Column: Sunshine laws hold government accountable only when we use them


Editor’s note: This is one in a series of news stories, columns and editorials from Forum Communications in support of open government. Sunshine Week, which champions open government and celebrates access to public information, is March 12-18.

MINOT, N.D. — On March 10, 2011, I requested 30 days of emails sent to and from the president of North Dakota State University.

I can’t remember now what I was looking for at the time. It certainly wasn’t what I ended up uncovering, which is that a state lawmaker, who also owned a business that did millions upon millions worth of business with the university system, was flying two university presidents to western North Dakota for a hunting trip on his company’s private airplane.

The university tried to block my records request by inflating its cost to thousands of dollars. I challenged the costs and ultimately paid nothing.

The university tried to hide the identity of the person organizing the hunting trip, but I challenged that, too, and beat the redaction.

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