Head Of Troubled NDSU Development Foundation Steps Down

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It’s been a rough year for foundations at North Dakota’s universities. At UND in Grand Forks the now-defunct UND Research Foundation dumped the unprofitable REAC Building on the taxpayers after it failed to find enough tenants to make the building solvent. At Dickinson State University the DSU Foundation got itself so overleveraged in real estate ventures that they started using funds intended for student scholarships to make ends meet. Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem has now ordered the foundation into receivership.

Now the NDSU Development Foundation, which has seen more than a dozen employees leave in the past year, has been rocked by news of CEO Douglas Mayo stepping down:

Keith Bjerke, NDSU vice president of university relations, legislative affairs and community outreach, was named interim president and CEO of the Development Foundation and Alumni Association.

Mayo will stay on with the organization until the end of January to help in the transition, according to the news release.

The release stated that Mayo expressed an interest in resigning.

“I’m pleased with the financial progress made at the Foundation during my tenure,” Mayo said in the release. “NDSU has a strong and loyal alumni base, as well has extraordinary support from the business community, and I’m confident that progress will only accelerate in the future.”

Before the holiday I had a column in the Grand Forks Herald concerning the legislature’s Challenge Fund grants to the university foundations. The fund funneled roughly $29 million of taxpayer dollars into these foundations, but I’m dubious as to how much good that money is doing when the foundations receiving the dollars have problems with transparency and accountability.

These foundations have actively fought transparency, forcing the media (including this blogger) to file open records and meetings complaints in order to obtain information.

Should we accept that these foundations are independent when they represent major headaches for public institutions when things go bad? Should we be funneling public dollars to them when they actively fight public transparency?

We need to do a lot of thinking about the relationships between our public institutions and these supposedly private foundations.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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