Illinois taxpayers fund golden parachute for university president resigning amid scandal investigation

Higher education is a huge industry, and because it clothes itself in virtue, scandals tend to be hushed up with generous doses of Other People’s Money. Can’t have donors and taxpayers learn that executives in this trillion dollar industry enrich themselves in manners unseemly and even outright corrupt. As a corollary, miscreants can be sent away with filthy lucre to ensure silence when ugliness bubbles up to the surface.

Something like that appears to be operating in the State of Illinois, where two higher education scandals at public-funded schools have ended with golden parachutes that look like lottery jackpots.  John Klingner of the Illinois Policy Institute explains:

Administrative costs at Illinois universities have spun out of control. The latest example comes as the Northern Illinois University Board of Trustees voted to approve a $600,000 golden parachute for President Doug Baker.

The Northern Illinois University Board of Trustees voted June 15 to gift President Doug Baker a $600,000 severance package, according to the Daily Chronicle.

Baker is resigning from his post after public release of a state investigation into his mismanagement of the university.

The report centered on NIU’s combined $1 million paid to at least five people the university hired as though they were part-time instructors in order to avoid competitive bidding requirements.

“Over a nearly two-year period after President Baker took office, NIU administrators committed a pattern of circumventing procurement requirements and violating employment policies and rules,” investigators found, “largely in an effort to meet President Baker’s directives to select high-paid consultants (one of whom was a friend), and pay for their travel and lodging, without restrictions.”

The NIU Board of Trustees received this report in August 2016, according to the Daily Chronicle.

Under the deal, Baker will receive a full year’s salary of $450,000. Additionally, Baker will get $137,000 in exchange for resigning from his position in the NIU College of Business. He also will receive up to $30,000 for his “reasonable, unpaid expenses for legal counsel” related to his eamployment at the university.

Northern Illinois University

NIU is not the only school to achieve a close to a potential scandal with a golden parachute.

In 2015, the College of DuPage Board of Trustees approved a $763,000 severance package for President Robert Breuder in exchange for his retirement. (A new, reform-minded majority on the board of the Glen Ellyn community college later challengedthat payout.) The Tribune pegged Breuder’s haul as “one of the largest severance packages for a public employee in state history.”

Under Breuder’s watch, Illinois’ second-largest college hid more than $95 million in spending – including hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments to businesses connected to college leadership, payments for satellite phones used for Breuder’s exotic hunting trips, his membership to a private shooting club and nearly a quarter million dollars in booze listed on ledger lines as “instructional supplies.”

The State of Illinois is so broke that its Department of Transportation has advised highway contractors to stop work by the end of the month because they may not get paid unless a state budget passes. They are running out of cash. But they will pony up, if they haven’t already, to bestow a boon on the outgoing boss of a university.