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NIC employees vote no confidence in board

by KAYE THORNBRUGH
Staff Writer | December 16, 2022 1:07 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — North Idaho College faculty and staff issued resolutions of no confidence in the board of trustees this week.

Separate resolutions passed by both the Faculty Assembly and the Staff Assembly contend the board is failing to support the college’s mission and call for NIC President Nick Swayne, who trustees placed on administrative leave last week, to be immediately restored to his role.

“It’s us speaking as one voice,” said Staff Assembly Chair Keri Simonet.

The Faculty Assembly’s resolution stated it reaffirms three previous resolutions of no confidence presented to the board Oct. 26, 2021, Feb. 2, 2022 and March 18, 2022.

“Since those resolutions, not only has the Board of Trustees not addressed any of the Faculty Assembly’s previously resolved concerns, but they have instead continued to demonstrate the same troubling behaviors of non-compliance with basic governance standards,” said the most recent resolution of no confidence.

It pointed out the specific “troubling behaviors” as failures to maintain institutional integrity; demonstrate clear authority, roles and responsibilities; maintain an effective system of leadership; and demonstrate transparent decision-making.

The faculty’s resolution said it was initiated in response to the board’s actions at three recent meetings that occurred last week.

That includes trustees voting to suspend numerous NIC policies related to contracting for professional services, presidential authority, filling new and vacant positions and college policy for the creation and elimination of college policy and procedure.

“The act of suspending policies without engagement of the college is evidence that the Board of Trustees is not acting in good faith,” the faculty’s resolution said.

Faculty contend the board is in direct violation of standards for participatory governance set by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, NIC’s accrediting organization, which sanctioned the college with a warning in April.

Placing Swayne on administrative leave has disrupted the college’s ability to meet its mission and created an environment of distrust and uncertainty on campus, staff and faculty said.

“That was one of the biggest blows to morale,” Simonet said. “That was shocking.”

Faculty said the trustees have created a leadership vacuum at the college’s highest operational level.

“This is a crisis of the board’s own creation,” the faculty’s resolution said.

A panel representing the NWCCU took notice of multiple past resolutions while preparing a report on NIC.

“The Board of Trustees at North Idaho College is dysfunctional,” the report said. “Several resolutions of ‘no confidence’ have been issued by faculty and staff leadership bodies.”

The previous resolutions appeared to have no impact on the board’s behavior, the NWCCU panel observed.

“Though the board states that its primary goal is to support students, it is apparent by the board’s actions that this is not the case,” the faculty’s resolution said.

Though the Staff Assembly’s resolution is directed toward all five members of the board, Simonet said not all trustees bear responsibility for the recent turmoil at the college.

“There are three board members and one lawyer that we’re concerned with,” she said.

She referred to Trustees Greg McKenzie, Todd Banducci and Mike Waggoner, as well as newly hired attorney Art Macomber.

Trustees voted 3-2 last week to suspend NIC policies that required the contract for legal services to go out to bid and hire Macomber on the spot.

In a subsequent special meeting, Macomber recommended that the board place Swayne on leave while a detail of the president’s contract is investigated.

The faculty’s resolution called Macomber’s reasoning an “excuse,” adding that a change to Swayne’s contract was a typographical error that was identified and corrected in an open meeting.

The Associated Students of North Idaho College also passed a vote of no confidence in the board last week. The resolution issued by the student government called for trustees to reinstate Swayne and to exercise complete transparency.

“The board’s behavior is unacceptable,” ASNIC President Damian Maxwell said last week.

Maxwell was not permitted to speak at a recent special meeting of the trustees, where board chair Greg McKenzie also refused to read ASNIC’s resolution into the record.

Though NIC staff are disheartened by the board’s recent actions, Simonet said they remain committed to their work and the students they support.

“This isn’t just a job for them,” Simonet said. “They know that they’re making a difference in people’s lives, but the hard work they’re doing is being so overshadowed by the actions of the board. Their very existence here at NIC is being threatened.”

Read the faculty and staff resolutions in full at cdapress.com.

Faculty Assembly resolution

Staff Assembly resolution