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NIC president terminated

by HANNAH NEFF/Staff writer
| September 23, 2021 1:09 AM

In a 3-2 vote, the North Idaho College board of trustees voted to terminate college President Rick MacLennan without cause by the end of day Thursday, ending his five-year term as the longest-serving president among Idaho’s community colleges.

Board chair Todd Banducci and trustees Michael Barnes and Greg McKenzie voted for the motion by Barnes to pass, with Christie Wood and Ken Howard voting against.

“(MacLennan)’s done nothing wrong here, this is 100% retaliation against an excellent president,” Wood said. “There's no reason for a motion like this.”

Wood said numerous stakeholders in the community, staff and faculty have made it clear that they find great value in MacLennan’s leadership.

The audience of over 100 people, with more than 200 attending via Zoom, verbally voiced their opinions while the vote took place at the board meeting Wednesday night.

Coeur d’Alene resident Shari Williams was escorted from the room after addressing Banducci regarding what she said was bullying of the college president.

Several members of the audience stood and clapped for MacLennan as the board stepped away for a short recess.

“I find this unsettling because I know the effect that it's having on the faculty and staff and the institution and the people who love this institution,” Howard said. “The fact that there are personality differences is not a reason to dismiss the president.”

According to the president’s contract, NIC agrees to pay MacLennan 12 months of salary and benefits or the remainder of the term of the contract, whichever is less.

The contract reads, “This provision shall be construed as liquidated damages, and not as a penalty, to compensate the President for the injury by reason of such termination, it being impossible to ascertain or estimate the entire or exact cost, damage or injury that the President may sustain by reason of such termination and such sum is agreed upon as full compensation for the injury or damage suffered by the President.”

MacLennan’s contract has about a year-and-a-half remaining.

His current annual salary is $222,691.56.

Chris Martin, vice president for finance and business affairs, said the president’s salary is currently budgeted through June of 2022.

If there was additional funds needed to cover a salary for an interim president on top of paying out MacLennan’s contract, board approval would be sought to use reserve funds.

“Taxpayers tonight will just write a check for over $220,000,” Wood said.

Howard requested to amend the motion to move the termination out two months to allow time for the institution to find a new president.

The motion failed, with Banducci, Barnes and McKenzie voting against.

Lita Burns, vice president for instruction, was voted in by the board to stand in as acting president once MacLennan’s contract is terminated at the end of today, with Wood abstaining from voting.

“The termination of Dr. MacLennan will leave a void in the college and in this community,” said Sarah Martin, chair of staff assembly. “After attending tonight’s meeting, I sense the fear and anxiety that have been previously felt by some staff will increase.”

Action on renewal of MacLennan’s contract had been on the meeting agenda since Aug. 4, tabled three times in each board meeting since then.

Emails acquired through public information requests state board members might face personal financial risks should they terminate MacLennan’s contract without legitimate cause, a possible explanation for why the matter was previously tabled.

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Teresa Borrenpohl, enrollment service center manager for North Idaho College, shows her support for college President Rick MacLennan at the board meeting Wednesday night during which his contract was terminated as of the end of day today. HANNAH NEFF/Press

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A crowd of over 100 people in person and over 200 on Zoom watched as college President Rick MacLennan's contract was terminated at the board meeting Wednesday night at North Idaho College. HANNAH NEFF/Press

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North Idaho College Board of Trustees chair Todd Banducci, left, voted to terminate college President Rick MacLennan in a motion that passed Wednesday night at the board meeting on NIC's main campus. HANNAH NEFF/Press