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ANALYSIS: Board meeting could seal NIC’s fate

by MAUREEN DOLAN
Staff Writer | April 23, 2023 4:49 PM

The events about to transpire at Monday’s meeting of the North Idaho College Board of Trustees could be a death knell for the college’s accreditation and possibly the college itself.

Despite a March 3 order by Judge Cynthia Meyer reinstating President Nick Swayne as active president of the college, the agenda for Monday’s meeting includes what appears will be an attempt by Trustees Todd Banducci, Greg McKenzie and Mike Waggoner, as well as NIC attorney Art Macomber, to take action that contradicts that order.

Meyer’s order called for Swayne to be reinstated as active president for the duration of litigation of a lawsuit Swayne filed after being placed on administrative leave in December by McKenzie, Banducci and Waggoner, a move recommended by Macomber.

The agenda for Monday’s board meeting, scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. in Rooms 1A-B in the Kootenai County Administration Building, 451 Government Way, Coeur d’Alene, includes a discussion and vote regarding a possible open meeting violation at the June 22, 2022 board meeting. During that meeting trustees voted 3-2 to hire Swayne. The board at that time comprised David Wold, John Goedde, Pete Broschet, Todd Banducci and Greg McKenzie. Banducci and McKenzie cast the opposing votes.

However, it appears that under the law, a possible open meeting violation last June 22 wouldn’t matter now.

As Judge Meyer noted in her March 3 memorandum, “Any action the board may have taken due to its alleged violations of Idaho’s Open Meeting Laws are now time barred.”

The law clearly states, and it’s reiterated in the Open Meeting Law Manual produced by Idaho Attorney General Raul Labrador, that anyone affected by an open meeting law violation is entitled to bring a lawsuit asking the court to declare any improper actions void, but it needs to be done within 30 days of the decision or action. In this case, the decision or action was NIC’s entrance into the contract with Swayne. “Any other” lawsuit must commence within six months of the violation.

Judge Meyer wrote March 3 that time ran out in January for any legal action related to a June 22 open meeting violation. It seems the NIC board would be operating outside the law if any action is taken during Monday’s meeting.

The timing could not be worse for NIC’s fate. In just two days, evaluators for the college’s accrediting body, the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, will make a site visit to the college, one of the last steps before the commission decides whether to remove NIC’s accreditation or take a less drastic step that would give the college time to come into compliance.

NWCCU officials have cited NIC board dysfunction as a primary threat to the school’s accreditation. Not following a direct court order would likely add to the long list of dysfunction examples, if not settle the accreditation question outright.

It’s unclear what possible June 22 open meeting law violation the NIC trustees plan to discuss Monday.

That information is likely contained in another item referenced on Monday’s meeting agenda: a report by NIC attorney Art Macomber on his investigation of Swayne’s contract.

That investigation report has not been shared with the public and to date, it has cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars paid to Macomber. The investigation was launched by Macomber immediately after he was hired by the board Dec. 5 following longtime college attorney Marc Lyons’ resignation.

It’s not even clear if Macomber’s report will be shared with those paying for it - tuition payers, Kootenai County property taxpayers and state taxpayers. It’s so top-secret that in another agenda item the trustees will consider censuring Trustee Brad Corkill for “unauthorized distribution” of the report.

Former trustees John Goedde, a former longtime Idaho legislator with extensive board experience, and Pete Broschet, who were on the board when the contract was approved, said they were never interviewed for Macomber’s investigation.

Broschet said Sunday that the only time he’s heard from Macomber was when he received a subpoena from him. That subpoena was among several later rejected by the court.

“When we became trustees, John Goedde and Marc Lyons made sure we understood open meeting laws, and we were very careful not to violate them,” Broschet said.

This meeting is taking place at the county administration building. The public may attend in person or via Zoom: https://nic.zoom.us/j/87479501695.

An executive session is scheduled for 5:30 p.m., ahead of the full meeting in open session.

The agenda does not include an opportunity for public comment.

The full agenda for Monday’s meeting can be read at cdapress.com.

North Idaho College Board of Trustees Special Meeting - April 24, 2023 - Agenda

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