DeKalb. IL. (ECWd) -
On November 8, 2015 we published the article, “NIU President’s On-going OEIG Investigation-Part 2” in which we discussed the broad scope of the OEIG (Office of the Executive Inspector General) investigation. The extent of this investigation leads the curious to the question: What could the investigators be looking at?
One strong possibility could be what lies at the intersection of cronyism and state procurement law violations--an intersection where President Baker apparently sees no stop signs in either direction. We will detail one small but highly significant example of a collision at this intersection as follows.
Effective March 31, 2014 Nancy Suttenfield, Interim CFO (already indemnified against criminal actions as detailed in our September 16, 2015 article “Northern Illinois University still doling out indemnifications like candy”) signed a consulting contract on NIU’s behalf with Dr. William “Wally” Pfeiffer. Dr. Pfeiffer had never previously been hired by NIU, but just by coincidence, had been a bronze level donor to the University of Idaho Foundation while President Baker was Idaho’s Provost and ex-officio member of their Foundation Board. The amount of this contract was--wait for it--$19,999.99. As mentioned in our May 23, 2015 article “NIU – Procurement evasion, manipulation, or criminal act?” the NIU policy and the state procurement rules require a professional services contract of $20,000 or greater to be placed out for open bid. ONE CENT under the threshold? What would one call this?
But this is just the start of this sad tale. Dr. Pfeiffer started work and began billing NIU for his services under this contract. When Dr. Pfeiffer submitted his second invoice, he had exceeded the amount of the contract. A quandary for NIU? Not in the least. It appears that the NIU administration has grown quite experienced at getting around the harsh constraints of the public procurement system.
The overage amount of the second invoice was small, less than $700. Therefore it appears that Administration’s first instinct was to instruct the NIU Foundation to pay the difference. The email shown (here) is from the President’s Executive Assistant, Dori Hooker, which instructs the Foundation to modify the purchase order for this contract and to initiate a new Foundation account for which only she and the President had signature authority. However, Administration then realized that Dr. Pfeiffer had not completed his billing under this contract. Therefore Administration voided both the A/P and Foundation payments. But this left Dr. Pfeiffer still waiting for his payment. So how could Administration ensure that Dr. Pfeiffer could be paid?
That left one of the Administration’s other proven ploys—they put Dr. Pfeiffer on the payroll as yet another “affiliate” employee. Attached is a copy of the payroll register on which it is shown that Dr. Pfeiffer had two paychecks as an employee. Was this the bona fide employment of a temp worker? Look at the first salary payment and compare it to his second invoice.
THE FIRST SALARY PAYMENT IS EXACTLY EQUAL TO THE SECOND INVOICE
Could NIU be more blatant in their violation of state procurement rules?
There is still a little more to this story. Although avoiding procurement rules by placing a consultant on payroll is by far the most egregious violation of state law exhibited by this contract, additional violations of state rules are still in play to be examined by the OEIG. There is also a violation that arose when the University chose to evade the procurement rules by paying Dr. Pfeiffer as an employee for an amount that included travel expenses. Paying for employee’s commuting expenses is ANOTHER violation of state rules. Similar to NIU’s FY2014 audit findings wherein NIU was instructed to demand the return of commuting costs that had been paid to Dr. Baker’s other friend, and Dr. Pfeiffer’s self-proclaimed schoolboy chum, Ron Walters, Dr. Pfeiffer must return the $1,557 of travel expenses that was billed for on his second invoice and for which he was paid as an “employee”.
This is but one example of the many issues that the OEIG should and could be examining at NIU. We will continue to publish other examples of NIU’s violations of state rules in the future as time permits.