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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

North Idaho College Board sees new chairman as 3 new trustees join

North Idaho College trustees Todd Banducci, right, and Greg McKenzie supported the appointment of Head Wrestling Coach Mike Sebaaly as interim president on Monday, Oct. 25, 2021.  (Greg Mason/The Spokesman-Review)

Todd Banducci, who has been at the center of controversy surrounding the North Idaho College board of trustees, is out as chairman.

Banducci stepped down without a fight at a special board meeting Friday. In the final motion of the night, Banducci moved to appoint new trustee Dr. David Wold as chairman.

All trustees voted in favor without any further comments or discussion.

Wold, a retired ophthalmologist who also serves on the North Idaho College Foundation board, said he was looking forward to working with the other trustees in the role.

Friday’s meeting was the first time since January that a full, five-person board had met. Former trustee Michael Barnes resigned in January after questions arose about his residency, and trustees Christie Wood and Ken Howard resigned last month because they said the ”community deserves better.” Once Barnes left, the board often was at a stalemate, with Wood and Howard on one side and Banducci and Greg McKenzie on the other. When they couldn’t agree on a replacement for Barnes, Wood and Howard stepped down, leaving the board without a quorum to meet and make decisions.

The State Board of Education stepped in and appointed three new trustees last week, despite a lawsuit from Banducci and McKenzie.

The Board of Education appointed Wold; John Goedde, a former state senator; and Pete Broschet, who works for Empire Airlines.

Discussion on a number of motions showed the new trustees will likely clash with Banducci and McKenzie, who will now be in the minority.

During a talk about salary for the next president of the college, Goedde pushed for higher pay as this person would be coming into “what remains a toxic environment.”

Banducci pushed back on the comment, saying it was not valid. The issues surrounding the college – an accreditation investigation, possible loss of liability insurance and three recent vacancies – were exaggerated, he said.

“The tragedy here is you’ve manufactured this crisis,” Banducci said. “We’re shooting ourselves in the foot.”

The new trustees are joining at a difficult time for the board. The college’s accreditation status was almost revoked because of complaints about the board and its leadership. A recent investigation ended with a warning from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities that could lead to more consequences if issues aren’t resolved in the next year.

This week, the Coeur d’Alene Press reported the college’s property-casualty insurer would not renew the college’s policy, which expires June 30. The Idaho Risk Management Program said it would not renew the policy for “numerous factors,” including adverse claim development and increasing risk exposures.

Those numerous factors could include a January 2021 windstorm that caused damage across campus, or a $250,000 wrongful termination settlement with former NIC president Rick MacLennan, who was fired without cause last year. MacLennan alleged he was fired in retaliation for comments he made about Banducci, calling him aggressive, unprofessional and threatening.

The board on Friday voted to appeal the insurance decision. Goedde said the appeal needed to be done “very, very soon” as the college’s insurance expires at the end of June.

Banducci pushed back on the idea that the loss of coverage was because of issues that came up during his time as chairman. He said he has worked extensively with attorneys at the Idaho Risk Management Program during the MacLennan situation, disputing reporting from the Coeur d’Alene Press that said Banducci rejected the insurer’s offer to advise the board.

After Banducci’s comments, Wold encouraged the board to pass the motion to appeal the decision, which he said could help remedy the situation.

“Let’s stick with the motion, stick with the present, and not spend a lot of time with the past,” Wold said.

The new trustees will have a large role in the hiring of a permanent president of the college. MacLennan’s lawsuit was settled in January, but no permanent president has been appointed.

Michael Sebaaly, the school’s former wrestling coach, has served as interim president since November.

Laurel Demkovich's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.