* 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.