Yesterday Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem issued an opinion in response to an open meetings complaint filed by myself (and apparently also by Fargo Forum editor Matt Von Pinnon) regarding the resignation of former NDSU Development Foundation CEO Doug Mayo.
You can read the complete opinion below, but Stenehjem basically found that the Foundation broke the law in two ways:
First, they formed a subcommittee to negotiate with Mayo – who was apparently threatening litigation – which was not made public. Stenehjem wrote that “the existence of the subcommittee was unknown to the public” and “remained unknown to the public.”
Second, and less importantly, Stenehjem found that the first 25 minutes of an otherwise legal executive session discussing the situation with Mayo should have been public (you can listen to the recording of that meeting here provided to me this morning by the Foundation’s legal counsel per Stenehjem’s opinion).
The first violation is obviously the most troubling, and is all too common when it comes to how North Dakota’s universities go about their business.
Our state’s university foundations – the NDSU Development Foundation especially – have argued that they’re not entities of the state. But they are, and they should be treated as such. Doing business behind closed doors, out of the eyes of the public, is unacceptable.
Sadly, our university system violates laws requiring that sort of transparency over and over again. By my count this is the 19th open records/open meetings violation the North Dakota University System and its various foundations and institutions are guilty of since 2010.
All with little or no consequences, outside of some bad press, for those who repeatedly break the law and violate the public’s trust.