Two trustees on the board of North Idaho College have sued the Idaho State Board of Education in an attempt to block the State Board of Education from filling trustee vacancies at the community college.
Tuesday’s lawsuit, filed by Todd Banducci and Gregory McKenzie in Kootenai County’s First Judicial District, represents the latest development in a turbulent year for the Coeur d’Alene-based community college.
In September, Banducci, McKenzie and former North Idaho College trustee Michael Barnes voted without warning or cause to fire former North Idaho College president Rick MacLennan, the Spokesman-Review and Idaho Education News reported. Weeks earlier, Banducci, McKenzie and Barnes had united to rescind a new mask mandate that MacLennan had implemented, the Inlander reported.
In January, Barnes resigned from North Idaho College’s board of trustees.
Then, on April 8, North Idaho College trustees Christie Wood and Ken Howard announced their resignation from the college’s board of trustees, effective May 3.
The resignations of Barnes, Wood and Howard would leave three of the five seats on the North Idaho College board of trustees vacant, and short of a majority quorum necessary to conduct business.
Idaho State Board of Education announced it would fill trustee vacancies
Meanwhile, the State Board of Education announced in an April 8 press release it would initiate a process to fill the vacant trustees seats until November’s next trustee election.
“Idaho Code provides that the State Board of Education shall fill vacancies if there are two or fewer trustees remaining on a community college board,” State Board of Education Executive Director Matt Freeman said in an April 8 written statement. “The State Board will soon release an announcement seeking applications from residents of each of the soon-to-be vacant community college trustee zones at North Idaho College.”
On April 12, State Board of Education officials put out a call for applications for the vacant board seats and set a deadline of April 25.
The State Board received 37 applications for those vacant seats on North Idaho College’s board of trustees, Idaho Education News reported Tuesday. Three former legislators, including previous Senate Education Committee Chairman John Goedde, former House Education Chairman Bob Nonini and former Rep. Dean Haagenson were among the 37 applicants, Idaho EdNews reported.
Also on Tuesday, Banducci and McKenzie, the two remaining North Idaho College trustees who have not announced their resignation, filed suit attempting to block the State Board of Education from filling those vacancies.
NIC trustees’ lawsuit argues state board should only be able to fill one position
In the suit, Banducci and McKenzie argue the State Board of Education should only be allowed to fill one of the three vacancies.
“It is the clear intent of the statute that the State Board of Education only appoint trustees needed to constitute a majority of members of the board,” Banducci and McKenzie’s attorney wrote in the lawsuit.
Deputy Attorney General Dayton P. Reed responded on behalf of the State Board of Education on Wednesday, court records indicate. He wrote the State Board of Education is required to fill the vacancies when the board of trustees lacks a quorum and is unable to conduct its own business. Reed said Banducci and McKenzie have known about the vacancy created by Barnes’ departure since January and the North Idaho College board of trustees has been unable to fill the vacancy in that time period.
Reed argued on the state board’s behalf that if Banducci and McKenzie wanted to stop the State Board of Education from filling the vacancies, all they had to do is work with Wood and Howard before they resigned to fill the vacancies on their own.
Court records indicate a hearing was held Wednesday afternoon on Banducci and McKenzie’s request for a temporary restraining order to block the State Board of Education from filling the trustee vacancies.
An email from Freeman obtained by the Idaho Capital Sun on Thursday indicated the judge denied the temporary restraining order. In his response on Wednesday, Reed said the State Board of Education will move forward with a full motion to dismiss.
The State Board of Education is scheduled to meet on May 6 to deliberate and appoint three new trustees for North Idaho College, the State Board of Education said in its April 12 statement calling for trustee applications.
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