Without cause — or explanation — a divided NIC board fires its president

During a raucous public meeting — punctuated by shouting matches and sniping — a divided North Idaho College board of trustees has fired President Rick MacLennan.

The 3-2 board vote means the Coeur d’Alene community college will begin searching for both an interim president and a permanent president, while dipping into college reserves to continue to pay MacLennan’s $222,000-a-year salary.

Meeting Wednesday, Board Chairman Todd Banducci, Vice Chairman Greg McKenzie and trustee Michael Barnes  voted to fire MacLennan without cause. Weeks earlier, the same three trustees voted to rescind a campus mask requirement, imposed by MacLennan — but on Wednesday, none explained their reasons to end MacLennan’s five-year term as president.

But outvoted trustees Christie Wood and Ken Howard had plenty to say.

“This is 100 percent retaliation against a really excellent president,” said Wood, citing a personnel complaint MacLennan has filed against Banducci, which trustees have not investigated.

“I think this whole process is a shambles,” said Howard, criticizing the abrupt decision to oust MacLennan, without a clear succession plan in mind. “I am just absolutely, totally disgusted with this board.”

Before trustees voted on his ouster, MacLennan tried to address trustees, but Banducci cut him off.

“Trustee Banducci, you have bullied me for a long time, and you’re doing it again,” said MacLennan.

An audience member rose to MacLennan’s defense and directed her ire at Banducci.

“Is this what you like, Todd? Chaos?” she said. “I think you are the most inept bully. Right up there with Trump. And you have ruined a great institution.”

Banducci asked security to remove the woman from the meeting room.

During Wednesday’s meeting, Vice President for Instruction Lita Burns agreed on the spot to take over as NIC’s acting president. She will get a raise to $200,000, prorated for the time she serves as president, up from her previous salary of $138,134, the Spokane Spokesman-Review reported.

MacLennan, meanwhile, will receive his salary for a year, and NIC will also pay for his benefits.

Trustees agreed Friday to launch two searches: an in-house search for an interim president, and a national search for a permanent president, the Spokesman-Review reported.

The president’s vacancy isn’t the only challenge facing NIC.

In the wake of complaints against Banducci, accusing the board president of unprofessional behavior, the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities is investigating the college’s accreditation status.

But another challenge facing NIC is the rift within its board — a schism on full display Wednesday night.

On numerous occasions, Banducci and Wood traded verbal jabs, with Wood saying Banducci’s leadership approach would land NIC in court. At one point, Wood challenged McKenzie’s short-lived attempt to propose a collegewide hiring freeze — noting the item was not on the board’s agenda. At another point, Howard criticized Banducci for creating a culture of secrecy — and firing back, Banducci accused Howard of going public about discussions held in closed executive session.

While the makeup of the presidential search committee has not been set, at least two trustees will be on the committee, the Spokesman-Review reported.


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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