Page Limit Not A Problem For NIU Open Meeting Case

Sep 22, 2017

The usual length of a court document will not prevent either side from presenting its full argument in an Open Meetings Act case, according to a DeKalb County court ruling Friday.

Credit Katie Finlon / WNIJ

Judge Bradley Waller says Misty Haji-Sheikh’s attorney may exceed the page limit for her argument. She says the Northern Illinois University Board of Trustees violated the Open Meetings Act and did not notify the public of former president Doug Baker’s severance package, which was more than $600,000.

Charles Philbrick, Haji-Sheikh’s lawyer, says his side needs the extra length to argue that the Board’s June 15 meeting agenda item “Presidential Employment – Review and Approval” was not enough in broadcasting the severance agreement.

“You know, there’s a 10-page limit, and we are at 17 pages,” Philbrick said, "so I needed to get permission to file a long brief and that’s why we’re here."

NIU lawyers previously have said the agenda item in question was sufficient to notify the public of the administration change and that they followed the law accordingly. 

“We contend that that did not generally describe what they were planning on doing,” Philbrick said. “What they were planning on doing is entering into a contract with [then-president] Dr. Baker, which would provide him severance in exchange for his resignation.”

Court documents say NIU lawyers want similar accommodations for their response. Haji-Sheikh wants the court to void Baker’s severance package and to be compensated for attorney’s fees.

A decision is expected on Nov. 22. 

NIU officials say they do not comment on pending litigation per university policy.