Chancellor Hagerott’s Open Records Dodges Are Too Cute by Half


North Dakota University System Chancellor Mark R. Hagerott visits with the Editorial Board August 24 at the Grand Forks Herald. Jesse Trelstad/ Grand Forks Herald

From what I’m hearing the interim President at the University of North Dakota, who will be taking over for departing President Mark Kennedy, is the school’s medical school dean Joshua Wynne. He’s one of the named finalists, and I’m also told he’s not interested in the gig long term.

He told my colleague Sydney Mook that he’d only take the interim position if he could keep up his duties at the medical school. Which doesn’t exactly sound like something he’d want to do long time.

We’ll know about all that tomorrow when the North Dakota University System announces their decision.

In the mean time, can we talk about NDUS Chancellor Mark Hagerott being a bit too cute about open records?

Here’s what Mook reported about the process for picking an interim leader at UND:

Two weeks ago, North Dakota University System Chancellor Mark Hagerott said he has a running list of potential candidates in his head, but he did not have a formal, written list at that point. That likely indicates an official written list did not exist, thus protecting the privacy of potential candidates.

North Dakota has very broad, very strong open records law. They presume that all records held by the state are open unless specifically exempted from public access by the law. Also, the record must be something which actually exists. The state need not create a record for you.

Which is to say, you can’t ask for Chancellor Hagerott to list on a piece of paper or in an email the interim candidates in his head. His thoughts are not a record, and you can’t legally ask him to turn his thoughts into a record.

Hagerott is being cute about open records, and given the horrendous track record the NDUS has had in the past when it comes to open records, he should maybe think about knocking it off.

Remember, this is the same guy who said publicly that he didn’t feel like he could put candid criticisms in his reviews of university presidents because those reviews are a public record.

Which is ridiculous. Public servants should do their work in public.

Candor is something the public wants from someone like Hagerott. Candor doesn’t seem to be what they’re getting.