Last week, after I was the first to report that NDSU President Dean Bresciani had spent roughly $7,000 on a seat upgrade to a first class ticket for a trip to India, I put in a request for more records pertaining to Bresciani’s travel. I had to route that request through my lawmaker here in Minot – Rep. Roscoe Streyle, specifically – when Bresciani’s Chief of Staff Christopher Wilson tried to inflate the costs of my request (something NDSU has done to me before). When I spoke with a representative of the Attorney General’s office after doing that they agreed that this was probably the best route given NDSU’s abysmal history of complying with open records requests.
Anyway, what I found from those records, which I received this evening, is that Bresciani has been something less than honest about how that seat upgrade was paid for.
Yesterday, at 1:32pm, Bresciani sent out a campus wide email (PDF) accusing critics of his luxury travel accommodations of “misinformation” and claiming that his trip was so successful that some NDSU donors stepped up to pay for his seat upgrade. Here’s what he wrote. Note the use of the word volunteered.
Bresciani apologist Mike McFeely dutifully repeated the news of volunteers heroically stepping up to pay the luxury travel upgrades in a column published earlier today.
The problem is there were no volunteers. Bresciani just got caught in a big, fat lie.
On Wednesday at 10:25am Bresciani told Chancellor Mark Hagerott in an email (PDF) that he asked the NDSU Foundation to pay for the seat upgrade.
Just to be clear, Bresciani told the public in a campus wide email his trip was so wonderful private donors were volunteering to pay for it. The reality is Bresciani asked the NDSU Foundation to pay for it.
That’s not what most people would consider volunteering. And Bresciani, who for all his faults is not a stupid man, knows this. Which means he lied. He misrepresented the facts about a controversial expenditure of public dollars.
That’s a problem, and not a small one.
In a post about this earlier today I expressed concern about these supposed anonymous donors picking up the tab for Bresciani’s first class ticket. Bresciani is a public servant with no small amount of influence over millions upon millions of public dollars. Are these donors people who do business with the university? Is there the possibility of a quid pro quo arrangement here? We don’t know, because state law allows the university foundations to keep donors a secret.
But perhaps just as troubling as the potential for quid pro quo is that Bresciani can apparently use the NDSU foundation like a personal piggy bank, asking them to cover luxury travel upgrades.
It makes me wonder what other sort of perks the foundation covers for Bresciani while NDSU students face higher tuition, higher fees, and a campus with tens of millions of dollars worth of deferred maintenance.
Bresciani also claims in the Hagerott email that he had a personal medical reason for need a first class seat. At this point, given the utter lack of veracity coming from Bresciani on this matter, I’m more than a little dubious that this sort of a claim is true.
If it is, why didn’t Bresciani fly first class on any of his other flights? In turning over the records on Bresciani’s travel since 2010 to Legislative Council, Wilson wrote in an email that the only first class ticket Bresciani has received for official travel was the India trip.
The sudden development of an unnamed medical condition now that Bresciani is taking heat seems more than a little convenient.
Also, there is federal law which governs how employers – particularly government employers – treat people with disabilities. If Bresciani really needed first class accommodations because of his health, there are processes in place whereby he could have requested them.