More legal maneuvering at NIC

North Idaho College has hired a new lawyer — just one day after the college released a long-awaited investigative report from its soon-to-be former attorney.

On a 3-2 vote, trustees on Wednesday hired Bob Faucher, a senior partner with the Boise law firm Holland & Hart, Kaye Thornbrugh of the Coeur d’Alene Press reported.

Board chairman Greg McKenzie cast a reluctant tiebreaking vote in favor of the hire, deferring to President Nick Swayne, Thornbrugh reported. “It’s hard to find a lawyer at the recommendation of an individual who is also suing you,” McKenzie said. “But I’m going to extend trust that Dr. Swayne is doing the best for the college.”

After trustees voted to place Swayne on paid leave, Swayne sued, seeking permanent reinstatement to his post. Swayne is on the job now, only after a judge ordered his reinstatement while the lawsuit is pending.

Faucher will begin work in June, and current NIC attorney Art Macomber will facilitate the transition, Thornbrugh reported.

Macomber — a political ally aligned with McKenzie and two other Kootenai County Republican Central Committee-endorsed trustees — was hired in December. Trustees then moved quickly to place Swayne on leave, saying they wanted to give Macomber a chance to investigate the president’s contract.

The result of that investigation, a 173-page report, went public Tuesday.

Some key assertions from Macomber’s report:

  • Three trustees voted to hire Swayne in June — but only after orchestrating the move through a series of emails and sidebars. These discussions, held “outside of and prior to a public meeting,” constituted a violation of Idaho’s open meeting law, Macomber wrote.
  • Swayne was hired by a cadre of three appointees, selected by the State Board of Education, and all three had ties to NIC’s charitable foundation. In his report, Macomber openly questions whether Swayne is receiving a “second paycheck” from the foundation, while conceding he had “no written evidence” supporting this claim.
  • Macomber again said NIC officials made a major change, and not a clerical change, to Swayne’s contract. Originally, the contract said the board or Swayne could terminate the contract without cause. The contract now allows only Swayne that authority. “This was not a minor error,” Macomber wrote.
  • The court order, which keeps Swayne on the job for the duration of his legal appeal, essentially ties trustees’ hands. “The board cannot cease to employ Dr. Swayne for an unknown amount of time,” Macomber wrote.

Earlier this week, trustees declared Swayne’s contract null and void, on a 3-2 vote.



Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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