Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Rumpler resignation announced

Hagadone News Network | September 1, 2023 1:00 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — It appears Laura Rumpler, North Idaho College’s chief communications and government relations officer, has tendered her resignation.

Attorney Art Macomber informed NIC President Nick Swayne and college trustees Monday that Rumpler notified him she would be resigning effective Sept. 8, the college confirmed Tuesday.

An automatic reply from Rumpler’s NIC-provided email address indicates that she is currently on leave and provides no return date.

After The Press reached out to Rumpler on Tuesday morning to inform her the newspaper was working on an article about her pending resignation, and to give her the opportunity to comment on the matter, Macomber emailed the newspaper Tuesday afternoon.

“For reasons unknown to me, you requested by text to Laura Rumpler a comment by her on her employment status,” Macomber said via email. “As you know, matters related to employment of people at NIC are strictly controlled for privacy reasons.”

For public employees in Idaho, employment status is a matter of public record under the Idaho Public Records Act.

"That said, Ms. Rumpler remains employed at her position as Chief Communications & Government Relations Officer for NIC. I trust the CdA Press will refrain from libel or rumor in your newspaper," wrote Macomber in the email.

At the time of that email, NIC had already confirmed Macomber notified the college president and trustees of Rumpler’s pending resignation.

NIC trustees Greg McKenzie, Todd Banducci and Mike Waggoner voted last week to hire Sandpoint-based attorney D. Colton Boyles as general legal counsel for the college and to retain Macomber’s services in three specific areas: NIC policies, the college president’s summer 2023 evaluation and an investigation into an unspecified personnel matter.

Multiple sources have indicated to The Press that the personnel matter under Macomber’s purview is related to Rumpler and may involve allegations of retaliation against her by Swayne.

Macomber did not immediately answer when asked by email by The Press whether he reached out to the newspaper as legal counsel for North Idaho College or as legal counsel for Rumpler.

Rumpler’s resignation announcement comes in the middle of a two-year employment contract, according to public records obtained by The Press.

In July, following a lawsuit, First District Judge John T. Mitchell ordered NIC to turn over a number of employment agreements to The Press, including Rumpler’s.

The Press submitted a public records request Jan. 4 for the employment contracts of some members of the president’s cabinet, as well some temporary hires who were brought on board by former interim president Greg South.

NIC denied the requests on the grounds that the contracts were “personnel records” and therefore exempt from disclosure under Idaho’s sunshine laws. Rumpler was also the college’s public records custodian.

In late January, the college launched a new “resource page” on its website, which stated “NIC does not release contracts or agreements or any other documents within an employee’s personnel file.”

The Press sued the college and Rumpler for the records in February.

Rumpler testified in July that she understands Idaho public record laws to mean that any documents in any employee’s personnel file cannot be released, including employment agreements.

The court disagreed.

“It is quite clear to the court that the employment contracts are not exempt,” Mitchell said.

Examination of the records revealed that Rumpler’s contract is different, not only from the other employment agreements requested by the newspaper, but from nearly all other NIC employment agreements.

Rumpler began employment at North Idaho College on Jan. 9, 2017, with a starting salary of $103,668. Her annual pay increased to $133,794, effective June 19 of this year. That date is consistent with the effective date of the annual pay increase for most other college staff.

She signed a two-year “retention contract” for employment that runs from April 30, 2022, to June 23, 2024.

The contract, which was signed by former interim president Michael Sebaaly, says NIC would reclassify Rumpler’s position to align with “the level of responsibility, autonomy, decision-making, skillset and representation of an associate vice president or vice president.”

NIC later confirmed that Rumpler’s position was no longer being reclassified.

No one else received a “retention contract” for employment within the last year, NIC confirmed. With the exception of Rumpler, only the college president and interim president have contracts longer than one year.

Unlike other NIC employment agreements reviewed by The Press, Rumpler’s was notarized.

North Idaho College is reportedly working to cover Rumpler’s responsibilities on an interim basis, and it will likely publically post the position in a few weeks.