Tuesday, May 28, 2024

EDITORIAL: Library board follows NIC's fateful footsteps

| September 15, 2023 1:00 AM

Bad governance is contagious.

It spreads through unqualified, agenda-driven candidates like North Idaho College trustees Todd Banducci, Greg McKenzie and Mike Waggoner. Those three and one of their former colleagues, Michael Barnes, have driven the college to the very edge of the cliff, and it’s possible that the only reason NIC hasn’t lost accreditation is because its accrediting agency is waiting until November 2024 to see if voters correct these disastrous mistakes.

But that’s how bad governance is spread. It starts with a deeply flawed “vetting and rating” system of candidates by a group with extreme views, like the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee, which proudly supported the candidacies of Barnes, Banducci, McKenzie and Waggoner.

The KCRCC misleads many true Republicans into believing its endorsements are based on sound, rational analysis. Time is showing the exact opposite, as unqualified, agenda-driven elected officials are proliferating in Kootenai County.

Bad governance has quickly become standard operating procedure on the Community Library Network board. Chaired by KCRCC-endorsed trustee Rachelle Ottosen and newly elected, KCRCC-endorsed trustees Tim Plass and Tom Hanley, the board has veered off the road to good governance in spectacular fashion.

While every library board meeting now has its share of bloody accidents, the meeting last Friday in Harrison demonstrated well what happens when you have the wrong people at the wheel of the bookmobile.

First, citizens learned that even though there have been no claims against the library network that might lead its insurer to significantly raise rates or drop the network altogether, that insurer has notified the board that “changes” are imminent.

Whether the network’s coverage is being terminated or rates are skyrocketing was not disclosed, but the perils of bad governance quickly leaped into the spotlight.

Without any expensive claims in recent memory, CLN board members should understand that the sudden change is due to serious questions of their leadership. That’s what happened with NIC’s board majority, and it ended up costing the college, its students and taxpayers hundreds of thousands of extra dollars for insurance coverage.

So how did the library network’s board respond to the bad insurance news? Deciding on some honest self-analysis that might explain why they’ve panicked their insurer, never mind many of their patrons and other taxpayers? And then charting a course to remedy some of their shortcomings?

No. That would be good governance. Instead, Trustee Plass pivoted on the spot and recommended the board hire Redman & Company Insurance of Coeur d’Alene. A good board member would at least have suggested a request for bids be prepared, but that’s not what Plass did.

He pitched a specific agency, and if you look at it closely, it makes perfect sense from a bad governance perspective.

Redman & Company Insurance may be an outstanding company, one deserving of an opportunity to bid on the library network’s contract. Headed by first-term state Rep. Jordan Redman, the agency also happens to be a major donor to the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee.

According to financial disclosure records with the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office, Redman & Company Insurance has donated $50,200 to KCRCC just since March 2020. While the donations are perfectly legal, a stench arises when a library board trustee recommends bypassing a standard bidding process to reward a kindred spirit.

That’s the sort of action that leads to escalating expenses and collapsing public trust. What's really alarming is that, unchecked, the KCRCC will ensure bad governance becomes the norm, not an exception.