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NIC trustees split on acknowledging no confidence votes

by KAYE THORNBRUGH
Hagadone News Network | May 31, 2023 1:00 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — North Idaho College trustees cast a split vote Wednesday night to adopt a statement publicly acknowledging the 13 votes of no confidence passed by students, faculty and staff in the last two years.

Trustees Brad Corkill, Mike Waggoner and Tarie Zimmerman voted to adopt the statement, while Todd Banducci and Greg McKenzie cast dissenting votes.

A team from NIC’s accreditor recently pointed to the acknowledgment as positive progress but cautioned that only time will tell if trustees can sustain effective change. Read the acknowledgment at cdapress.com.

McKenzie, who penned the statement and then voted against adopting it, urged his fellow trustees to table the matter until further notice because he did not anticipate a unanimous vote. He said he hoped to include the statement as part of a final response to accreditors before they make a decision about NIC’s accreditation.

“Makes me sad that I don’t think we’ll get there with a 5-0 vote tonight,” McKenzie said.

Banducci spoke for about 10 minutes about why he refused to acknowledge the votes of no confidence.

He referred to last Tuesday, when former NIC employee Zachary P. Shallbetter went to Banducci’s workplace and allegedly dumped a bucket of soapy water on the trustee.

Shallbetter was arrested at the scene and cited with battery and malicious injury to property, both misdemeanors. He told police he blamed Banducci for the loss of his job.

Banducci provided the following comments during Wednesday night’s meeting:


I’ve had a week to consider what I might say tonight. It’s been an interesting week. I don’t want to come across as the angry guy or anything, so maybe I can just share a few thoughts.

And while I’m not going to accept this at this time, I hope to be able to accept it in the future. Again, I want to thank (Jon Gardunia, Faculty Assembly Vice Chair) and folks for their statement.

I’ve been attacked literally all 11 years I’ve been on this board. I’ve been threatened. I’ve had people holding up “Love Lives Here” signs while they were flipping me off and F-bombing me, grandmothers in the front row sticking their tongues out at me, gentlemen — one of which I don’t know where he went, he was just sitting over there — others aggressively coming up here to the point where we’ve had to put this up (stanchions in front of the table where the board sits at meetings).

We’ve had to have security around us, security parking spots to watch our cars, security getting in and out of the building, security around our wives, if they actually bring enough to come to these meetings, or I get my three biggest friends to surround my wife if she comes to this meeting.

We’ve been doxxed publicly. On the Coeur d’Alene Press site, my house was doxxed. One of my former trustees doxxed me at a meeting in Post Falls while one of our staff was actually on that panel. They were coming at us. I can keep going down the list of things.

What are the optics? You know, being angry, with the state of workplace violence in this country right now. Is anything that happened last Tuesday acceptable to any of you? If you support this or encourage it, you need to get in the mirror and check yourself.

You know what that does to the people in a building when someone comes in and commits an act like that? It shakes them up for days. You know, there’s a lot of collateral damage, especially for younger employees, younger female employees. It was very frightening for them.

Put yourself in their spot. Poor little receptionist was apologizing to me because he got by her. I had to let her know, “That’s not on you. There’s nothing you could’ve done. In fact it might’ve been worse, you might’ve been injured somehow. He might’ve bowled you right over.” Or who knows what would’ve happened if she would’ve confronted him in that state of mind, after being here.

I’d like to know how the exit interview went. Apparently he turned in his ID, his key and then raced himself up to my office, so obviously there was a lot of emotion going on.

But we look at the things that are going on. You dox me personally. You dox my business. That’s what… then the paper writes on Tuesday, oh well, I don’t support that or there’s other things, machinations behind it, legislation, emails that are going to legislators and city officials and how we’re gonna try to undermine the college, local authority, the elected officials of the college.

And then more coverage from The Press. I gave The Press two statements today. We’ll see if they have the honest journalist integrity to print them both. I’d sure love to see it.

I gave them my statement. I’m gonna read it to you. Because (Laura) Rumpler on behalf of the college put mine out because KHQ did the interview with the gentleman and so we went (unintelligible), then KXLY asked for it and so we released it to them. The Spokesman-Review I know got it. I don’t believe they’ve printed it.

The one sided journalism, the hostility, when you foment that — and I’m looking at you, too, because you’re right there, too — there’s so many of you folks that have been party to this and I hope those of you that don’t agree with that sort of approach, I hope you would withdraw from that and don’t support it.

