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NIC: Investigation on trustee residency requirement authorized

Staff Writer | December 16, 2021 1:09 AM

In a unanimous vote, the North Idaho College board of trustees moved to authorize the college attorney to engage with the Idaho Attorney General to investigate whether two board members remained qualified to continue in their positions based on residency requirements.

Trustee Ken Howard, one of the two trustees whose residency is in question, made the motion at the board meeting at NIC's main campus Wednesday night. The other trustee, Michael Barnes, seconded the motion.

The agenda item was addressed by college attorney Marc Lyons who said he thought the investigation was necessary, as community members have raised concerns over whether Howard and Barnes are required to reside in the zones in which they were elected.

He requested that the Attorney General’s Office conduct the investigation and the attorney general give a legal opinion on the results.

“It’s an issue that the board needs to address to provide some certainty to the community and to this institution,” Lyons said.

Lyons recommended the board address the issue sooner rather than later because of the uncertainty it raised, particularly involving the potential for votes that have happened and votes that will happen in the future regarding trustees.

“Hopefully (it’s) a needless issue,” Howard said. “But it must be answered.”

Howard said the issue must be answered by someone with authority, as it involved both legal and factual determinations in order for them to satisfy the public and members of the board that the trustees in question are in compliance with the statutes and in the state.

“If we shouldn't be sitting here and we are not authorized to vote, it could affect the conduct of this board and the authorizations that we’ve already engaged in, or we would in the future,” Howard said. “I don’t want to put that at risk if we can help it.”

According to Idaho Code 33-2106 regarding junior colleges, the board of trustees of each community college district shall consist of five electors who shall reside in a different trustee zone from each other.

Idaho Code 59-901 subsection (1) sub-subsection (e) on public officers says every elective civil office shall be vacant upon the official ceasing to be a resident of the state, district or county in which the duties of his office are to be exercised, or for which he may have been elected.

The board of trustees also approved a motion by trustee Christie Wood to direct the administration to sign a contract Friday with the Pauly Group, an academic search consulting firm, to begin the presidential search.

Trustee Greg McKenzie was the only nay in the 3-1 vote. Board chair Todd Banducci did not vote as there was no tie.

A motion by McKenzie to table selecting a search firm until November 2022, and wait to appoint a permanent president until July of 2023 failed.