Earlier this year State Auditor Josh Gallion’s office dropped a report which detailed some unfortunate goings-on at the North Dakota State College of Science.
Among the findings was that Vice President Tony Grindberg – a former Republican state Senator and current member of the Fargo City Commission – had failed to disclose a conflict of interest he had with the PR firm his wife works for. Worse, when the auditors went looking for emails about this relationship, NDSCS tried to avoid turning the records over.
When the report was made public NDSCS President John Richman went nuclear on Gallion, all but calling him a liar.
Flash forward several months, however, and it’s pretty clear that Gallion was in the right. The State Board of Higher Education is in the process of adopting new rules about the disclosure of conflicts of interest, and while they’re still debating what the final rule should look like, none of this would be happening if Gallion’s office hadn’t blown the whistle.
If Richman had any integrity he’d issue a public apology to Gallion and his office.
Richman doesn’t, unfortunately, which is a not uncommon thing among university presidents in North Dakota. They seem to think the political cover well-connected alumni, sports fans, business interests with financial ties to the institution, hometown lawmakers, and deferential local media provide them is a license to behave in a fashion unbecoming to the office they hold.
Gallion has gotten a lot of flak during his first term in office thanks to his aggressive and unflinching approach to the duties of his office, not least was the Legislature gutting the authority of his office to perform audits.
Yet his work has uncovered real problems, forcing state officials to take real steps to correct them, which is exactly what an auditor should be doing.
If people like Richman, and certain lawmakers, are upset with the job Gallion is doing then he must be doing it right.