NIU puts 8 employees on paid leave

(MCT) — Northern Illinois University has put on paid leave eight employees charged with felonies last week in an alleged scheme to sell university scrap materials and deposit the proceeds in a private bank account.

The employees will be paid their regular salaries while NIU police continue to investigate the unauthorized account, known as the "coffee fund," the DeKalb university wrote in a statement. The employees' annual salaries range from $27,592 to $150,677.

A former NIU associate vice president, who resigned in July while under investigation for misconduct, also was charged last week for his alleged role in the scheme.

NIU police began investigating the fund Aug. 3, school officials said. At least $13,000 had been deposited into the account in the past six years, and about $2,100 was in it when it was closed in August and the balance transferred to the university's general fund, officials said.

Employees allegedly had sold university scrap materials, including some from campus building renovations, and used the money as a slush fund for holiday parties, retirement celebrations and similar social uses.

"Allegations of employee misconduct are of grave concern to Northern Illinois University's leaders and our community," the university's statement said.

Eight of the nine people charged last week have turned themselves in to police and were released, NIU police Sgt. Alan Smith said. Most of them are scheduled to appear in court Oct. 26.

The university hired an outside law firm last week to help advise the school in the matter.