division is proceeding in accordance with all of the applicable policies and procedures.

Although Bend is not allowed to have contact with any employees involved in the matter without prior Human Resources approval, he still is considered an NIU employee and may be required to perform departmental responsibilities or attend mandatory meetings such as disciplinary meetings, hearings, trainings or workshops during normally scheduled work hours.

Heckmann said in an email
Aug. 8 to Karen Baker, NIU associate vice president and Title IX coordinator, and Jesse Perez, NIU director of employee and labor relations, that if Bend is needed for any official capacity, his supervisor Tom Viel or heating plant assistant chief operating engineer James Garman will communicate and escort him on the property.

After the investigation, Bend will have the opportunity to respond to any proposed course of action.