Student files 2nd lawsuit

By Lindsey Salvatelli

DeKALB | A temporary restraining order that’s expected to be heard Friday could make it difficult for former president Doug Baker to receive his more than $600,000 severance pay.

Misty Haji-Sheikh, graduate student at large, filed the motion against the Board of Trustees Thursday.

The restraining order stems from Haji-Sheikh’s lawsuit against the Board, filed June 27, for allegedly violating the Open Meetings Act June 15, according to the motion.

The initial lawsuit challenges the way the Board conducted the meeting by taking action without proper notice and not allowing meaningful public participation.

“The agenda did not describe the substance of any proposed changes to President Baker’s contract,” according to the motion. “The agenda did not specify what the subject of any employment review or approval might be.”

If granted, the restraining order could turn into an preliminary injunction that would block Baker from receiving up to $617,500 in severance pay and legal fees.

The severance package includes the equivalent of Baker’s annual $450,000 base salary and “applicable benefits” and $137,500 to not pursue a faculty position at the College of Business, which he was granted upon the end of his term in this contract. Baker is also eligible to receive no more than $30,000 for any “reasonable, unpaid expenses for legal counsel in relation to his service at the university,” according to the presidential transition agreement.

Haji-Sheikh said Baker’s contract does not mention anything about him being able to receive $30,000 for legal fees.

“His contract originally said that if he is going to resign, he has to give six months notice, not a couple of weeks, and if he resigns he gets $0,” Haji-Sheikh said.

Baker’s contract, which was obtained by the Northern Star March 31 via a Freedom of Information Act request, does not reflect that Baker is eligible to receive $30,000 for legal fees. It also stipulates he may receive one year of severance pay if he is let go from the university without cause; if he resigns or is let go for cause, he is to receive no pay.

Baker’s employment could be terminated by the Board for cause if he is convicted or pleads guilty to a crime of “moral turpitude,” “gross misconduct or willful neglect in the performance of employee’s duties that harms the university” or “fraud or breach of fiduciary duty that harms the university,” according to the contract.

Haji-Sheikh said she is pursuing the lawsuit against the Board because she wants them to act within accordance of the law.

“I stand to make no money in this lawsuit,” Haji-Sheikh said. “It is about proper procedure and following the law.”

The motion is expected to be heard at 9 a.m. Friday in Courtroom 200 at the DeKalb County Courthouse.