In her article about Ron Walter’s background and employment at Northern Illinois University under President Doug Baker, Kelly Bauer noted that the consultant was paid even when his calendar indicated he had no scheduled work.
It appears Bauer intended to get to the bottom of it — the above article is labeled Part One — but Baker refused to talk to Northern Star staff about the matter.
Fortunately, the response to the Freedom of Information Act request that enabled us to understand Walters’ refusal to return improperly reimbursed travel expenses also sheds light on the special pay arrangement between Walters and Baker.
Bold Futures consultant Ron Walters was hired at NIU in June 2013 as an affiliate employee for three months at $48,750. In order for Walters to earn a wage of $250 an hour, he needed to work no more than 65 hours per month — but he continually worked many more. For the latter half of June, he sent an invoice for 57 hours at $250 per hour. For July he billed 135 hours at the same rate for a total due of $33,750.
Budget figures in emails from Walters to Baker vary, perhaps because he was referring to different phases. The project originally appears to have had a cap of 400 hours, at least for 2013. However, the 2013 invoice total was 742 hours; and from June 2013 through July 2014, Walters had invoiced nearly 1570 hours.
Walters was billing monthly as if he were an independent contractor despite his status as an employee. He was initially paid $8,125 per pay period or $16,250 per month. He kept a spreadsheet to track the paid and unpaid hours, and wrote President Baker several times during his tenure about the hours “owed.”
Baker responded to Walters’ communications about his hours by increasing Walters’ pay twice, and by extending his term of appointment three times.
When Baker came under fire for Walters’ pay in August 2014, this was his response:
Ron is a senior strategist who has a four-decade track record of building organizations and counseling global enterprises, both public and private. Because of the progress we were making through his efforts, I asked him to expand the time he was working with us as well as his scope of activities over the course of the year beyond the part-time status. To equitably compensate him for the additional time, his compensation proportionately increased without increasing his pay rate. Further, his position is not meant to be long-term.
The above seems to suggest that Baker asked Walters to work more, and then Walters worked more. What actually happened was that Walters had consistently billed well more than the allotted hours in his first months on the project, and then played “catch up” by getting his pay increased, gradually working less, and having his term of appointment extended through the end of 2014.
For example, on February 6, 2014, Walters wrote Baker the following:
As you can see, as of the end of January my cumulative time billed exceeds payment by 294 hours. I currently am paid at the rate of 90 hours/month. So, even if I stopped working at all as of February 1, it would take 3-1/2 months worth of payments to catch up.
There followed on March 1 the third extension of Walters’ appointment, from June 30 to December 31, and the final pay raise that took Walters to full time hours and $30,000 per month salary. The plan was that Walters would gradually taper off his actual work, at a rate that would guarantee zero “owed” hours by the end of the year.