Board of Trustee’s carelessness comes at heavy costs


By Editorial Board


The Northern Star Editorial Board finds the outcome of the NIU Board of Trustees vs Misty Haji-Sheikh case to be costly and unnecessarily difficult when compared to a lawsuit filed by Sid Kincaid in 2016.

Sid Kincaid, former Student Association senator, filed a lawsuit against the Student Association April 29, 2016 for violating the Illinois Open Meetings Act. The violation occurred Nov. 22, 2015, when the SA allegedly did not properly state what would be discussed during a closed session.

The Open Meetings Act serves to preserve the transparency between government-funded entities and the public. Any meeting held by a state-funded entity must have a detailed agenda of what will be discussed and have the document posted to their website within 48 hours of the meeting, according to section 102/2.02 of the act.

As a result of the 664 day long lawsuit Kincaid was awarded $7,500 in legal fees in a Feb. 22 settlement.

Ideally NIU organizations would have taken this as an expensive lesson in properly documenting meetings, unfortunately this was not the case. Haji-Sheikh, a member of the DeKalb County Board, filed a lawsuit June 27 to place an injunction on Baker’s severance pay because the Board of Trustees violated the Illinois Open Meetings act during a closed session June 15, according to a Nov. 27 Northern Star article.

As a result of the 276 day long lawsuit NIU lost $56,878.89 when reimbursing the legal and court fees of Haji-Sheikh.

The agenda from the Board’s meeting read “presidential employment, review, and approval.” The agenda was ruled to be misleading as it does not refer to anything relating to the discussion of Baker’s severance package, according to an April 2 Northern Star article.

“No ordinary citizen could possibly have had any reasonable expectation that he or she knew that the agenda item discussion was focused on anything more than a review and approval of the president,” said DeKalb County Judge Bradley Waller.

The Board’s legal team felt the language was broad enough to allow them a discussion of Baker’s resignation agreement as well as approving the agreement during an open session.

The Board of Trustees should have learned from the Student Association’s violation of the Open Meetings Act. Their failure to do so has caused a lengthy and expensive suit that could have avoided if the Board had clearly document all of the topics to be discussed at the closed session meeting.