An NPR member station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Our signal in Bonners Ferry and Omak is seriously impaired due to weather— Learn more here.

Former North Idaho College interim president added to list of subpoenas in civil suit

North Idaho College.jpg
North Idaho College
/
North Idaho College (FILE PHOTO)

Former North Idaho College wrestling coach and interim president Michael Sebaaly has been added to a list of people and entities subpoenaed by current NIC attorney Art Macomber as he investigates the hiring of NIC President Nick Swayne.

Most of the subpoenas, first reported by the Coeur d’Alene Press, were filed January 3. Sebaaly’s name was added Monday, according to Kootenai County court records.

Macomber’s search requests a variety of records related to the search process, hiring and contract of Swayne. The list of subpoenas includes NIC staff, former members of the Board of Trustees, the law firm that formerly served as the college’s counsel, and the consulting group that aided NIC in its presidential search.

Sebaaly served as NIC’s interim president for eight months in 2021 and 2022, after a three-person majority on the college’s board of trustees fired NIC President Rick MacLennan without cause. After Swayne was hired, Sebaaly returned to his prior post in the school’s physical education department. He was placed on administrative leave in early September 2022 and left NIC later that month. Today Sebaaly is listed as the assistant wrestling coach for Doane University in Nebraska.

Macomber’s investigation launched in December, after a three-person majority on NIC’s Board of Trustees voted to put Swayne on administrative leave just six months after his hiring, ostensibly so Macomber could investigate language in Swayne’s contract that removed the board’s power to fire him without cause. A letter from Macomber to Swayne stated the president was not sidelined for disciplinary reasons.

Swayne was put on leave December 8, three days after a board of trustees meeting in which he questioned the legality of hiring Macomber to be NIC’s legal counsel without a bid process and without public notice.

While Macomber’s subpoenas demand information related to Swayne’s hiring and contract, two current trustees involved in the search process, Swayne’s hiring, and his subsequent suspension had not been subpoenaed as of Monday: Board chair Greg McKenzie and former chair Todd Banducci.

McKenzie and Banducci are two members of the three-person majority on the NIC board that voted to put Swayne on administrative leave. Earlier the same week, they also voted to hire Macomber as NIC’s attorney. Macomber contributed to Banducci’s and McKenzie’s respective 2020 re-election campaigns for the NIC Board of Trustees, according to Idaho campaign finance records.

Former trustees Pete Broschet, John Goedde and David Wold also appear on the subpoena list. They are the three interim trustees appointed by the Idaho State Board of Education in the summer of 2022 to bring the NIC board back to full strength after the departures of three previous trustees.

Two of those former trustees, Ken Howard and Christie Wood, have also been subpoenaed, though they left the board in early May 2022, before Swayne was hired.

“The subpoenas appear to be a fishing expedition to hopefully find an email conversation that leads them to declaring an errant hiring of Dr. Swayne,” Wood wrote in a letter published in the Coeur d’Alene Press.

Wood noted that she and Howard did not participate in the decision to hire Swayne. She also wrote that Swayne was hired after a public search process that included input from a variety of community members, and that his contract was approved in a public meeting of the NIC board.

Also on the subpoena list is Lyons O’Dowd, the Coeur d’Alene law firm that served as NIC’s legal counsel for more than two decades. The firm ended its role with North Idaho College in late November 2022, saying its services were “no longer desired” by the board majority.

NIC administrators are also in Macomber’s search list, including interim provost Lloyd Duman and vice president of finance Sarah Garcia. In a late December memo to the board of trustees, they recommended reinstating Swayne as president. Laura Rumpler, the college’s chief communications officer, and IT chief Ken Wardinsky have also been subpoenaed.

Brandon Hollingsworth is your All Things Considered host. He has served public radio audiences for fifteen years, primarily in reporting, hosting and interviewing. His previous ports-of-call were WUOT-FM in Knoxville, Tennessee, and Alabama Public Radio. His work has been heard nationally on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Here and Now and NPR’s top-of-the-hour newscasts.