Back in November I reported that two of the North Dakota University System’s top accountability personnel – Chief Auditor Timothy Carlson and Compliance Officer Kirsten Franzen – had been placed on administrative leave pending termination. Carlson was accused of being less than truthful on his resume, and Franzen was accused of (among other things) tipping me off to an open meetings violation by the State Board of Higher Education (she didn’t).
The State Board of Higher Education was to address these pending terminations, but the item was removed from the agenda of the November 20th meeting. I’m told that Franzen has officially been fired, though the issue was never on the agenda of any recent SBHE meetings. Carlson, who I have not been able to reach, is still on administrative leave to the best of my knowledge.
What’s the hold up? I can’t say for certain, but given new revelations I have to think the NDUS is probably negotiating some sort of a buy-out.
There are serious allegations that the hiring process for Carlson was heavily manipulated by Vice Chancellor for Administrative Affairs Laura Glatt, to the point where Glatt allegedly made disparaging comments about Mr. Carlson’s age.
This is revealed in a background memo written by former NDUS Chief Counsel Claire Ness (who now works in the Attorney General’s office). The provenance of this document is in and of itself an indictment of the dishonest way in which the university system conducts business.
In an October 10th letter to John Bjornson at Legislative Council, who had requested NDUS records on behalf of a lawmaker, Carlson said that he was providing additional records because they were “selectively omitted” by NDUS Chief of Staff (and, ironically, “Ethics Officer”) Murray Sagsveen. Among the items referenced by Carlson were documents detailing the alleged manipulation of the auditor hiring process by Glatt.
On December 3rd Sagsveen emailed to tell Bjornson that he’s “no longer certain” that the NDUS provided all records requested and that he’s sending a flash drive with additional documents on it to Legislative Council.
Incompetence on the part of the NDUS, or a purposeful move to hide records corrected only when Carlson contacted Legislative Council to alert them to it?
What was on that flash drive? Among other things, the memo below from Ness which does not paint a pretty picture of the hiring process for Carlson.
It appears as though Glatt much preferred that Eric Miller, who was a finalist for the position along with Carlson and a subordinate to Glatt at the time, be the new auditor. To that end she allegedly used exaggerated descriptions of the state’s open meetings laws (which apparently inspired at least one candidate to drop out) and a gamed evaluation point system for the candidates to try and put her preferred candidate on top.
According to Ness, Glatt even made disparaging comments about Carlson’s age:
Carlson ultimately got the job, despite Glatt’s alleged machinations, and Miller was made to be his subordinate.
What’s interesting is that in Sagsveen’s memo to Carlson informing him of his pending termination he said the decision was based on an investigation by The Village (initiated by Sagsveen the day after Carlson began pushing for new accountability policies) which dwells on accusations made about Carlson’s resume made by…Miller.
The Village report is an interesting read (it is linked above), and given what we now know about Glatt’s work to hamstring other candidates in favor of Miller, it certainly seems now as though many of the accusations against Carlson were born less of actual concerns about his qualifications than sour grapes.
So, in summary, we have a high-ranking NDUS official gaming the hiring process in favor of her preferred candidate. We have that same official intimidating other candidates out of the running, and making disparaging comments about the age of the auditor ultimately hired.
Then we have Sagsveen and NDUS Chancellor Larry Skogen working to push Carlson and Franzen out after they began working for stronger accountability and transparency policies in the system, and when a lawmaker began to investigate the issue, the NDUS got caught withholding records.
It all paints a very, very ugly picture. But sadly, a picture of double-dealing and dishonesty that has become all too familiar within the NDUS.