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NIC attorney clarifies property acquisitions

by MARC LYONS
| November 3, 2022 1:00 AM

A Nov. 1, 2022, Coeur d’Alene Press opinion piece by Art Macomber made a number of assertions relating to North Idaho College and certain actions taken on behalf of NIC. One could certainly take exception to much in the opinion piece, but I think it is important to correct the record regarding NIC recently acquiring two parcels of Fort Ground real estate.

There are a couple things that need to be kept in mind when discussing real property acquisitions by public institutions like NIC. Community colleges have statutory restrictions on how real property can be acquired.

When acquiring real property from private parties — as in this case — a community college must have an appraisal done and cannot pay more than the appraised value. The acquisition must be approved by the community college’s board of trustees and at that time the appraisal is entered into the board’s records and becomes a public document.

Idaho’s open meeting laws allow trustees to discuss such purchase opportunities confidentially in executive session. In executive session, the individual trustees have the opportunity to examine in advance the appraisal and other information regarding the transaction.

To go into executive session, 2/3 of the trustees must vote in favor of the executive session and, for a five-member board, that means four members must agree. The final approval by the board of trustees must take place in an open meeting.

It is worth noting that NIC has consistently and for many years sought to acquire property contiguous to the campus to provide for future growth. With respect to the two recent property purchases, appraisals were completed and available for trustee review well in advance of the formal action to approve the purchases.

In these two cases however, the motions to go into executive session to discuss each of these property matters (including review of the appraisals) received two negative votes and thus failed to reach the vote threshold needed. As a result, the discussions and decisions occurred in the open meeting sessions.

While the decisions were made without the benefit of executive session discussion, the process followed the legal requirements, and the properties were acquired consistent with NIC’s long-term goals to help expand its mission.

I hope this helps people better understand NIC’s property purchases.

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Marc Lyons is the attorney for North Idaho College.