NIU president to step down amid mismanagement claims
DEKALB — Northern Illinois University President Doug Baker announced at Thursday’s Board of Trustees meeting that he is stepping down in the wake of a state investigation accusing him and other administrators of mismanagement when it comes to hiring consultants.
Baker called reaction to the Illinois Office of the Executive Inspector General report released May 31 “a significant distraction” in his message announcing his resignation. He leaves June 30. His contract was to expire in June 2018.
“Given the challenges we face and the hard work ahead, I simply couldn’t stand by and let this situation continue to fester,” Baker said. “I regret that we have reached this point, as this is a job I love in a place I have come to call home. But I truly do believe that at this point, this course of action is best for the university.”
The report, provided to trustees last August and made public last month, contended NIU administrators routinely ignored ethics requirements in hiring five consultants.
The inspector general said the university hired the consultants in 2013 and 2014, employed them under the wrong classification and kept them on staff too long. As a result more than $1 million in taxpayer funds were spent, well in excess of allowed limits.
The report said that since Baker took office in 2013, the university repeatedly misclassified high-level, highly paid consultants as affiliate employees. It says that was done “for the purpose of circumventing the Procurement Code’s requirements.” The report went on to say Baker is “responsible for mismanaging NIU’s resources.”
Read more: OEIG report says president ‘mismanaged’ NIU
Baker said after the report was made public that he has worked with the university’s trustees to make several policy revisions on hiring and compensation.
Two Illinois newspapers published editorials saying Baker should no longer be NIU’s president. Baker became NIU president in July 2013, taking over for John Peters who had the job for 13 years.
During the public comment section of Thursday’s meeting a number of NIU faculty voiced displeasure with Baker. NIU biological sciences professor Virginia Naples said Baker needed to leave so that public perception of the university improved.
“Financial mismanagement needs to be removed and corrected so the public can regain the perception of where NIU is headed and where it needs to go,” Naples said. “A new broom sweeps clean, and we need a new broom.”
NIU has paid more than $189,000 for outside counsel for Baker during the investigation.
This story has been updated.