An open letter to Todd Banducci, Greg McKenzie, Mike Waggoner and Art Macomber: You have assured the community time and time again that North Idaho College is not at risk of losing accreditation. You have repeatedly stated that you have the college and the students’ best interest in mind. You have sat through endless public comment pleading with you to take action to prevent the loss of our beloved institution. You have failed to provide the community with any explanation of your goal or end game. You have heard from our health care community that they depend on NIC’s nursing program and from the business sector that losing NIC would devastate our community. You have heard from parents who fear losing opportunities of dual enrollment and affordable education for their children. You have heard from students who are anxious and fearful that their credits will be useless, and you’ve done your best to silence their voices by cutting off their mic during their public comment.
I attended NIC twice, once right out of high school when I couldn’t afford to go straight to a four-year school and again in 2016 when I became disabled and could no longer continue in my current career. Both times, I received a quality, affordable education that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. I owe my career to NIC. These are the opportunities that our community is going to lose because of your arrogance and ineptitude.
After reading the letter that North Idaho College received from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) on Feb. 9, I’ve come to the conclusion that you’re nothing more than liars and frauds. You don’t care about the college, the students or this community. If you did, we wouldn’t be in this position. Either that or you’re so unqualified and unequipped to do the job you were elected to do that your incompetence will be the downfall of our beautiful college. Being an elected official does NOT give you license to destroy our institutions. There are far more people in Kootenai County who didn’t vote for you than those who did. You represent your constituents, this community, including those who didn’t vote for you.
The Feb. 9 letter from the NWCCU directed you to “immediately reinstate the President/CEO.” Had you done that, you could have saved the college and avoided President Swayne’s lawsuit. Not only did you refuse to comply with the directive from the NWCCU, but you’ve given little to no explanation to the college and the community regarding why you removed President Swayne. Based on your own words, the community has concluded that you put him on leave because his contract prohibited you from firing him without cause. Since he’s done nothing to warrant being fired for cause, that was your only way to remove him and prevent him from standing in your path of destruction.
Instead, the taxpayers get to foot the bill for an interim president that isn’t needed to the tune of over $387,000 while still paying President Swayne’s salary and benefits. That amount includes one year of salary, a retirement contribution, housing allowance, insurance benefits, signing bonus and moving allowance. I thought “conservatives” like yourself were supposed to be fiscally conservative. Apparently not, because that amount doesn’t even include all the additional money that your actions and your decisions have cost the college to the tune of over $5 million for lost donations, unnecessary salaries, lawsuit settlements and increased insurance costs, to name a few. The letter also advised you to hire qualified legal services, permit the president (not interim) to fill vacant senior administrative positions, adhere to the General Conduct Policy, and refrain from behavior that circumvents the president (not interim).
You failed to do any of these things, and not for lack of effort by trustees Corkill and Zimmerman. As we were taught as children, actions have consequences. I hope you’re proud of yourself because history won’t be kind to you. We can only hope that in the final hours, you’ll finally do the right thing and resign. In closing, I’ll repeat the phrase which has echoed at every NIC board of trustees meeting since Nov. 8, 2022.
SHAME ON YOU!
Laura Tenneson, Former KCDCC Chair