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Community reacts to North Idaho College board members turmoil

The board’s actions have reportedly left many NIC employees feeling uneasy and uncertain about what might happen next.
Credit: North Idaho College
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COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho — Community members on and off the North Idaho College campus are responding to two fiery meetings of the board of trustees this week, as reported by our news partners, the Coeur d'Alene Press

A divided board voted Thursday to place President Nick Swayne on administrative leave and invite former wrestling coach Michael Sebaaly to replace him. Sebaaly served as interim president of NIC for about 10 months, from October 2021 until he was replaced by Swayne last summer.

“We don’t care what people think,” college attorney Art Macomber said to the public during Thursday’s board meeting, in reference to bringing Sebaaly back under his previous contract. “We don’t care what you feel.”

Sebaaly, who returned to his position as wrestling coach after Swayne came on board, resigned from NIC in late September, for unknown reasons, after the college placed him on administrative leave for an undetermined period of time.

The online employee directory for Doan University in Crete, Neb. lists Sebaaly as an assistant wrestling coach. He could not be reached for comment Friday.

The board’s decisions came three days after Trustee Todd Banducci introduced a resolution to hire Macomber, a real estate attorney and failed attorney general candidate, to serve as the college’s attorney.

Swayne initially refused to sign the fee agreement Macomber had written, which pays Macomber $325 an hour, about 62% more than NIC’s former legal counsel was paid. Swayne said he would sign it once he was able to confirm it was a legal agreement.

It was Macomber who recommended that trustees place Swayne on administrative leave, citing a change in Swayne’s contract that occurred in September.

The board’s actions have reportedly left many NIC employees feeling uneasy and uncertain about what might happen next.

“People are concerned for their jobs,” said Faculty Assembly Chair Ben Tschida. “Not necessarily individuals feeling targeted at the moment, but a broad sense of concern for the future of this college.”

Staff Assembly Chair Keri Simonet said she was confused by the resolutions passed Monday by trustees.

Both resolutions cited the college’s immediate need for legal counsel while working to address the concerns of its accrediting organization, the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

“I have repeatedly heard certain board members say during board meetings that they believe we are not in danger of losing accreditation,” Simonet told The Press on Wednesday.

Banducci and fellow trustees Greg McKenzie and Mike Waggoner have maintained that the college’s accreditation is not at risk, despite a sanction from the NWCCU.

The sanction may be removed or continued based on the results of an onsite visit in March.

Gil Rossner Jr., of Hayden Lake, shared in a letter to the editor of this newspaper a common refrain among community members discussing this week’s events at NIC.

“I am totally confused as to the motivations of the new majority bloc on the board,” Rossner wrote, in reference to Banducci, McKenzie and Waggoner. “I’m convinced they want to burn the college down. But why?”

Both the office of Idaho Gov. Brad Little and the Idaho State Board of Education had received a handful of inquiries about the NIC board as of Friday afternoon.

The state board is monitoring developments at NIC, spokesman Mike Keckler said Friday, but hasn’t had a chance to meet and discuss actions that occurred this week.

The next meeting of the Idaho State Board of Education is Dec. 21. The meeting agenda is not yet finalized; Keckler said it’s possible NIC will be up for discussion.

The college published a notice Friday of a special board meeting scheduled for today at 3 p.m. in the Student Union Building on the NIC campus. The meeting will also be available for viewing online via Zoom with a link found at nic.edu/board.

On the agenda are action and discussion items related to the president’s contract, as well as “board of trustees support,” chain of command and Military Drive rental properties.

There is also a presentation attached to the board book of documents for the meeting. It details the creation of a new position, a “volunteer board analyst” to collect and interpret data for the board in exchange for paid fuel and supply expenses, an NIC email account, a parking pass and “non-disclosure.”

 The Coeur d'Alene Press is a KREM 2 news partner. For more from our partners, click here.


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