Northern Illinois U. Used Adjunct-Hiring Policies to Give Consultants Sweetheart Deals

Northern Illinois University administrators used hiring policies intended for part-time instructors to circumvent state bidding requirements and make sweetheart job offers to consultants, a state investigation has found.

As discussed in depth on Wednesday in the DeKalb Daily Chronicle, the state inspector general’s office determined that administrators strayed beyond regular employment policies and procurement procedures to award more than $1 million in work to five consultants over roughly two years.

Douglas D. Baker, the university’s president, initially pushed administrators to come up with the hiring scheme in 2013, to help one of his friends land a consulting gig that ended up paying a total of more than $463,000, according to the state investigators’ report on their findings.

Normally, the state requires public universities to use competitive bidding to award contracts paying independent contractors $20,000 or more. To help President Baker’s friend land the consulting job without having to compete for it, the university hired him using policies and procedures designed for part-time instructors who teach extension classes. Administrators then used the same side-door approach to give lucrative gigs to four other consultants, the state report says.

The university issued a statement on Wednesday in which John R. Butler, chairman of its Board of Trustees, said officials there had already carried out “significant policy reforms” in response to the state investigators’ findings. Those included eliminating the job classification that the state found to have been misapplied to the consultants.

The public release of the state investigators’ findings came just over a month after President Baker announced that the university would need to cut jobs and defer maintenance to deal with a projected $35-million budget gap.

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