Sunday, October 01, 2023

EDITORIAL: Swayne remains target, but why?

| September 13, 2023 1:00 AM

Let’s go fishing in the murky pond at North Idaho College and see what we might catch.

Could be a minnow.

Or it could be a whale.

One of the most-asked questions about Todd Banducci, Greg McKenzie and Mike Waggoner, assisted by one of the most expensive and least qualified attorneys they could find, is this: What have they got against President Nick Swayne, and why are they lying awake nights scheming to get rid of him?

When the looming loss of accreditation threatens the very existence of the college, and the accrediting agency has squarely placed that responsibility on the shoulders of Banducci, McKenzie and Waggoner, why are they far more focused on ejecting the president than addressing their many shortcomings enumerated by the accreditors?

One theory is so simple, it’s easy to overlook. The trio did not hire Swayne — that was done by an interim board majority trying to repair damage Banducci, McKenzie and former Trustee Michael Barnes had already inflicted. Among those destructive acts was firing former President Rick MacLennan without cause — which led to an expensive lawsuit — and replacing him with the school’s former wrestling coach.

Look! There’s a little tug on the fishing line.

McKenzie, Waggoner and Banducci also flatly dislike Swayne, as their rude behavior toward him in public meetings repeatedly shows. Why would they dislike him enough to work overtime — now at $400 an hour for Macomber alone — to try to get rid of him, even after a judge told them to keep their hands off?

Could it be because Swayne acts in the best interests of the college, and not the whims of extremist trustees? Because Swayne is admired and respected by staff, faculty and students, groups that have thrown “no confidence” pies in the faces of the board majority?

Is it because Swayne represents the many citizens outraged by the fiduciary neglect demonstrated by McKenzie, Banducci and Waggoner in continuing to pay two presidents since the college is still on the hook for Greg South, whom they awarded a generous contract when they tried to oust Swayne before legal action saved his job?

Or because Swayne also represents those on and off campus who see the ongoing investment in two lawyers with little or no experience in higher ed as not just frivolous expense, but dangerous, too?

Whoa! The line is really pulling now. Maybe we’ve got something.

As if all that weren’t enough, the board majority and Macomber are now being accused, right or wrong, of trying to manufacture a massive settlement with a former employee who may have had a beef with Swayne.

Macomber has acknowledged that he’s “investigating” a personnel issue, and the figure of $1.3 million as a proposed settlement has emerged even though Macomber is still collecting $400 an hour because his investigation is not complete.

How in the world, you might ask, could a specific, outsized settlement figure be forwarded when it’s not even known if the personnel complaint has a nickel's worth of merit?

Well, it would make perfect sense in a world where three untrustworthy trustees would create a crisis to try to show how derelict in his duty their president is and offer the huge settlement as evidence that he has to go before he destroys the institution the trustees are trying so valiantly to save.

The truth lies somewhere in that murky little NIC pond. Just keep in mind, fishing lines don’t pull unless something's tugging on them from below.

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