The Fargo-area media is catching up to a story we broke here on SAB this weekend which has Legislative Council questioning whether or not NDSU President Dean Bresciani broke open records law by deleting over 45,000 emails from his account the day a request for them was made.
If he did, he is potentially guilty of a Class C Felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Through a spokesman, though, Bresciani is denying that the emails were deleted:
NDSU spokeswoman Laura McDaniel wrote in an email that the school has not received an official request for information about the alleged deleted emails, but will cooperate with any investigation.
“President Bresciani did not delete 45,000 emails on April 29. We are looking into the matter,” McDaniel wrote.
On April 29, the Legislative Council, on behalf of an unnamed legislator, requested emails from a number of State Board of Higher Education officials – including each university president – from July 1, 2012, to April 28, according to the letter. The time window for that request was later narrowed – from Nov. 1, 2012, to May 1.
When that request only resulted in about 900 pages of emails from Bresciani’s account, the Legislative Council asked the North Dakota University System – rather than NDSU officials – to look into it, and whether any emails were deleted.
Here’s where things get sticky for Bresciani: The IT folks at the North Dakota University System office are confirming that the emails were, in fact, deleted:
Information technology personnel from the university system confirmed that an estimated 45,375 emails were deleted from Bresciani’s account on April 29 – the same day the state made its open records request and a day after The Forum wrote a Page A1 story from other emails it had gleaned through its own university presidential open records requests.
Someone is lying.
Also interesting is the timing. Bresciani had already given over a huge batch of emails to Forum Communications. A day later his office receives another open records request, and that same day (if the NDUS IT personnel’s version of events is to believed) he deleted the 45,000+ emails.
Here’s the email from NDUS General Counsel Claire Holloway to Legislative Council noting the specific deletion of the emails on the day of the request (the full email exchange pertaining to the records request is below):
That’s some pretty suspicious timing.
And, I’m told, there may be more coming with regard to records requested by the legislature disappearing. Stay tuned.