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In court filing, Macomber denies lobbying to be NIC lawyer; asks that civil suit challenging his hire be dismissed

A photo of North Idaho College attorney Art Macomber
Macomber campaign YouTube channel
North Idaho College attorney Art Macomber

North Idaho College’s attorney says a lawsuit challenging his hiring should be dismissed, and not allowed to be re-filed.

In an eighteen-page response to a civil lawsuit filed by Coeur d’Alene attorney Michael Gridley, Art Macomber offers a variety of reasons Gridley’s lawsuit should be dismissed with prejudice, including the assertion that Gridley lacked standing to bring the suit in the first place, that Gridley is acting in bad faith, and that the core complaint of the suit is moot because Macomber’s hiring was in accordance with Idaho law.

Gridley filed the suit in December against Macomber, North Idaho College and three of the college’s trustees – Chair Greg McKenzie, Vice Chair Mike Waggoner and Todd Banducci – in part over the trio’s decision to hire Macomber. To address concerns that the hiring broke Idaho open meetings law, the board in a subsequent meeting “cured” potential violations by taking the vote over again. Macomber’s response says he counseled the board to fix the mistake.

The civil suit also notes Macomber contributed to McKenzie, Waggoner and Banducci’s trustee election campaigns, and alleged that Macomber lobbied to be hired as NIC’s attorney of record before Marc Lyons resigned from that role in November 2022.

In his response, Macomber admitted he communicated with “one or more” trustees about being hired as NIC’s legal counsel and donated to their election campaigns, but he denied he initiated any solicitation for the attorney’s job.

Gridley’s suit also alleges that Macomber is ineligible to serve as North Idaho College’s counsel because he sold his Coeur d’Alene law practice in April 2021. Macomber denied that claim.

Macomber also denied Gridley’s argument that the rate Macomber charges NIC for his services -- $325 an hour – is “grossly in excess of the going rate of other qualified attorneys in the…area.” The Coeur d’Alene Press reported Macomber billed NIC nearly $25,000 in his first month on the job.

Macomber added that some of Gridley’s complaints refer directly to trustees, or to NIC interim president Greg South, “parties over whom Defendant Macomber has no control or responsibility.” Though they are named in the suit, McKenzie, Waggoner, Banducci and South submitted no response in Kootenai County District Court, as of February 14.

Macomber’s response came Monday, a deadline day agreed to between his attorneys and those representing Gridley. If no response had been filed by the end of Monday, Gridley said he would ask for a default judgment -- a request for a ruling in his favor.

Kinzo Mihara, a Coeur d’Alene attorney representing Gridley, declined to comment on the specifics contained in Macomber’s response. In an email to Spokane Public Radio, Mihara said Gridley “respects the legal process, the rights of all involved, and looks forward to having his day in court.”

Brandon Hollingsworth is your All Things Considered host. He has served public radio audiences for nearly twenty 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.