Trustee calls foul on NIC meeting

From the Coeur d’Alene Press

COEUR d’ALENE – A North Idaho College trustee is questioning the legality of a board meeting held earlier this month, and is calling for a motion passed as a result of that meeting to be rescinded.

Christie Wood has asked that the board members, when they meet next week, consider canceling the motion made by Ron Nilson and seconded by Todd Banducci.

The item is on the agenda for the board’s regular monthly meeting on Wednesday.

“We often talk about being open and transparent and this was non-transparent,” Wood said. “There was no opportunity for the board to have input.”

The meeting in question took place on Saturday, April 6, with three of the trustees on the five-member board in attendance: Nilson, Banducci and Judy Meyer.

A notice that the meeting would occur was posted on NIC’s website on April 3, in accordance with the state’s open meeting law. The notice stated the meeting would take place in executive session, meaning behind closed doors. The purpose of the meeting – to discuss personnel matters – is one of the few topics Idaho’s open meeting law allows government officials to discuss without the public present.

Wood said the meeting was held so Nilson and Banducci, the board’s newest trustees, could learn more about faculty members now being considered for tenure.

Tenure at NIC, according to the college’s policy, is awarded to full-time faculty members “in recognition of demonstrated proficiency.” With tenure comes the “reasonable right to continued employment,” unless the faculty member is terminated for cause, which the policy lists as any actions that may be damaging or detrimental to the college or its students. Other cases in which tenured faculty members may be terminated include under the college’s reduction in force policy and if the employee voluntarily retires, resigns or abandons his or her position.

Wood, who has been on the NIC board since 2004, said she did not attend the April 6 meeting because she didn’t have any questions about the candidates being considered. Wood said that Ken Howard, the trustee who chairs the board, was out of town at the time.

“From what I understand, they spent two hours talking about policy on tenure and sabbaticals,” Wood said.

Idaho Code requires that policy discussions occur in public, in open session.

Wood said she learned that during the executive session, Nilson called for a public forum to be held, to discuss the topics.

The minutes of the meeting show that it began at 10 a.m. and at 12:30 p.m., Nilson, Banducci and Meyer moved the meeting from executive session to open session. The minutes state that after a “brief discussion” about holding a public forum, Nilson made a motion to hold a forum in the near future, and Banducci seconded it, so with just three board members present, the motion passed.

“When I found out how that happened, I was very disappointed because that violated open meeting law,” Wood said.

Wood said she’s concerned because she would have wanted to be part of the policy discussion that took place, and that because it affects people’s jobs, it should have taken place in public so the faculty members could attend.

Wood said she asked Nilson to rescind the motion, but he refused. Banducci told her he would think about it, she said.

Nilson could not be reached for comment on Friday, and Banducci told The Press he didn’t think it was appropriate to discuss what occurred.

“I’m going to have to withhold comment at this time,” Banducci said.

Judy Meyer said she doesn’t feel an open meeting violation occurred, but she understands Wood’s concerns.

“She wasn’t there, and because it was an executive session, I can’t discuss it further,” Meyer said. “The solution is doing as she’s asked, and have all the board members take a look at it.”

The North Idaho College Board of Trustees will hold their regular monthly meeting Wednesday at 6 p.m. on the NIC campus, in the Edminster Student Union Building’s Lake Coeur d’Alene Room.

From the Coeur d’Alene Press

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