U. of I. administrator out: Police institute director also worked for paramilitary outfit
Chicago Tribune (2007-09-07) Jodi Cohen and EATorriero
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By Jodi S. Cohen and E.A. Torriero | Tribune staff reporters
September 7, 2007
University of Illinois officials cut ties Thursday with Tom Dempsey, the beleaguered director of the school's police training institute who has been under scrutiny for his work with a controversial military contractor.
Dempsey's resignation comes after the Tribune first reported in July about possible conflicts of interest involving Dempsey and Blackwater USA, a security firm that provides private paramilitary forces for America's war on terror and has become a lightning rod for anti-war passions.
In July and August, Dempsey was in Afghanistan using his accrued paid-vacation time from U. of I. to work as an independent Blackwater consultant, training Afghan anti-narcotics police in investigative techniques.
Dempsey worked out his personal deal with Blackwater at the same time he signed a partnership agreement that linked U. of I. and Blackwater. Under that agreement, signed in May, Blackwater and the U. of I. training facility agreed to exchange staff and students, share facilities and collaborate on training.
U. of I. Chancellor Richard Herman last month ended the partnership. No money had been exchanged, although the company stood to gain prestige by partnering with the highly regarded institute in Urbana-Champaign. Dempsey has claimed that the institute, which trains state police troopers, would benefit from Blackwater's expertise in international law enforcement.
Dempsey, 58, returned from Afghanistan last month and agreed to resign "in light of the controversy surrounding his affiliation with Blackwater," U. of I. spokeswoman Robin Kaler said. While the resignation agreement was made final Thursday, Dempsey's resignation was effective Aug. 31.
Dempsey, who had been director of the institute since 2002, was paid $118,178 a year.
Under the agreement, U. of I. will pay Dempsey $75,000 in severance and $12,000 to cover health insurance costs for a year, according to a copy obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. He also will be paid for all accrued and unused vacation days.
Dempsey did not return a call from the Tribune on Thursday. The resignation agreement states that the university and Dempsey will not make any additional statements regarding the matter.
University officials said previously that Dempsey was not upfront about his personal consulting arrangement. The Blackwater partnership agreement was executed through one branch of the university system while Dempsey's vacation request and conflict-of-interest disclosure forms were put in through another.
"The facts are that you were negotiating both the [Blackwater partnership] and future employment with Blackwater at the same time and no one above you was informed of both of these relationships," Peg Rawles, an associate chancellor, said in an August e-mail to Dempsey, a printout of which was obtained by the Tribune. "The chronology raises more questions than answers."
The separation agreement, however, states that Dempsey "adhered by [university] policy regarding non-university employment and use of vacation time."
Kaler said Thursday that university officials are reviewing ways to tighten approval procedures to avoid possible conflicts of interest, and they are discussing whether the same university department that reviews partnership agreements should also review employee requests about non-university employment.
"That is the type of thing that certainly will be considered," Kaler said. "We are reviewing all existing [agreements], and we are reviewing our process for approving them."
Printouts of other e-mails obtained by the Tribune show that Dempsey asked institute employees not to talk about his work for Blackwater and to cover up for him in his absence.
In an e-mail sent to the Tribune last month, Dempsey said he went through proper channels to obtain permission for each venture and did not try to deceive anybody. He said he did not see a conflict between his work in Afghanistan and his role in executing the university partnership with Blackwater. He also said his work for Blackwater was for a greater good.
"This opportunity is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to play a small role in efforts to assist the Afghan police in addressing the opium problem that plagues their nation," he wrote. "I hope to return from Afghanistan soon to my position as director of one of the largest and finest police training facilities in the United States. A position I am honored to fill."