(UPDATED, 2:08 p.m., to reflect a change in Monday’s board meeting agenda.)
Three North Idaho College trustees used their private email accounts to prepare to hire a political ally as the college’s attorney, and place President Nick Swayne on leave.
The Coeur d’Alene Press reported on the emails, which came to light during a court hearing Thursday. The court hearing predated a contentious board meeting scheduled for Monday — and a crucial accreditation site visit on tap for this week.
The email questions date back to December, when Trustees Greg McKenzie, Todd Banducci and Mike Waggoner went on personal email to discuss two controversial public moves: hiring Art Macomber as attorney, and placing Swayne on paid administrative leave.
Banducci and Waggoner frequently use personal emails for college correspondence, while McKenzie typically uses an NIC account and occasionally uses a personal account for college business, Kaye Thornbrugh of the Coeur d’Alene Press reported.
The emails became a focal point in a hearing on a lawsuit against McKenzie, Banducci, Waggoner and Macomber, accusing the four of fraud and open meetings law violations.
Kinzo Mihara — an attorney representing the plaintiff, former Coeur d’Alene City Attorney Mike Gridley — said the emails are central to the allegations of open meeting violations. “Sunshine needs to shine on these facts,” Mihara said, according to Thornbrugh’s report.
Brittney Adams, an attorney representing the trustees and former NIC interim President Gregory South, denied that the emails were an attempt to sidestep the open meetings law, Thornbrugh reported.
Open meeting issues could figure prominently during Monday night’s trustee meeting.
According to one item on Monday’s agenda, trustees might seek to “cure,” or undo actions from a public meeting in June, when Swayne was hired. Swayne was hired at the meeting, over objections from McKenzie and Banducci.
The open meetings issue is just one of several contentious items on Monday’s agenda. Trustees are slated to discuss Macomber’s investigation into Swayne’s contract, and could discuss a possible censure of Trustee Brad Corkill.
After Monday’s meeting, a regional accreditation team is scheduled to visit the NIC campus this week for a site review.
The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities asked NIC to submit a “show cause” report, the embattled community college’s case to remain accredited.
An accreditation decision isn’t likely before June.