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Lyons responds to Macomber's claims

by KAYE THORNBRUGH
Staff Writer | December 15, 2022 1:08 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — The former attorney for North Idaho College is pushing back against accusations leveled against him by Art Macomber, the college's new legal counsel.

Marc Lyons resigned as college attorney in late November, after 23 years of service, citing tensions on the board of trustees.

Macomber, who was hired by the trustees during their Dec. 5 meeting, claimed at a special Dec. 8 meeting of the board that Lyons has wrongly withheld records from him and is working against the college.

“Frankly, I was shocked to hear Art Macomber suggest that I’m doing something nefarious or something to hurt the college,” Lyons said. “That’s personally offensive to me and it’s absurd.”

Macomber, who declined to be interviewed for this story, emailed Lyons Dec. 6 to request files related to the college.

“I look to drop by your office very soon to pick up all NIC records,” Macomber wrote. “You have 10 calendar days to transfer the records, which should be plenty of time to make copies that you deem needed for yourself at your cost.”

Included with the email was a memo from NIC board chair Greg McKenzie, instructing Lyons to collect the entire “NIC-related document file and NIC records in all forms, including notes, emails and contact information for past and pending matters.”

But Lyons said he had no files to give.

“I was shocked,” Macomber told NIC trustees last week. “I am of the opinion now that he is working against NIC, that he wants NIC to fail.”

In an emailed reply to Macomber, Lyons said his law firm returned all original records to college personnel. The final drafts of any documents created by Lyons’ firm, such as contracts or leases, are with NIC, not in Lyons’ office.

Macomber said last week that it’s “standard practice” to hand over all files to a client’s new attorney.

Lyons, however, said it’s only standard to provide a successor with records related to ongoing projects and to ask for the law firm’s files is “inappropriate.”

“My law firm’s files are my law firm’s files,” he said.

Lyons maintained that he has no college documents that Macomber needs.

“I have spoken to Idaho Bar Counsel and have confirmed my ethical obligations,” he said in an email to Macomber.

Lyons’ resignation came after the election of three new trustees: Tarie Zimmerman, Brad Corkill and Mike Waggoner.

“It has become clear that my services are no longer desired by those who will soon hold a majority position on the Board of Trustees,” Lyons said in his resignation letter. “While disappointing, this is certainly the right of the board, and I have no desire to further any tension or disturbance at the college.”

In the first meeting of the new board, Waggoner formed a majority bloc with holdover trustees Todd Banducci and Greg McKenzie, who had frequently clashed with Lyons.

After an October board meeting, Banducci insulted Lyons in public. The interaction was captured on video.

“You’re disgusting,” Banducci said. “You are absolutely disgusting. You’re an embarrassment to your profession.”

Banducci introduced the resolution to hire Macomber, who penned both the resolution and his own fee agreement.

He also made the motion to place NIC President Nick Swayne on administrative leave, as recommended by Macomber.

Macomber said the move was necessary so he and McKenzie can investigate a change in Swayne’s contract, which occurred in August with the board’s approval.

Back then, Lyons said he made a “scrivener’s error,” or an unintentional mistake when drafting a contract, related to the termination clause.

The contract originally said “either party” could terminate it without cause. Now it provides that the contract “may be terminated by mutual agreement of the parties, by the president without cause, or by the Board for cause.”

Macomber contended that it was a “material change” and required investigation, while Lyons said the change is self-explanatory.

In 2021, the board voted 3-2 to terminate NIC President Rick MacLennan without cause. MacLennan sued and ultimately received nearly $500,000. That includes a $250,000 payment from NIC’s former insurer, as well as the 12 months of salary and benefits the college agreed to pay him, totaling around $249,000.

After that, Lyons said, few presidential candidates would agree to a contract that allows the board to fire them for no reason.

“In light of what happened a year ago, many of the candidates were somewhat resistant to having a termination without cause,” he said.

It’s unclear what Macomber and McKenzie might investigate, because the discussion about the change and decision to approve it occurred in open session. Both the meeting minutes and a recording of the meeting are publicly available.

“You could investigate what happened simply by going back to the board meeting where it’s all laid out,” Lyons said.

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Macomber

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