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South approved $40K exit bonus to temporary NIC employee

by KAYE THORNBRUGH
Staff Writer | March 30, 2023 1:07 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — A March 16 email from North Idaho College President Nick Swayne to the college's trustees revealed that Greg South, the interim president now on administrative leave, altered the contract of a temporary employee to add a $40,000 exit bonus after that employee had already resigned.

Swayne’s email to the trustees was provided by NIC to a community member as part of a public records request. That email was then obtained by The Press. Its authenticity was confirmed Wednesday by NIC Chief Communications Officer Laura Rumpler.

"I'm looking for guidance in resolving the issue of Dr. Forkum's departure. Here are the facts that I'm working from — and the circumstances that cause me concern. If there are other facts to consider, please share them," Swayne wrote to the board.

In his email to trustees, Swayne outlined events that occurred in the days immediately following his court-ordered reinstatement, which was ordered Friday, March 3, by Judge Cynthia Meyer. The judge’s order called for Swayne to be reinstated immediately to the role of active president.

Swayne wrote in his email to trustees that at 6:02 p.m. Sunday, March 5, Greg South sent an email “asking payroll (Sarah Garcia) to pay out contracts for Bradford and Forkum effective immediately, first thing Monday morning.”

“The email noted that the employees had cleaned out their offices,” Swayne wrote. “HR's interpretation is that this was notice, via Dr. South, that both had resigned.”

Peggy Bradford was another interim hire by South. Her official hire date was Jan. 9 and Forkum’s was Jan. 4.

Swayne’s email also said that NIC attorney Art Macomber emailed trustees and members of the president’s cabinet at 6:35 a.m. Monday, March 6. Macomber’s email, according to Swayne, was “essentially notifying everyone that I wasn’t the president yet.”

Later Monday, March 6, at 3:13 p.m., South emailed Sarah Garcia, NIC’s vice president of finance and business, Swayne wrote.

Per Swayne, South’s email to Garcia included “notice of a contract modification on Dr. Forkum (signed by Dr. South and Forkum on March 6) who had resigned on Sunday, March 5.”

Swayne also referenced a March 8 email from NIC’s Office of Human Resources to Macomber asking Macomber to clarify the sequence of events “given the timeline above and that the contract modification was dated after Dr. Forkum had resigned (via Dr. South).”

“The difference in actual cost to the college is $12,157 under normal circumstances and $52,238 if we accept the validity of the post-resignation modification,” Swayne wrote to the board.

Forkum’s original contract had no mention of a buy-out, according to Swayne’s email, nor did the email exchange with HR.

NIC has denied The Press’ request for a copy of Forkum’s employment agreement but according to a document posted on the college’s website, Forkum’s annual salary was $103,921.

Rumpler confirmed Wednesday that the college has paid Forkum $26,185.41 as of March 22, which reflects the pay period ending March 12.

Forkum will be paid through March 18, Rumpler said, which means he will receive one more payment from the college.

“President Swayne worked with North Idaho College’s attorney (Art Macomber) on this and the situation was resolved to President Swayne’s satisfaction,” Rumpler said.

She would not disclose how the matter had been resolved.

Trustees named Greg South interim president in December after they placed Swayne on indefinite administrative leave, citing the need to investigate a change in Swayne’s contract. That change occurred in a public meeting last August, with the board’s approval.

South has been on administrative leave since the board voted to reinstate Swayne as active president.

Read the full email at cdapress.com.