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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

North Idaho College president on conflict with board chair Todd Banducci: ‘These are more than serious distractions’

Banducci  (Courtesy of North Idaho College)

North Idaho College President Rick MacLennan, who has said an “untenable situation” exists involving behavior he’s seen from the college’s Board of Trustees chairman, said last week he is nevertheless committed to helping the college move through the issues.

Todd Banducci has faced calls to step down as chair over the past several weeks from faculty, staff, his fellow board members and others in the college community amid accusations of aggressive and unprofessional behavior toward college employees and other trustees.

MacLennan offered his remarks during the latest Board of Trustees meeting Wednesday, the first time members met since they rejected a resolution that would have removed Banducci as chair by a 3-2 vote.

“These are more than serious distractions,” Mac- Lennan said. “They are issues that the board and the administration will need to work through. I don’t take any pleasure in any of this, but I’m committed to do my part to move these things forward.”

Banducci’s character was called into question by Trustee Christie Wood, who released a Jan. 18 letter to board members that called for Banducci’s immediate resignation for, she said, repeatedly “inappropriate, aggressive or threatening” behavior.

Wednesday’s meeting took place in light of a letter MacLennan addressed to board members earlier in the month.

In the Feb. 12 emailed correspondence, which was obtained by The Spokesman-Review, Mac- Lennan said he felt the board’s expressed commitment to work with a consultant to resolve their issues “neither acknowledges nor resolves” his specific concerns with Banducci’s behavior.

MacLennan specifically called out the board for failing to remove Banducci with the January vote, according to the letter.

“Further, your actions, in effect, are sending a clear message to the college community that any instances of intimidation and aggression one might experience, by persons of privilege and in positions of power, are likely to be ignored and dismissed,” MacLennan wrote.

Speaking to the controversy, Banducci said Wednesday he hopes that “people would allow the trustees to act as professionals, as adults, and work through this and allow us to move forward.”

“I appreciate the concerns but here’s the thing: We’ve got to get our act together in the senior leadership, but don’t let that distract you from doing your jobs,” Banducci said Wednesday, addressing college faculty and staff representatives, “And I hope it hasn’t.”

Trustees also are facing calls from college staff and faculty to reinstate a board ethical conduct policy that was rescinded in December.

During last week’s meeting, board members Michael Barnes and Ken Howard were appointed to a working group to hash out a new policy.

Kai Sedlmayer, president of the Associated Students of North Idaho College, sent a statement to the board last week on behalf of the student group’s officers, according to public records. In the statement, the group called for the board to “resolve conflicts and act with a renewed integrity and professionalism in order to find their way back to the true mission of serving North Idaho College.” The statement did not call for Banducci’s removal.

Meanwhile, Chris Pelchat, chair of the college’s Faculty Assembly, spoke Wednesday to reaffirm the Assembly’s vote of no confidence in Banducci’s leadership as well as the call for the reinstated ethics policy. The college’s Staff Assembly passed a similar resolution.

Staff Assembly Chair Jeff Davis said the group also is recommending the college invoke an independent investigation into the allegations against Banducci.

“We make this recommendation in order to ensure that NIC board members’ decisions about these allegations are based on factual, unbiased information,” Davis said, “and we expect that appropriate actions will be taken by the North Idaho College Board of Trustees based on the results of this investigation.”

The Staff Assembly vote required a do-over, Davis said, after the first attempt via SurveyGizmo – a service the Assembly has used without incident for three years, he added – was shared on Facebook. Out of 139 total responses, there were only 59 unique IP addresses, Davis said; the majority of those who voted multiple times came from Facebook links and were overwhelmingly against the vote of no confidence.

Banducci said he believes the college community is well-divided on these issues.

“We’re not changing the delivery of education,” Banducci said. “We’ve got what sounds like from some vocal minorities that are pushing for some resolutions and have a voice, and yet, we’re airing our own dirty laundry out there and diminishing ourselves as a college and our reputation … It’s rather unseemly, actually.”

Pelchat said while there is a diverse range of opinions among the faculty, he believes the Faculty Assembly ultimately has “a unified voice” after discussing the issues and coming to a vote. He agreed the board’s actions have not steered how he teaches a class.

“I will say, though, that this last month has been incredibly challenging for the campus as a whole,” he said, “and regardless of the intended consequences of an action, once you cast a stone into that pond, the ripple effect goes far whether it was intended to or not.”