July 9, 2016 · 10 Comments
DeKalb, IL. (ECWd) –
Previously we focused on violations of state rules and the questionable “ethically inspired leadership” by Northern Illinois University’s President Doug Baker and his administration. But perhaps we jumped the gun in placing all the blame on Baker for these violations.
Was Baker only following the lead of his bosses, the NIU Board of Trustees?
The Board of Trustees announced Douglas D. Baker as the incoming President of NIU in April 2013. His term as President would begin July 1, 2013. However, quietly, and behind the scenes, in order to smooth the transition from President Peters to Baker, the Trustees decided to hire Baker as a CONSULTANT in this “Presidential Transition Consulting Agreement”.
Please note the last line of the agreement “This Agreement shall be governed by and construed with the laws of the State of Illinois.” Very good. One would expect that the NIU Trustees, as leaders of a state institution, would acknowledge and follow all applicable state rules.
However, this agreement was titled a “consulting agreement” and further states “In consideration for services rendered, the President-Designate shall receive payment of a consulting fee of $1,731 per day for up to twenty days”—for a total payment of $34,620 (this equates to a prorated amount of his annual salary as President). The State has a $20,000 threshold on the requirement for open bids on consulting contracts.
Are there special rules that apply only to Board level consulting contracts? Or did the Board request an exemption from the State for this no-bid consulting contract? Maybe the Board did not know the state’s basic procurement rules when agreeing to this consulting contract. Or did the Board knowingly violate state procurement rules, similar to many no-bid contracts that the President and his administration later initiated (such as Walters, Suttenfield, Heid, etc)? And that’s just the start to the questions regarding this contract.
Again, this agreement was titled a “consulting agreement”. When paid as a consultant, the clause “plus all reasonable and allowable travel expenses” is allowable. However, the President-Designate was paid on this contract as an EMPLOYEE on June 24, 2013 (click here for HR employee payroll document here).
By now, all our readers should know that COMMUTING COSTS ARE NOT ALLOWED FOR EMPLOYEES UNDER STATE RULES. So, were the Trustees not aware of this state rule regarding commuting? Did they request an exemption from the State Travel Control Board? Did this lapse of adherence to state rules lead Baker to the belief that his later approval of reimbursing the commuting costs to his friends, such as Walters, Pfeiffer, Rodriguez, and Suttenfield, which we have not written about yet, was allowable?
And again, this agreement was titled a “consulting contract”. CONSULTANTS ARE NOT ENTITLED TO EMPLOYEE BENEFITS, such as insurance or contributions to state retirement plans. Yet, per this email, although the subject was “Re: Payment for Consulting Time”, the VP of Human Resources informed President Baker that he could elect to participate in health insurance for himself and his family and also to contribute to a state-sponsored retirement plan (an employee contribution which would also be then matched by NIU for even more compensation) even though he was signed to a CONSULTING agreement. Baker chose to have the DEDUCTIONS MADE AS AN EMPLOYEE. Did the additional payment of benefits to Baker on a consulting contract lead Baker to believe that his later instructions for additional payroll payments made to his chosen consultant/employees “for benefits” was acceptable?
However, the final issue concerning this contract is the signatures. THERE ARE NONE. This has been confirmed by the NIU FOIA Office in this email. How can any payment be made on an unsigned contract? Did this lead Baker to believe that signed contracts were not an absolute necessity (such as with his friends Walters and Ickes), or that contracts could be signed at any time after the fact (such as with CFO Suttenfield or Knight/Heid)?
So we have to ask, has Baker been continuously violating state procurement rules on his own initiative, or was the Board of Trustees directing or supporting him in these violations? Could this explain why there has been no public action as of yet by the Trustees to rein in this administration?
Or is this simply another example of how the rule of law has no meaning in this country anymore?
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By Kirk Allen
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