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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Former NIC administrator asks for lower bail

A former North Idaho College administrator in jail on charges of soliciting sex from students in exchange for scholarship money wants his bail lowered.

Joseph M. Bekken, who was fired Feb. 2 as NIC’s financial aid director, is in the Kootenai County Jail on $100,000 bail. He has been charged with five felonies, including attempting to procure a prostitute, attempting to misuse public money and bribery.

Bekken, 36, said he can’t post bail or pay a portion of it to secure a bond. He also repeated a request for a public defender.

“My financial situation is rough. My wife is unwilling to provide any financial support or help,” he wrote in a request received this week by the 1st District Court. “I am kind of stuck with receiving legal support, which I desperately need.”

Coeur d’Alene police arrested Bekken on Feb. 18, and the following day District Judge Scott Wayman set bail and rejected Bekken’s request for a public defender, saying he doesn’t qualify. Bekken’s NIC salary was $73,720 a year.

On Monday, a Coeur d’Alene attorney in private practice, Sean Walsh, filed court papers saying he now represents Bekken, who was still in jail late Wednesday afternoon. Walsh was unavailable for comment Wednesday.

NIC hired Bekken in 2010. Before that, he worked as a financial aid counselor at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix until that school fired him.

Bekken was employed there from 2004 to 2009, confirmed Bob Romantic, executive director of communications and public affairs at Grand Canyon University.

“He was terminated for reasons totally unrelated to the issue that he is involved in there in Idaho,” Romantic told The Spokesman-Review.

He would not comment further.

Bekken allegedly used a Craigslist notice to contact students with an offer of NIC Foundation scholarship money in exchange for sexual relations. Police, working with NIC and the FBI, created a false student account under the name “Sheryl Roberts” to respond to the solicitation.

He is accused of securing $587 from the foundation for the fictitious student with the understanding he would go to her apartment to have sex with her on Feb. 2. Police confronted and interviewed him, and the college fired Bekken that day.

The NIC Foundation is a private, nonprofit organization that raises money for scholarships and school programs. Its signature fundraiser is the annual Really BIG Raffle, with the grand prize of a new house built by NIC carpentry students.