A Lawmaker Is Looking Into the Cost of State Employees Attending Governor Doug Burgum’s Events

Governor Doug Burgum provides welcome remarks for the more than 800 people registered to attend the Recovery Reinvented event in the Bismarck Event Center. TOM STROMME/Bismarck Tribune

A hallmark of Governor Doug Burgum’s time in office so far are events his office has orchestrated on topics ranging from addiction to the still-not-terribly-well-defined Main Street Initiative he campaigned on back in 2016.

So much so that some in political circles have quipped about North Dakotans having elected, in Burgum, an “event planner in chief.”

Now it seems those events – and specifically the cost of state employees attending those events – has piqued the interest of at least one state lawmaker. Which is noteworthy given that travel expenses in Burgum’s office are already under scrutiny from State Auditor Josh Gallion.

Knudson confirmed that the survey was born of a request from a lawmaker, but declined to name who. He also said that the results of the survey wouldn’t be public “unless that legislator releases it.”

A source at an executive branch state agency sent me the email below which came from Adam Mathiak, a Senior Fiscal Analyst at Legislative Council.

I’ve removed the header information pertaining to the recipients of the message, as well as its date and time, in order to protect my source.

The email, which was sent to state agencies, requests details about the number of employees who attended (among other events) Burgum’s Recovery Reinvented, Main Street Summit, Day of Recovery, and Burgum’s off-year State of the State address in Minot which was a) not required by law and b) sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce.

Clearly, someone in the Legislature is interested in the fiscal impact of Burgum’s events agenda.

I reached out to Mathiak for more information, and he passed me on to Legislative Budget Analyst and Auditor Allen Knudson.

Knudson confirmed that the survey was born of a request from a lawmaker, but declined to name who. He also said that the results of the survey wouldn’t be public “unless that legislator releases it.”

Burgum campaigned for his office back in 2016 by railing against what he described as the “good old boys club” in Bismarck. A club, given their statewide electoral success, that was then as it is now mostly populated by Burgum’s fellow Republicans.

The folks maligned by Burgum’s campaign have long memories, it seems, but to write this off as merely retribution would be a mistake I think. Because another thing Burgum campaigned on was reinventing government. So far his administration hasn’t lived up to that lofty goal.

There has been a lot of headline-grabbing events put on by Governor Burgum and his staff during their tenure in office, but little in the way of substantive policy.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and the host of the Rob (Re)Port on Fargo-based WDAY AM970 from noon-2pm weekdays.

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