An Object Lesson From Grand Forks in the Skeezy Use of Consultants by Elected Leaders

East Grand Forks School Board members recite the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of an emergency meeting on the school district's closure plan held Monday, March 16. They are Superintendent Mike Kolness, from left, Board President Brandon Boespflug and members Misty Thompson, Tom Piche, Lindsey King, Eric Useldinger and Matt Foss. Eric Hylden / Grand Forks Herald

MINOT, N.D. — There is a not-great trend in North Dakota governing circles that has to do with the use of consultants.

If you’re a public leader, why make decisions on anything from policy to hiring when you can pay thousands and thousands of dollars worth of other people’s money to a consultant to find the answers for you?

That’s bad enough on its own in that it insulates our elected leaders from responsibility for their decisions. Make bad policy? Hire the wrong person? Blame the consultant.

But sometimes consultants stand to benefit from the policy decisions they help craft in more ways than the payments for their services.

Case in point, the troubling manner in which the Grand Forks School Board has used a consultant in the process toward a proposed $86 million bond referendum aimed at building a new K-8 school and other infrastructure improvements in the district.

I’m agnostic about the referendum itself, but the way the school board went about proposing it stinks to high heaven.

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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