NIC Trustee Slams Cd’A Press, Equates Coverage to Fiction Writings

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COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho – North Idaho College (NIC) Board of Trustees held their monthly business meeting Wednesday evening with a full agenda that required four and a half hours to conclude.

Before the business of the meeting could be addressed, the board heard from some of their constituent groups, including Matt Perkarski from NIC’s staff assembly.  Perkarski’s address to the board prompted a clarifying response from Trustee Todd Banducci.  During Banducci’s in depth response he addressed the board’s decision to appeal Swayne’s lawsuit, the Cd’A Press coverage of NIC, employee insubordination, and civility in public discourse. 

“I am going to talk about the Press a lot today … the falsehood you perpetuate.  We have a lot of fiction writers, you must have a lot of space to fill in here. Some of the people get just miles of ink.” Banducci stated while the Cd’A Press staff reporter, Kaye Thornbrugh, sat in the front row.

“We want to get to some truth.  It would be nice if the narrative wasn’t trying to be set in advance of all these topics. It’s like, if you shout it out there first, and if you can say it first, even if it’s untrue, and it’s a fabrication or a falsehood, but it sticks.”  continued Banducci, “The lie goes around the world before the truth even gets off the doorstep.”

The meeting then progressed to presentations by staff concerning transfer programs, student success, work with Coeur d’Alene Tribe, and disability support services and health counseling.  Followed by the board’s discussion and action items which included a wide range of topics.  

During board discussion, there was contention between Chair McKenzie and President Swayne over the process of selecting applicants for the college’s strategic plan development.  So far, twenty-one applicants have responded to the Request for Proposal (RFP).  McKenzie believes that NWCCU wants all applicants of RFPs to be brought to the board, Swayne disagreed.  It was decided that the four finalists will be submitted to the board one week prior to selecting the firm to develop the strategic plan.

McKenzie addressed the importance of transparency relating to institutional memberships and aligned partnerships. “Partnerships are important.  Nonprofits essentially are good and provide a lot of benefit to society, but the taxpayer funds demand the utmost transparency, and nonprofits sometimes do not afford that.”  McKenzie stated. “I do anticipate this board choosing not to fund certain organizations on this list.  From my experience on this board, I will never personally vote to approve money for Jobs Plus, also known as Cd’A Economic Development Council.  I will gladly join [my] ranks among other local elected leaders who believe taxpayer funds should not be obscured by opaque nonprofits.”  McKenzie went on to explain how NIC has been paying Jobs Plus $15,000 annually, and how Jobs Plus has teamed up with political activists from the “Save NIC” crowd to harm the college.

Regarding the nursing reciprocation agreement, Swayne and the board were frustrated over Idaho State University filling up nursing positions at Kootenai Health, blocking out NIC students.  McKenzie read a resolution acknowledging the successful NIC nursing program, and announced that NIC nursing graduates will now be eligible to apply for Nurse Technician licensure in Washington. 

Concerning the board’s draft letter of response addressing faculty and staff concerns, Trustee Brad Corkill requested a subcommittee be formed to craft an improved version.  Banducci agrees there needs to be more depth to the board’s response, while both Trustee Tarie Zimmerman and Trustee Mike Waggoner stated the current document is not something they can support.  McKenzie and Corkill will comprise the subcommittee, and they will meet before the October board meeting.

The board discussed censure of Zimmerman for disclosing information addressed in executive session.  Banducci insists most of the information that Zimmerman disseminated was inaccurate, including her claim that there was “no basis” for decisions the board made.  Everyone was reminded that during the June 7th board meeting, the trustees unanimously approved hiring an investigator.  Zimmerman read prepared remarks, laying claim to her first amendment rights.  Banducci countered that her free speech should include the truth, instead of inaccuracies and misrepresentations.  The matter to censure was tabled in a 3-0 vote.

Additional frustrations arose concerning the president’s evaluation, with a lack of understanding between Swayne and the board as to the frequency evaluations should be conducted.  What remains unclear is how NIC has functioned for decades without a formal policy governing the procedure by which the board evaluates the person they hire to oversee the operations of the college.  It appears there has been significant neglect by previous boards to exercise good governing practices.  Christi Wood sat on the NIC board for 17 years from 2004-2021.

The evening’s meeting ended a little after 10:30 p.m.