We’re still in Idaho, but we’re doing the same things you see on the national news now. What’s next? Look at the newspaper. Look at the blotter from the sheriff. Are we better than that?

I grew up here. It’s very disappointing and it’s sad and we have young ladies in my office who are still talking about what happened a week ago. It shook them. So if anybody took glee in what happened to me, you need to examine yourself closely because what’s in your heart, that’s a hardness and a darkness. That sort of hate and anger, that diminishes you and that’s holding onto you and that’s gonna make you less and that’s hurting you from the inside out.

So if that’s where you’re at… I won’t start preaching about it. There’s a higher power that can help you here. You’ve gotta work with that. I feel sorry for you if that’s where you’re at.

You can’t have a civil discourse. You can agree with me all you want but you don’t know me and you just wanna hate me, that’s OK. I don’t hate you. You can disagree with me. I’ll read my statement. I just hope everybody does a little check.

A million examples. Three councilmen helped lead the riot we had here. (Coeur d’Alene City Councilman Dan English) said some nice things today and I appreciate that, but he was one of the three when we had a riot that Saturday meeting (referring to the Dec. 10, 2022 board meeting where a fire alarm went off twice).

Can you imagine if three of us did that at their meeting? It’s just common courtesy. It’s support going back and forth. I mentioned that to one of the constituents previously.

You guys have been no confidence-ing us and saying negative things and that continues to foment an attitude and a feeling. Instructors have stolen clipboards, they’ve been accused of pulling fire alarms, they’ve body checked an elected official at one of our meetings, they’ve now attacked me, they’ve done… We are better than that, but if that’s the tone and the tenor we set…

As a senior officer in the military, my troops looked at me to see how we were gonna act. I set the example. Everybody needs to set that example, as college, some of our people… well, we all haven’t done very good. We can do better. I would like to encourage us all to do better.

So here’s the statement that I released that has not been posted, at least not by the press locally. I put this out on Wednesday afternoon (May 17):

“While I acknowledge the rights of people to be able to agree to disagree, yesterday’s actions by Mr. Shallbetter crossed the line and are unacceptable. He terrorized and traumatized the individuals working in our building. It is hard to know what the full impact will be on our employees and their families.

I reviewed the interview Mr. Shallbetter gave to KHQ. Clearly, this is a troubled individual who has misrepresented the facts of our encounter.

Violent events in the workplace like this create a sense of fear and vulnerability for everyone involved.

I appreciate President Swayne’s email to me last night where he shared information to provide greater context. Dr. Swayne wrote, ‘The reason for his one-year contract had nothing to do with you or the board, or any adverse action, so his actions make no sense to me.’

I hope no one condones Mr. Shallbetter’s targeted violent behavior. Separate from me, his actions harmed many innocent bystanders who were only at work, doing their jobs.

Moving forward, I hope this gentleman gets the help he needs.”

Toning down the rhetoric has to come from all sides. I have personally tried hard through the last couple years, which have been pretty trying, to not personally attack or write things to the paper or go after people individually or yell or cuss or scream.

If we could all reciprocate that back and forth I think that would go a long way to helping. If I could feel comfortable that people are actually in that spirit, then I’ll be more inclined to participate in the acknowledgment.

The whole time we were under these threats of accreditation, there are some simple acts that could’ve been one by everybody. And yet the aggressive nature of an act has just continued. It’s a pile on. In my mind, I don’t understand how people thought that was helpful.

Threaten and attack. Should’ve been obvious a couple, three years ago I wasn’t gonna quit. They come after a decorated veteran. I guess at least they came after me this time. It would be better if it doesn’t involve everybody in my building.

I put that out there and I share that with you. If The Press would be so kind, I would appreciate if they would post my statement so everybody can see it and I would also hope those other statements I provided. I provided another one from another organization.

I do appreciate hearing some of the words I heard tonight, (Jon Gardunia) in particular. I wanna thank you guys. You were preemptive. You were right on it. I knew it was heartfelt.

I actually had the opportunity to run into Kristi at Staples after this was coming down this past week and she was with a mutual friend, a client of mine, and had a lovely visit. I didn’t even recognize her initially as we were visiting. We introduced ourselves. I could tell it was sincere from you guys, so thank you. I’m done, sir.