Lawsuit Over Baker Severance Package Could Wind Up This Week

Nov 20, 2017

Northern Illinois University will be back in court Wednesday, possibly to resolve a lawsuit that contests the circumstances of the severance package for former NIU President Doug Baker after his resignation in June.

Misty Haji-Sheikh, left, and former NIU President Doug Baker

Misty Haji-Sheikh, a DeKalb resident and activist, claims the NIU Board of Trustees violated the Open Meetings Act. She maintains the Board did not give the public enough notice or opportunity for input on the matter during the June 15 meeting.

Following a closed session, the Board accepted Baker’s resignation and awarded him a severance package worth more than $600,000. An NIU spokeperson confirms that package was paid in full on July 15, 2017.

Haji-Sheikh claims in the suit, filed in late June, that the published agenda item “Presidential Employment – Review and Approval” was not enough to fully inform the public of what would transpire.

According to court documents, NIU officials say the board did not violate the Open Meetings Act because the law does not require public input before final action.

In early August, Haji-Sheikh sought and was granted a temporary order restraining NIU from taking further action on Baker’s severance package. It was extended in September to the Wednesday hearing.

Haji-Sheikh wants the court to void Baker’s severance package and compensate her for attorney’s fees. NIU officials say nullifying Baker’s severance package would expose the Board to potential lawsuits for breach of contract.

Other points of contention in the case are whether NIU violated university laws regarding employment contracts and severance.

NIU will use outside counsel to wrap up the case due to changes in the in-house legal staff.

A final decision on the case may result from Wednesday’s hearing.