Baker: Salary rumors for Suttenfield, Walters false

Doug Baker

Doug Baker

By Jackie Nevarez

NIU President Doug Baker says there was “a lot of misinformation” on the salaries of two members of his senior administration members this summer.

At a University Council meeting Wednesday, Baker said he was frustrated about stories with inaccurate salary information for Nancy Suttenfield, interim chief financial officer, and Baker’s consultant, Ron Walters. The university faced criticism for supposed salary raises for Suttenfield and Walters following an Aug. 4 Daily Chronicle letter to the editor.

According to the letter, Suttenfield’s salary saw an increase of 31.8 percent from $220,000 a year to $290,000 on June 1 and Walters’ pay of $270,000 increased by 33 percent to $360,000 on March 1.

In times of “financial constraint,” Baker said the university needed to make changes in order to properly allocate resources. These changes included structural and personnel changes, Baker said.

Baker said he eliminated the vice president for finance administration and the vice president for operations. He then hired Suttenfield as an interim, or temporary, CFO. A spring search for a permanent CFO failed as there was no “strong pool” of candidates, Baker said.

“So I asked [Suttenfield] to stay. She had other options, and I ended up having to give her a salary increase so she could stay through December of this year,” Baker said.

Baker asked Walters, who he worked with before starting at NIU in July 2013, to come to NIU last fall to help the university with its strategic positioning and planning. Baker faced criticism over Walters’ pay after the Aug. 4 letter to the editor.

“… There was a rumor that he was my brother-in-law, which I find humorous, which he’s not,” Baker said.

Baker said he thought Walters would only have a small, temporary role at NIU. Walters’ productive work in workshops with faculty and students led the president to asking Walters to double his time at the university, Baker said. Walters’ pay rate was not changed, but his time at NIU was extended to December.

“Other schools are growing and we are not in the position we need to be,” Baker said. “… I can tell we really needed to examine where we were strategically and get people in the institution thinking about it.”