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NIC disaster could be broader preview

| October 29, 2021 1:00 AM

Microcosm, noun: A community, place, or situation regarded as encapsulating in miniature the characteristic qualities or features of something much larger.

Microcosm, Kootenai County: See North Idaho College.

As voters warm up their black pens and thinking caps for Tuesday’s local elections, they need look no further than the mess at NIC to see what’s wrong with ideology and extremism taking over local governments.

For years now, the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee has been working feverishly to get their anointed in charge of every elective office in the county. It’s a microcosm of the plan for Idaho Freedom Foundation, which is trying to do the same thing for every elective office in the state. Lo and behold, the head of KCRCC, Brent Regan, also happens to be chairman of IFF’s board.

The bad news is that in the last election, KCRCC succeeded in getting its three-person majority on the NIC Board of Trustees. Those three, Chair Todd Banducci, Greg McKenzie and Michael Barnes, are faithfully wrecking a fine community college.

The good news is the same as the bad news — but only if voters see what’s happening at NIC and care enough to ensure it doesn’t happen again, on multiple levels, at the polls on Tuesday.

NIC is a mess, and not a cheap one, either, from alleged fiscal conservatives. Firing president Rick MacLennan without cause is costing $270,000 — and that's before a lawsuit could tack on a large number.

At a pro-rated $180,000 per year, the trustee trio elevated the college’s wrestling coach to interim president. In fairness, let’s see what Mike Sebaaly can do with his hands on the reins. If he can keep the horse from breaking a leg and facing a bullet, maybe it will prove to be a prudent interim choice.

On the horizon, board chair Todd Banducci has indicated he wants to hire additional legal counsel. The college has received excellent counsel from Marc Lyons for years, so why hire another lawyer unless you want someone telling you what you want to hear, rather than what you need to hear? And after being accused of promoting the wrestling coach on the basis of their friendship, Banducci will face yet another chorus of criticism if he hires one of his and the KCRCC’s cronies.

Now then, if all of that hasn't challenged the intestinal ability to hold down your breakfast, maybe this will. At Wednesday night’s board meeting, Banducci’s chosen hold-the-fort leader, highly respected Lita Burns, delivered a message the trustee trio did not want you to hear.

“I am critically concerned about NIC’s ability to remain in good standing,” Burns said. “Our employees know that there's nothing more that they can do to protect NIC’s accreditation status. Our future lies in the hands of North Idaho College’s board of trustees.”

If NIC loses accreditation because of neglect or malfeasance from the trustee trio, vast sums of funding and the college’s outstanding reputation will be lost. Students will be unable to transfer credits. This shining star on the lake will lose far more than its luster.

And if the community moves forward with the KCRCC’s radical takeover plan at the polls on Tuesday…

Macrocosm, noun: The whole of a complex structure…contrasted with a small or representative part of it.

NIC's catastrophic leadership becomes not the exception, but the rule.

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