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Local

Judge finalizes ruling on Baker's 'null and void' severance agreement

DeKalb County Board member Misty Haji-Sheikh sits in attendance during a meeting Nov. 15 in  the DeKalb County Legislative Center Gathertorium in Sycamore.
DeKalb County Board member Misty Haji-Sheikh sits in attendance during a meeting Nov. 15 in the DeKalb County Legislative Center Gathertorium in Sycamore.

DeKALB – A ruling that Northern Illinois University’s Board of Trustees violated the Open Meetings Act and then gave former President Doug Baker a $600,000 severance was finalized Friday morning by a DeKalb County judge.

Charles Philbrick of Wheaton-based Rathje and Woodward LLC, who represents plaintiff Misty Haji-Sheikh, said the case was essentially over, but the judge asked each party to prepare findings of fact and conclusions of law.

“And because it was the day before Thanksgiving [when the severance was ruled null and void], no one wanted to sit around for a couple of hours and hammer that out, so we all left, and since then, we have hammered those out,” Philbrick said. “We had everything agreed to except two provisions in the relief section, and so we presented those today, and the judge essentially agreed with [NIU’s] perspective on two of the sentences, so we removed them, and we entered the final order.”

A subsequent hearing regarding how much NIU must pay toward Philbrick’s legal fees originally scheduled for Dec. 8 now has been pushed back to 10:30 a.m. Jan. 12.

“It was really the board’s choice to take this fight on, and now they’ve lost it, and the consequence of being potentially liable for the fees is designed as an incentive for public bodies like this not to run afoul with the Open Meetings Act,” Philbrick said.

The Board of Trustees might have the opportunity to take up the approval of Baker’s contract again during its 9 a.m. Thursday meeting at NIU’s Altgeld Hall.

“The functional reality is that now the public will have an opportunity to be heard on [Thursday] with regard to the wisdom of the contract,” Philbrick said.

Haji-Sheikh said the board had the option to retake the vote before any of this going to court.

“We gave them a remedy from the very beginning that they chose not take, so that’s on them,” Haji-Sheikh said.

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