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“Not working” anymore? The State Council fills in the problematic NIC fee

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A retired ophthalmologist, former state senator and director of personnel are completing the Northern Idaho Board of Trustees.

On Friday, the State Board of Education appointed David Wald, John Goede and Pete Broschet to the NIC board, which takes effect immediately. They will serve until November.

And unlike a number of recent controversial NIC trustee meetings, Friday’s State Council meeting was a sprint. It took the State Council just 10 minutes to fill three vacancies in one unanimous vote.

Appointments brought the NIC board back to work. Prior to Friday’s meeting, the NIC council had only two members – chairman Todd Banducci and proxy Greg Mackenzie – and there was no operational quorum.

While the appointments complete what Council of State President Kurt Liebich called a “non-functioning council,” these appointments could also shift the balance of political power in the governing body of the troubled college.

Banduchi and Mackenzie have been at the center of several controversial council decisions, including a 3-2 vote in favor of firing President Rick McLennan in September and an identical 3-2 vote in favor of raising wrestling coach Michael Sebaali as interim president.

Most recently Banduchi and Mackenzie filed an unsuccessful lawsuit seeking to block appointments to the Council of State.

And now that they are in place, new trustees can make a significant impact on NIC policy, and quickly.

  • Theoretically, the newly appointed trustees could vote to replace Banduchi as chairman. Banduchi has been at the center of many controversies at NIC, and critics say he intimidated campus members and tried to interfere in the college’s day-to-day operations.
  • The new trustees will certainly be of great importance in the recruitment of the permanent president. NIC hopes to have finalists on the Coeur d’Alene campus in June for interviews and site visits.
  • And the new trustees will help compile the NIC’s response to regional accreditors. In April, accreditors issued a stern warning to the NIC, urging the college to fill a number of administrative vacancies, and proxies urged to drop the fight.

In their interviews with State Council staff on Thursday, the recently named trustees were sincere in their assessment of the NIC’s plight.

Accreditation problems are already hampering fundraising efforts, he said Waldretired ophthalmologist who is a member of the NIC Foundation board.

Gade – A 14-year-old veteran of the Statehouse, who served for ten years as chairman of the Senate Education Committee – said not a word about NIC council policy. He said Bandouchi should resign to help the board restore donor confidence.

Broochworking for Empire Airlines as HR director, acknowledged the work ahead: hiring a president and other top administrators and restoring the board’s reputation, perhaps through training ethics trustees.

A quick vote by the State Council on Friday came after a month-long process of filling vacancies.

The council received 37 applications for three vacancies. Three members of the State Council shortlisted eight candidates, and spent Thursday nearly four hours interviews with these finalists.

Praising the applicants’ qualifications – and their understanding of the importance of the NIC – Secretary of State David Hill said the interviews were a “lifting” experience.

“(And) not quite what I expected, to be honest,” he said.

The elections to the State Council take place four months after the already non-functioning NIC fee began to fall apart.

In January, Michael Barnes resigned. An ally of Banduchi and Mackenzie, Barnes resigned amid questions about his residence.

This left the board with four trustees who often quarreled – Banduchi and Mackenzie, as well as veteran proxies Christy Wood and Ken Howard. In April, four guardians failed to agree on a successor to Barnes. After, Wood and Howard have announced their resignations.

This left several vacancies on the NIC board, and the State Council cited the Idaho code to take an unusual position to fill the seats.

Kutenai constituencies will have their say in six months. Three newly filled proxy positions will be included in the ballot in November.

And that should lead to even more turnover. On Thursday, Wald and Gede said they would not run in the fall. Brochett said he would consider running – or step aside if a more qualified candidate appears.

About Kevin Richard

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent visitor to KIVI 6 On Your Side; Idaho Reports on Idaho Public Television; and “Idaho Matters” on State Public Radio Boise. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. You can contact him at [email protected]

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