Report Sheds Light On NIU Ethics Probe

Jun 21, 2014

A newly released report by the Illinois Inspector General’s office sheds some light on an ethics investigation at Northern Illinois University. 

Credit NIU

The report focuses on the actions of Tom Folowell, director of operations for NIU’s Convocation Center. The report says that, in 2012, Folowell knowingly sent an employee to clean his supervisor’s house during her regular work hours. The supervisor, Convocation Center director John Gordon, resigned after an internal investigation. Gordon’s wife, also an NIU employee, also resigned before actions could be taken against her.

The Gordons allegedly had a Convocation Center employee, called NIU Employee A in the report, clean their home on three or four occasions in 2011 and 2012 during hours she was scheduled to work her regular job at NIU. The couple “tipped” the employee $20 to $40 for her work. She was told to “punch out” of NIU’s clock during those hours after performing the work twice while on the clock. Folowell assisted in her scheduling and did not report the clear violation of university work policies.

NIU Employee A is not identified in the report, which clears her of any misconduct because she was doing as instructed by her supervisor and eventually reported it. She told investigators she was afraid she would be accused of stealing from the Gordons’ home, and she also feared losing her job if she didn’t cooperate.

“She said she did not tell Mr. Folowell in “words” that she was uncomfortable with the situation, but said that her physical expressions when Mr. Folowell directed her to go to the Gordon home made it clear that she did not want to go there.”

Folowell was suspended for seven days without pay after the investigation, which he served in January. He has since retired, according to a message on his office phone.

The report, and two other Inspector General investigations, were made public Friday on the office’s website.

The Office of the Executive Inspector General for Agencies under the Illinois Governor (OEIG) spells out the incidents in detail in this report and also provides a lot of redacted material regarding what was found to be an “unsubstantiated allegation.”