In trying to run down who is actually paying for NDSU President Dean Bresciani’s controversial first-class ticket to India – Bresciani has said contradictory things about it, and Mike Jacobs has an excellent column in the Grand Forks Herald following up on some of my work on this issue – I requested some details about the expenses the NDSU foundation has picked up for the president over the last year.
What I got back is pretty interesting reading. Turns out the NDSU foundation has paid for over $70,000 worth of expenses for Bresciani from January of 2015 through January of 2016 including $11,305 for his membership at the Fargo Country Club, $30,318 for booze and parties, and $1,437 on flowers for Bresciani’s home and office.
The foundation has also spent thousands on dinner and lunch meetings between Bresciani and people whose names are redacted. I’m assuming these people are foundation donors that Bresciani is schmoozing for dollars, but also in the records are payments from the foundation for Bresciani doing official business.
Like a May 28 dinner with Chancellor Mark Hagerott which cost the foundation $89.80. Why is the foundation paying for Bresciani’s meals when he’s meeting with his boss? Maybe because Bresciani’s meal exceeded the state allowance?
I suppose the defense of this from the militant football fans and the blinkered NDSU alumni will be that Bresciani is such an important guy that he needs to have the foundation pay for his country club membership and his parties and his, uh, flowers and stuff.
Which, you know, ok but remember that the NDSU foundation has argued that it is a separate and private entity from the state. They did so while spending thousands to fight off one of my previous open records requests, and they did so when pushing back against legislative efforts to order audits of the state’s university foundations.
If the foundations are separate and private from the universities then how can we justify a separate, private organization spending tens of thousands on a public servant’s expenses? How can we justify said public servant spending time on the public dime raising money for a separate, private organization?
Maybe you see these expenses as kosher. The cost of doing business in higher education. I see them as lavish, and indicative of the decadence in higher education which has driven the cost of it to grow much faster than it’s value.
But either way, the relationship between these foundations and the public institutions they serve need more scrutiny.
By the way, there is still no clear answer about who paid for Bresciani’s seat upgrade. In fact, I’m still getting contradictory statements.
“The payment you are referencing will be reimbursed by the NDSU Foundation and Alumni Association but the processing of the reimbursement has not been finalized,” Bresciani’s chief of staff Christopher Wilson told me in an email. But if that’s true, the foundation doesn’t seem to be aware of it.
“We have not received the request for payment yet,” John Glover, president of the NDSU Foundation, told me in an email.
Here’s the full list of Bresciani’s expenditures the foundation provided me with: