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NIU president “routinely circumvented state laws and regulations to reward friends and associates”

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

* Rock River Times

An Office of Executive Inspector General investigation into Northern Illinois University’s hiring and spending practices has found that President Doug Baker routinely circumvented state laws and regulations to reward friends and associates.

The report, commissioned after watchdog groups and whistleblowers questioned Baker’s use of the so-called “affiliate employee” classification for hires in key university positions, shows what investigators call a pattern of dodging procurement code requirements.

“As a result of (Baker’s) actions, since 2013 NIU has paid over $1 million in public funds to consultants who were not selected through a competitive procurement process,” the report released Wednesday said. […]

In addition, the school, facing millions of dollars in cuts due to a $35 million funding gap, has paid nearly $200,000 in legal fees to outside counsel for Baker during the course of the OEIG investigation. […]

The report also found numerous support staff to Baker had assisted in the practices, and some had further used their positions to gain extra payments over and above their salaries. […]

Another Baker hire, Ron Walters, received $463,125 in compensation as an affiliate employee from June 2013 to Dec. 2014. According to the report, Baker described Walters as a friend and explained to then NIU Dir. of Human Resources Steve Cunningham that Walters was a “turnaround consultant.”

The OEIG report says that when Cunningham informed Baker that the school could not pay Walters more than $20,000 for his services, “Baker showed a ‘high degree’ of dissatisfaction with the Procurement Code,” and that Baker instructed Cunningham to “find a way” to onboard Walters.

Go read the rest of the story. The full report is here.

* Daily Chronicle

The report identified five employees: Ron Walters, who was paid $463,125; Nancy Suttenfield, who was paid $425,041; Ken Wilson, who was paid $135,963; Magaly Rodriguez, who was paid $85,031; and William Pfeiffer, who was paid $23,516. […]

Although Baker agreed with the report’s findings that there were no violations of the state’s Ethics Act, he disagreed with any implications that there was intent to circumvent NIU’s guidelines or state regulations.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - 47th Ward - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 1:12 pm:

    Most public university presidents would rather pay the cost of their employees pensions than to live under the state’s wretched procurement code.

    But until they figure a way out from under that mess of bureaucratic nightmare, it would be best to comply and complain loudly.

  2. - wordslinger - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 1:22 pm:

    NIU presidents are just trying to keep up with the grand tradition in recent decades of Illinois governors.

    Richard Nelson had a felony hit-and-run conviction (kncoking a dude off his bike coming out of the country club bar parking lot). Somehow, the DeKalb cops couldn’t track him down at first, although witnesses later told the Northern Star that they reported the plate as “NIU 1.”

    Clyde the Glide Wingfield hid six-figure remodeling expenses on his university home and then tried to shut down the Northern Star for reporting it. Big Jim had him tossed, but he had a sweet golden parachute in his contract.

    But this Baker looks like the Big Daddy of them all. The whole mess stinks of kickback.

    –Another Baker hire, Ron Walters, received $463,125 in compensation as an affiliate employee from June 2013 to Dec. 2014. According to the report, Baker described Walters as a friend and explained to then NIU Dir. of Human Resources Steve Cunningham that Walters was a “turnaround consultant.”–

    I’m sure Bruce and the Frat Boys are delighted at that title.

  3. - Joe M - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 1:23 pm:

    If Baker decides to leave academia, he would probably fit right in as a superstar in this administration. Or if he wants to keep a foot in academia, who knows, he might still make the “superstars” and get himself appointed as chair of the Board of Higher Ed.

  4. - Texas Red - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 1:24 pm:

    Doug Baker is no MJM

  5. - Whistleblower - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 1:36 pm:

    This is one of several reports. The comments about procurement missed the point. It was an easy rule to follow.

  6. - Joe M - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 1:40 pm:

    Yes, the comments about procurement did miss the point. I would say “to reward friends and associates” is the key point.

  7. - Cornerfield - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 1:52 pm:

    “there were no violations of the state’s Ethics Act”


  8. - Not Welcome - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 1:58 pm:

    Whistleblower - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 1:36 pm:
    =This is one of several reports. The comments about procurement missed the point. It was an easy rule to follow.=
    If your handle is true and correct - Thank You for doing a thankless and often costly duty in IL. Most of the rules are easy to follow, my experience has been the process or the whistleblower is blamed when a manager doesn’t want to follow the rules.

  9. - 47th Ward - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 1:59 pm:

    I got the point. It was pretty obvious. I was making a related point about the burdensome procurement process that he apparently violated, and about which other university presidents have complained.

  10. - Amalia - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 2:02 pm:

    at first glance, I thought this was NEIU. NIU, how far you have fallen. John Peters who came from U. Tennessee led NIU to new heights. Baker has led NIU to new lows. just follow the rules dude. and pay your friends less. what the ever lovin’ blurg.

  11. - Anonymous - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 2:02 pm:

    =paid nearly $200,000 in legal fees to outside counsel for Baker during the course of the OEIG investigation= If he would have fired the whistleblower and provoked Ethics Act Litigation- Lisa Madigan would have defended him.

  12. - Anonymous - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 2:04 pm:

    There have been some fine university presidents lately in the great state of Illinois.

  13. - Tommydanger - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 2:07 pm:

    The last decent president NIU had was William Monat.
    His successors have all been self-promoting prima donnas.

  14. - wordslinger - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 2:11 pm:

    –The last decent president NIU had was William Monat.–

    Monat as BOR chief hired Wingfield — who had hired Monat at another school.

    Monat also thought NIU should have it’s own governing board — until he was made head of the BOR. Then, not so much.

    I thought LaTourette was a straight-shooter.

  15. - DuPage Saint - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 2:12 pm:

    Makes one wonder exactly what would violate the Illinois ethics act

  16. - Joe M - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 2:17 pm:

    Yes, those procurement rules can be very burdensome when trying to reward friends and associates. But obviously, where there is a will there is a way.

    Rauner’s budget idea hope to legitimatize that. In his February budget plan, he included aseries of procurement reforms are projected to bring $340 million in savings to All Funds ($70 million in savings to GRF). The budget also assumes an additional $105 million in procurement reforms for higher education. In other words, make it easier to reward friends and associates.

  17. - Norseman - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 2:23 pm:

    Sad NIU grad :(

  18. - Scamp640 - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 2:24 pm:

    This isn’t helping…

  19. - Adjournment - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 2:25 pm:

    Governor Rauner should call on Dr. Baker to resign! This is ridiculous.

  20. - 47th Ward - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 2:25 pm:

    ===In other words, make it easier to reward friends and associates.===

    Do you expect them to reward their enemies?

  21. - Lt Guv - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 2:30 pm:

    I agree that LaTourette was good. Somehow, I’ve always taken a perverse pride in having Wingfield’s signature on my diploma. . . it only seems appropriate in Illinois.

  22. - Rahm's Parking Meter - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 2:32 pm:

    I am despite the end, a big fan of John Peters and am proud of his name of his tenure at NIU. This grad is embarrassed by Doug Baker. Should be fired.

  23. - Rahm's Parking Meter - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 2:32 pm:

    I should have said proud of Peter’s Tenure at NIU and his name on my diploma. Typed too fast.

  24. - Joe M - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 2:36 pm:

    ==Do you expect them to reward their enemies? ==

    No, I expect them to follow fair and open competitive procurement processes - and not just give business to friends and associates because they are friends and associates.

  25. - Tommydanger - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 3:24 pm:

    Word, I don’t think Monat could have known that Wingfield had a paint fetish.


  26. - JS Mill - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 3:27 pm:

    =I thought LaTourette was a straight-shooter.=

    Very true.

    I was there for the Clyde Wingfield days, taht whole thing went down my freshmen year.

    LaTourette was a decent guy.

  27. - DuPage - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 4:03 pm:

    Kind of reminds me of Rauner hiring Munger as some sort of deputy turnaround contingent assistant governor or whatever the made up position was called.

  28. - Adjournment - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 5:21 pm:

    Beth Purvis, what is the Governor’s response to this? I hope that the Governor and Board of Trustees are demanding change!

  29. - whistleblowers - Thursday, Jun 1, 17 @ 9:09 am:

    The Chicago Trib article says that the BOT thinks public disclosure is enough. There are at least two more investigations. Franczek Radelet of Chicago was tasked to investigate and write a report about one of these investigations. This investigation has cost NIU $160,000 so far. Of the $189,000 spent to defend Baker by the BOT, $174,000 was for the employment investigation, and $25,000 was for the aforementioned investigation. The BOT also spent a $100,000 investigating the employment issue.

  30. - whistleblowers - Thursday, Jun 1, 17 @ 9:11 am:

    $164,000 not $174,000

  31. - Peanut gallery - Thursday, Jun 1, 17 @ 2:39 pm:


    He did fire one of the whistleblowers. Lawsuit pending. And Lisa Madigan’s office is covering his behind for that issue. On the other hand, ex-Interim CFO Suttenfield was also named in the lawsuit, but NIU is paying for outside counsel for her.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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