NIU student leader 'disappointed' in ethical lapse by president
Tim Kirsininkas had high hopes Northern Illinois University (NIU) could rise above the ethical morass that so often seems to be where state politics resides.
His hopes were dashed at the end of May, when NIU President Douglas Baker was accused of mismanagement by the state’s Office of the Executive Inspector General (OEIG)
“NIU students are well aware of the corruption that has plagued our state officials over the years, and it is disappointing to see the administration of our own university succumb to similar ethics violations, according to these reports,” Kirsininkas, the president of the NIU College Democrats, told the DeKalb Times. “Ultimately, however, we have confidence that our university faculty will hold the administration accountable and will take action if and when they deem necessary.”
Baker has since resigned and was replaced in July by former Provost Lisa Freeman.
The OEIG report revealed that Baker ordered his staff to circumvent state rules as a way to hire contractors and consultants and guarantee them high pay for services rendered.
NIU shelled out more than $1 million to five contract employees, with two of them taking home more than $400,000 apiece for jobs that lasted either 15 or 18 months, the OEIG said. Their checks made them the highest paid staff members at the university.
Other violations cited in the OEIG report include the university wrongfully paying tens of thousands of dollars for travel and lodging expenses for the employees and Baker hiring a close friend.
According to the Illinois Procurement Code, state agencies – including state-run universities – must have a competitive bidding process, but the contractors were hired in an noncompetitive fashion and given exorbitant paychecks, the OEIG said.