Earlier this year Auditor Josh Gallion’s office flagged a situation at the North Dakota State School of Science wherein a VP at the school, Tony Grindberg, was involved in negotiating a contract between the university and his wife’s public relations firm.
NDSCS President John Richman has claimed that Grindberg’s connection to the firm, Flint Group, was known but not officially disclosed.
Gallion’s office, for their part, accused NDSCS of withholding records detailing the Grindberg’s involvement in the negotiations.
The matter was forwarded to the Cass County State’s Attorney for investigation because withholding public records (and specifically withholding information from auditors) is a crime.
State’s Attorney Birch Burdick, however, has concluded there was no crime.
You can read his whole letter summarizing his investigation below (he also concludes that Grindberg did not benefit directly from the deal with Flint Group). This excerpt is pertinent to the matter of whether or not the emails or other records were illegally kept from the auditors:
What’s clear, from that summary, is that the auditors got inaccurate information from NDSCS.
The rub is proving the auditors were given erroneous information willfully. Dennis Gladen, the VP for Administrative Affairs at NDSCS, says he wasn’t aware of the records. Neither Richman nor Grindberg, who were CC’d on Gladen’s email making that assertion, corrected it.
To prove a crime, you’d have to prove that Grindberg and Richman read Gladen’s email, which they also received, and then decided not to make a correction. Showing that beyond a reasonable doubt, absent further evidence, is probably impossible.
So, likely the right call by Burdick, though this hardly reflects well on Richman or Grindberg. Remember, at one point, Richman walked right up to calling Gallion a liar at a public event focused on this issue.
Reading Burdick’s report, while there may not be enough evidence to justify criminal charges, I’m not sure anyone can say that Richman or Grindberg was being honest.