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Local Column

Heimerman: Thankful for lawsuit, ruling on former NIU president

Former NIU President Doug Baker
Former NIU President Doug Baker

I’m grateful for DeKalb County Judge Bradley Waller.

Look, I’m still kind of new to my role. I’ve learned a ton about court proceedings in the past several months. So just like Misty Haji-Sheikh, who won her lawsuit Wednesday looking to block the $600,000 or so severance package for former Northern Illinois University President Doug Baker, I’m not clear on how the courts can extract the estimated $570,000 that Baker was paid to go away.

Fact: NIU was a major factor in me taking this job. I love college towns. The culture – whether it surrounds the arts, athletics, business or whatever I’ve left out – can’t be beat. I look forward to taking my kids to all sorts of those events as they grow up.

Fact: Baker was granted the estimated $570,000 by the NIU Board of Trustees to go elsewhere after the state’s Office of the Executive Inspector General concluded that Baker mismanaged the university by endorsing a hiring scheme. In short, it seems he hired his close friends and skirted state rules requiring competitive bidding for the jobs they assumed.

This is a university miserably mired in the red, in terms of enrollment.

On Wednesday, better known as Thanksgiving Eve, Waller ruled the severance package null and void because of the NIU Board of Trustees’ remarkably vague indication that they’d buy out Baker in June. Enough, right? Enough with the malfeasance. Most pressing, how do we go about prying those $570,000 from Baker? In the interim, Waller said he’d figure out what to do about the other $30,000 or so NIU committed to paying him in legal fees. I don’t know the answers, but rest assured we’ll be on it like dogs chasing not only a bone, but a bone covered in peanut butter (surely your dogs love peanut butter as much as mine do, yes?).

I’m grateful for a lot of the resources in DeKalb County. I find the human service resources to be grand – more on that in the weekend edition of your Daily Chronicle.

I’m also grateful for the inordinate amount of turkey, mashed potatoes and Brussels sprouts I’ll devour Thursday.

Back to the subject – I’m also grateful to Haji-Sheikh for hanging with this lawsuit. It could, at the very least, set a precedent for how things are done around here.

• Christopher Heimerman is news editor of the Daily Chronicle. Call him at 815-756-4841, ext. 2221, email him at cheimerman@shawmedia.com, or follow him on Twitter
@CHeimermanDDC.

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