Longtime North Idaho College trustee Robert Ely resigned Wednesday amid reports of an altercation with a band member at a basketball game.
Ely, an NIC statistician, allegedly complained that the pep band was too loud at last week’s men’s basketball game against the College of Southern Idaho.
According to NIC student Justin Rufus, a volunteer band member came out of the stands and shouted profanities in Ely’s face.
Rufus was standing nearby to collect statistics for a story he was writing for the NIC Sentinel.
“Ely pushed him away to finish his stats and the guy just came back at him,” Rufus said.
Believing the irate band member was a threatening CSI fan, Rufus grabbed the man and threw him aside before coaches noticed the scuffle, Rufus said.
According to college officials, no charges have been filed in the incident.
In his resignation letter to the board, Ely said: “While I do not believe I have done anything improper, the current positive condition of the college does not deserve enduring another controversy.
“As I will do nothing that would cause harm to this institution, perhaps my resignation is for the best.”
Ely’s departure leaves just four board members to hire NIC’s new president.
Chairman Bill Nixon, Jeanne Givens, Sheila Wood and Barb Chamberlain will now decide who gets NIC’s top post, leaving the remote possibility of a 2-2 split.
Ely said he hopes his 16 years will be remembered as good service to an institution he dearly loves, and that his resignation will put to rest any perceived wrongdoing.
He also wished the board well in their search for a new president, adding regrets that he won’t be part of the decision.
Board deliberations on the new president proceeded in closed session Tuesday night under the direction of Interim President Ron Bell.
Bell is employed by the Association of Community College Trustees, a group hired by the NIC board to help with the search.
But outside ACCT consultant Joe Conte - not Bell - is listed on the October 1997 search committee roster.
Bell is friends with finalist Kae Hutchison of Bellevue Community College. During her interviews on campus, Hutchison told NIC students she heard about the opening through “my friend Ron Bell.”
Some on campus have privately questioned Bell’s active role in the search for the new president.
In a campus-wide letter, Bell said the board won’t consider a replacement for Ely until after a new president is selected March 18. Those interested in the vacant seat may submit a resume and letter after that date, he said.
Board member Jeanne Givens said she was saddened by Ely’s resignation.
“Bob’s greatest strength was in the budget and he’ll be sorely missed,” she said.
But those who led the effort to recall Ely last fall weren’t sorry he stepped down.
Former NIC student body president Renee Scott said Ely had been in disagreements with students before. The only surprise this time is that he’s resigning, she said.
“It’s good to see the board will be able to move forward,” Scott said. “They will practically have a new board and a new president.”
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