Back in 2012 I requested from Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem’s office an opinion on open meetings law as it applied to a supposedly public meeting of North Dakota State’s Technology and Research Park which was held in Minneapolis.
How in the world can a meeting be open to North Dakotans if it is held hundreds of miles outside of North Dakota? Unfortunately, Stenehjem’s office has found that the meeting was in keeping with the law. You can read the whole opinion below, but here’s an excerpt:
This out of state meeting was not an isolated incident. In 2016 the committee tasked with finding a new president for the University of North Dakota held meetings in Minneapolis. Now we learn that a meeting of the North Dakota State University Foundation and Alumni Association will be held at a resort in Florida.
If you’re a member of the public interested in the business of that public entity you’ll have to travel nearly 2,000 miles to attend.
North Dakota has very strong laws when it comes to public access to records and meetings, despite the consistent efforts of some public officials to water them down, but there is a loophole in the law which allows public meetings to be held out of state.
Even if those meetings are infrequent, even if there is no intent to avoid public scrutiny, it’s still wrong. Those scheduling these meetings out of state should be criticized.
Lawmakers should close this loophole as soon as possible.