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State tries to take control from conservative community college trustees

State tries to take control from conservative community college trustees

Wayne Hoffman
April 12, 2022

The State Board of Education's announcement that it plans to appoint three new members to the North Idaho College Board of Trustees is nothing less than an attempt to wrest control from the remaining two conservative-elected board members. 

If the SBOE pulls it off, it would represent an unprecedented takeover of a local education institution funded and run by local taxpayers. The political coup would also be an attack on the NIC board’s effort to govern the school from the right.

It’s arguable whether state law actually gives the State Board of Education the authority to do this. The board is relying on a loose interpretation of a state statute that gives the North Idaho College board the authority to fill vacancies. The law says, “But if by reason of vacancies there remain on the board less than a majority of the required number of members, appointment to fill such vacancies shall be made by the state board of education.” 

There are two ways to argue that law. The first is that the State Board of Education gets to appoint trustees until a quorum exists for the five-member board to once again conduct business. In other words, the Board of Education gets to fill one of the three openings on the five-member panel. After that, the job of filling remaining vacancies would be the job of the NIC board. 

The State Board of Education has chosen to interpret the statute to mean that state officials will fill all three vacancies, the two that were just announced and the one created by the departure of a trustee who resigned earlier in the year over questions regarding his residency. 

Records show that there’s been a push for several months to get the State Board of Education to consider playing an expanded role so as to contain duly elected trustees Todd Banducci and Greg McKenzie.

Former state Sen. John Goedde of the leftist Republican ilk wrote the Idaho State Board of Education on March 22, urging the board’s intervention even though doing so would go against “local control.” 

“You may feel that locally elected positions should be dealt with locally, but that’s not what statute dictates,” Goedde wrote, noting that the attorney general’s office also — not coincidentally I might add — offered an opinion recently that says the board should fill all three vacancies instead of just one. 

A bill to clarify that the State Board of Education gets to fill vacancies until there’s a quorum failed this past legislative session. But the timing of House Bill 645 and its successor, House Bill 738, makes me wonder whether the “clarification” was largely a political ploy to reinforce the fact that under existing law, the State Board of Education could make its own slate of appointments to a locally elected board beyond the establishment of a quorum. 

Even still the board might also be getting a bit ahead of itself. Technically, the NIC board still has a quorum because there’s only one vacant position. Trustees Christie Wood and Ken Howard said their resignations don’t take effect until May 3. Any action taken by the State Board of Education to fill the vacancies before then would potentially be illegal. 

That fact aside, there’s only one reason for the State Board of Education to fill three vacancies instead of one. It’s to keep the board’s elected conservatives from again having the majority they need to govern the school.

As such, the move also raises questions , one month before the primary elections, for state officials and their challengers. The governor appoints members of the State Board of Education; the superintendent of public instruction is the only state elected official to serve on the State Board of Education); and the attorney general provides legal counsel to the State Board of Education. Which of the candidates support the state’s takeover of a local community college? Which do not?

View Comments
  • To: USA Government says:

    People like me we just ain’t scared of Govt. All I have to say to the Govt. We ain’t listening words so quit talking.

  • Bobby W says:

    My mama said, "You reap what you sow, Bobby". And thats what the wacky, zany fun-loving extremists have done to an otherwise fine educational program.
    Extremists with a purpose but no plan, no experience, and no talent took over the Board.
    What Wayne doesnt want to report is how how the college is stuck with $500,000 for terminating the president without cause, enrollment went down (while its up everywhere else) and theyre tenuously clinging to accreditation.
    Scorched-earth strategies tend to be really good at accomplishing that very goal. Well Done, remaining 2 board members there! You cant even make quorum but youve sure proven who is the boss!
    Youve proven youre not RINOS. Youve proven youre not "leftists". Just please make sure to lock the doors as you close up the shop.

    • Flying on the Wings says:

      ICRIMP paid prior president $250,000 not NIC. He sued for millions but was bought off (due to no real validity to suit) with a pittance that his attorneys received a nice chunk of...AND, if you request information on enrollment you will see that it had been decreasing for a NUMBER of years before the prior president was let go. 3 VP's that left were receiving $130,000 a year - current people in their positions are doing a fine job for less and w/o the title. 2018 survey of staff and faculty indicated major dissatisfaction with top heavy admin and not much concern for their professional development or input into processes or improvement. Do your homework!

      • Bobby W says:

        Uh...yeah, homework accomplished. NIC agreed to pay the former president $29 short of $250,000 over 12 monthly payments.
        And NIC's insurer (the ICRIMP you mention) agreed to pay $250,000 more. ICRIMP, as the insured, would only have paid that if it independently believed its insured, NIC, would be liable for that amount, or more. As the indemnitor, it certainly wouldnt pay squat unless NIC had to.
        So, yeah, homework done. And the stats i read was that enrollment took a sharp dive down. What else do you think would happen as a result of accreditation concerns? (which you dont seem to dispute has happened there)

      • Al says:

        Looks like Bobby really wants you to know he did his homework, "Flying on the Wings"! LOL
        Here's my take on your comments:

        1. Of course the plaintiff sued for more than the resulting settlement. That's not just common, it's standard. How else do you propose you get someone to settle? Watch the Big City Coffee vs. BSU lawsuit as an example and mark my words. If there's a settlement, it'll be for significantly less than the complaint alleges, and, following that hypothetical settlement, IFF and others won't be taking your position, that it's a sign the lawsuit had no validity. It will be touted as a victory.

        I would add that, without reading the complaint against NIC, I would imagine several alternative legal theories were also filed, such as breach of contract, breach of covenant of implied good faith, tortious interference of contract relations, etc. In a nutshell, plaintiffs throw everything against a wall and see what sticks.

        2. And Bobby mentions a good point. Insurers aren't in the business of paying out for claims unless they have to. They perform cost-benefit analyses and if it's more expensive to litigate than to settle, only then will they write the check. So, $250,000 is LESS than ICRIMP's predicted obligation to litigate the matter.

        3. From NIC's perspective, having your insurer defend claims is bad because that can result in increased premiums. Plus the bad P.R., of course. Both points are especially true in this case because it wasn't some "slip and fall" litigation, it was litigation over the decision-making of the current regime at NIC.

        In short, none of that is an indication that the claim against NIC lacked merit.

    • Al says:

      Well-noted, Bobby. Can't sow much from a scorched earth.
      And that's what's in store for us across the State of Idaho. We've got people running for Gov, Lt. Gov, Sec of State, Sec of Ed., local school boards, all kinds of positions, with nothing for a platform or plan but "I'm conservative. See how much of a Trumplodyte I am." Well, we get what we deserve if we vote in people without experience or any substantive ideas for improvement - just a promise that grenades will be launched at "leftist" ideas.

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