DeKalb resident Misty Haji-Sheikh is entitled to some reimbursed attorney’s fees and costs in an Open Meetings Act case against Northern Illinois University. That’s according to a ruling from a DeKalb County judge this week.
Judge Bradley Waller ruled in November that NIU violated the Open Meetings Act. That's also when he ruled that former NIU President Doug Baker’s awarded severance package of more than $600,000 was null and void.
Waller also said in November that the board agenda item “Presidential Employment – Review and Approval” was vague enough where it couldn’t be clear to the public whether that could mean “termination” or “severance terms.”
“And when he made that ruling, he also gave Misty Haji-Sheikh permission to seek her attorney’s fees,” Haji-Sheikh’s lawyer Charles Philbrick said.
Now, Judge Waller ruled that Haji-Sheikh is entitled to have about $56,000 be reimbursed by NIU. That’s nearly three quarters of what she originally requested.
The NIU Board of Trustees re-approved the severance package in a special meeting in December.
“And that’s significant to the lawsuit procedurally, because that means the university decided to not appeal Judge Waller’s ruling,” Philbrick said while talking about the November ruling.
An NIU spokesman has confirmed Baker’s package was paid in full July 15. NIU officials also provided the following statement:
“We are pleased that the court shares our belief that the plaintiff is not entitled to full reimbursement of attorneys’ fees and related costs. Full reimbursement would not have been justified since the court sided with the university on four of the five issues identified in its ruling. We will review the ruling, weigh our options and decide how best to proceed.”
The judge also ruled against Haji-Sheikh’s argument that NIU violated university law in November.
It’s unclear whether either side in the case will appeal this week’s ruling.