NIC trustees drop lawsuit

With a lawsuit challenging the process now dismissed, interviews for three North Idaho College board vacancies will take place Thursday.

The State Board of Education announced its interview schedule Tuesday, a day after NIC’s two remaining trustees dropped their legal challenge to the State Board interviews.

Board chairman Todd Banducci and Trustee Greg McKenzie filed the lawsuit last week, challenging whether the State Board had the legal authority to fill three vacancies on the five-member board. They argued that Idaho code allows the State Board to fill only one vacancy — enough to give the board three members, and a quorum that would allow trustees to conduct business.

A district judge refused to issue a temporary restraining order to block the State Board’s plan to fill the three vacancies.

On Monday, Banducci and McKenzie filed a motion to dismiss their own case.

“The judge ruled against our interpretation of the statute,” James Bendell, the trustees’ attorney, said in an email Tuesday. “There was no point continuing the litigation.”

Cost was another concern, McKenzie said in a separate email Tuesday. Since Attorney General Lawrence Wasden’s office had said it might seek legal fees, continuing the case was “not a good financial risk,” McKenzie said.

The board turnover is central to the turmoil at the embattled two-year college. Regional accreditors recently issued a warning to NIC — admonishing the school to address a loss of several top administrators and deadlock and dysfunction on its governing board. A loss of accreditation could affect students’ ability to transfer course credits and receive state scholarships.

The trustee turnover began in January, when Michael Barnes stepped down over questions about his residency. Trustees Christie Wood and Ken Howard announced their resignations in April, after the four remaining trustees hit a stalemate in their attempts to choose a successor to Barnes.

That’s when the State Board stepped in, announcing that it would select three new trustees, who will serve until the November elections.

On Thursday, State Board officers will interview eight finalists, selected Monday from a field of 37 applicants.

Here’s the interview schedule (all times Pacific):

Seat 1 (the board seat being vacated by Wood)

Seat 2 (the board seat being vacated by Howard)

Seat 5 (the board seat vacated by Barnes)

There will be no seating for the public during Thursday’s interviews. However, the public can watch the interviews at NIC’s Schuler Performing Arts Center, Boswell Hall, 880 W. Garden Ave., or over NIC’s YouTube channel.

The full State Board will meet Friday to fill the three vacancies. A time for this meeting has not been set yet.

Check back this week for coverage of the State Board’s meetings.

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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