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Trustees to meet Wednesday

Ex-attorney implores board, college leaders to take immediate steps to maintain accreditation

By KAYE THORNBRUGH Staff Writer

COEUR d’ALENE — The North Idaho College board of trustees will meet Wednesday, and among other things, they will discuss correcting several “possible” open-meeting law violations that occurred during meetings the week of Dec. 5.

Meanwhile, the college’s former attorney has cautioned NIC leadership that doubling down on recent decisions could be disastrous for the college.

“I do not think it is hyperbole to say that there are no other options for the Board of Trustees if NIC is to continue as an accredited college in our community,” attorney Marc Lyons wrote Monday in a letter to college trustees and top administrators.

Lyons wrote that the board has a unique opportunity at Wednesday’s meeting to “rescind and not continue the prior actions.”

“Ratification of the previous resolutions and continuing with those and certain other initiatives ... will result in cataclysmic damage to the institution,” Lyons wrote.

Lyons resigned last month after 23 years as NIC’s attorney.

Trustees replaced him recently with Art Macomber, a local real estate attorney and political ally of several trustees whose hasty hiring appeared to violate both NIC policy and Idaho’s open meeting laws.

The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities sent NIC a letter Saturday, giving the college until Jan. 4 to explain how it is not out of compliance with eligibility requirements and accreditation standards.

The letter came as a response to recent actions by college trustees.

Lyons wrote that NIC is on a path to receiving a show cause determination from NWCCU, a final step before loss of accreditation.

“The college is on the verge of being a failed institution and requires immediate and corrective actions by the Board of Trustees,” Lyons wrote.

Those board actions, per Lyons, include reinstating NIC President Nick Swayne, who the trustees placed on administrative leave last week.

Other actions Lyons said the board must take to protect the college are: “cease and desist from interfering with college operations, including interference with hiring and other personnel decisions; cease and desist from trying to appoint a second interim or acting president; cease and desist from trying to appoint a special board investigator to get access to College files; allow the administration to pursue requests for proposal to select legal counsel for the College; seek immediate training and comply with the open meeting act; and receive appropriate training on your role as members of a board of trustees.”

“Do not let the loss of accreditation for NIC be your legacy,” Lyons wrote.

If NIC loses accreditation, NIC students won’t be eligible for federal financial aid and NIC credits won’t transfer to other institutions.

Credits earned prior to loss of accreditation will remain transferable.

Beyond that, it’s unclear what would happen — because this has never occurred before. Idaho law provides no framework for what happens after a college loses accreditation.

Lyons

Macomber

Swayne

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