DeKalb County Judge Bars Further NIU Action On Baker Severance

Aug 4, 2017

DeKalb County Judge Bradley Waller granted a temporary restraining order on Friday that bars Northern Illinois University from taking further action regarding former President Doug Baker’s severance package after his June resignation.

The university already paid Baker more than $600,000 on July 15.

DeKalb County Courthouse
Credit Susan Stephens / WNIJ

DeKalb resident Misty Haji-Sheikh sued the NIU Board of Trustees in June for allegedly violating the Open Meetings Act. Waller ruled that NIU cannot take further action regarding Baker’s severance package before the next hearing on Sept. 8.

Haji-Sheikh said the board did not give the public enough notice or opportunity for input on the matter during the June meeting and had requested to temporarily freeze financial activity related to Baker’s settlement.

Haji-Sheikh’s lawyer, Charles Philbrick, says the ban on further action includes paying $30,000 in attorney’s fees and the university forwarding withheld taxes from Baker’s pay to state and federal governments.

“When you look at the pay stub, you’ll see that there was quite a bit of withholding,” Philbrick said. “The more you make, the more you pay in taxes, and this president paid a lot.”

Philbrick says the main goal is to get the judge to recognize that the agenda item on presidential employment from the June 15 meeting – when Baker’s resignation was announced – could succeed on its own merits going forward, along with the state's Northern Illinois University statute.

“He [the judge] doesn’t need anything else,” Philbrick said. “He doesn’t need testimony from anybody who was there, because the question is the sufficiency of the agenda item itself.”

NIU officials told the judge that they did enough in notifying the public about the resignation announcement. The university has about three weeks to file an answer to the allegation from Friday’s hearing.