Wednesday, June 19, 2024

EDITORIAL: NIC trustees avert yet another disaster

| June 2, 2024 1:00 AM

Some people don’t learn, even in higher education environments.

And when you’re a trustee of one of those environments, that’s a big problem.

Welcome to the ongoing study of Todd Banducci, who after 12 years as a trustee for North Idaho College still shows an alarming consistency in “not getting it.”

At the most recent NIC board meeting, dealing with what could be the final fiscal year budget if the college loses accreditation through board misgovernance, Banducci brought up a bone that’s been stuck in his throat for a while. He made the motion, seconded by Trustee Greg McKenzie, to eliminate the college’s contributions to area chambers of commerce and to the region’s economic development agency, formerly known as Jobs Plus.

Banducci’s stated reasoning: Those organizations can influence trustee elections.

Through the discussion, it was clear that Banducci was peeved because a joint committee from the chambers hosted candidate forums in which candidates from most elected offices were invited to participate. Banducci was missing in action from the last trustee candidate forum, and he didn’t care for “the optics” of viewers seeing an empty chair behind his nameplate.

Trustee Tarie Zimmerman pointed out that Banducci could have improved those optics simply by participating in the forum, but he shrugged off that solution. Instead, he wanted to cut funding — totaling less than $7,000 — to the economic development agency and the Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls, Hayden, Rathdrum, Sandpoint and Wallace chambers of commerce.

That’s rich coming from a trustee who has thrown small fortunes of taxpayer dollars to lawyers and wants to spend additional millions on athletics. But a far greater danger in Banducci’s agenda was exposed by others at the trustee meeting.

Those budget line items are the exclusive responsibility of the college president, Nick Swayne. Not for the first time, Banducci was attempting to do the president’s job, which isn’t just rude, impolitic or lawsuit-inviting; it’s exactly the kind of micromanagement the college’s accrediting agency has repeatedly cited as a primary threat to NIC’s ongoing existence.

The good news is that Banducci’s budget proposal was rejected by the other four trustees, including his usual supporters, McKenzie and Chair Mike Waggoner. If four-fifths of the board is serious about saving accreditation — and this was one small but significant positive indication — there’s hope.

Banducci has also signaled that he might not seek re-election this fall. Terms for Banducci, Waggoner and McKenzie are all up, setting the stage for the most fascinating and important local campaigns of the November election. For anyone who hasn’t been paying attention, now would be a good time to start.