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FBI search at NIU seeks records from administrator’s business

Updated: April 10, 2013 6:09AM



Federal investigators raided the Northern Illinois University police station seeking records of police involvement with a low-income apartment complex owned by top NIU administrator Eddie Williams.

FBI agents also sought information about phone calls, meetings and emails between Williams and fired former NIU Police Chief Donald Grady, according to documents released Friday.

As the information was disclosed, NIU President John Peters placed Williams — a 42-year veteran employee who served as chief of operations and executive vice president — on paid leave.

In a statement, Peters said Williams had agreed to take an open-ended leave from his $303,684-a-year post to “avoid any appearance of conflict.”

Williams’ ownership of the 92-unit Eden’s Garden apartment complex appears to be a focus of the surprise search carried out Wednesday at the NIU police department by the FBI, Illinois State Police and two other federal agencies.

According to a search warrant filed in Chicago, the FBI sought from NIU police “records relating to criminal history or background checks of residents and prospective tenants of Eden’s Gardens.” Federal investigators also wanted dispatch records and police reports relating to crimes at the complex in DeKalb, according to the search warrant.

Williams’ attorney said the apartment complex relied on a professional screening firm, not NIU police, to perform background checks of potential tenants.

“Dr. Williams is cooperating fully with the authorities and Eden’s Gardens has provided all materials requested, but Dr. Williams has no idea why he or the project is the subject of any government interest,” attorney William Sullivan said in a statement.

Grady, who was fired last month after NIU officials concluded he mishandled a sexual assault allegation against one of his officers, never ordered officers to do background checks of tenants, his attorney said.

“He had absolutely no knowledge of that — period,” Grady attorney Michael Fox said, adding Grady had a strictly professional relationship with Williams and never played any role in the Eden’s Garden development.

The search warrant also seeks a vast range of information dating back to Jan. 1, 2005, including all criminal background checks run by the department, all calls for service, and lists of crimes reported.

Earlier, Peters described the search as “troubling” but said he and school officials remain uncertain about what triggered the probe by or what information investigators are seeking.

“It is troubling to be on the receiving end of a search warrant and investigation by any law enforcement agency, as it is impossible at this early stage to determine what specific actions may have occurred that necessitate such a response,” Peters said in a statement.

An FBI spokeswoman declined Friday to comment on the case.



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