Republican Lawmaker Alleges Political Discrimination at the University of North Dakota

State Senator Curtiss Kreun, left, alongside state Representatives Jake Blum and Emily O'Brien. All are Republicans elected in District 42.

Until the end of January Emily O’Brien, a first-term lawmaker from District 42 in Grand Forks, worked at the University of North Dakota’s Center for Innovation.

She left the gig, she says, because of unprofessional conduct from her superiors including political hostility from Provost Thomas DiLorenzo:

Before she was elected to the North Dakota House of Representatives, O’Brien said she applied for and was selected for a job promotion at the Center of Innovation. O’Brien claimed after being elected to the Legislature, it took more than six months for her new job position and salary to be approved.

O’Brien claimed DiLorenzo told her he was not comfortable with the promotion and wanted to look into it more. O’Brien claims this was in “retaliation” for defeating the provost’s “favorite legislator, Rep. Kylie Oversen.”

Oversen, the former chairwoman of the North Dakota Democratic Party and that party’s candidate for Tax Commissioner this election year, represented District 42 for a single term before being ousted by voters in the 2016 election.

But O’Brien says it wasn’t just that DiLorenzo was upset over Oversen’s lost, but also that he had a disdain for Republicans generally:

O’Brien claims unprofessional conduct continued while she worked full-time in November and December and during the legislative session, when she says she worked 20 percent time. O’Brien claims she did not get compensated for multiple pay periods for the work she was doing.

O’Brien also felt she was a “targeted” employee after returning to her job after the session ended. O’Brien said faculty and staff would reach out to her and ask her how her job was going because DiLorenzo would allegedly make comments in meetings, such as “Do you know what the two biggest issues are with higher education? 1. Freedom of speech. 2. Republicans complaining too much about higher education.”

O’Brien also says that UND President Mark Kennedy, a former Republican member of Congress as it happens, does not have a good working relationship with lawmakers. Which is disappointing because one of the selling points for hiring Kennedy was the idea that his experience in elected office would bring a degree of political deftness to the post which had been missing previously.

Kennedy, in a number ham-fisted episodes, has proven to be anything but politically deft.

Sydney Mook’s whole article about the situation is worth your time to read. The UND folks are, for now, mostly declining to comment as O’Brien’s accusations are under investigation.

O’Brien will be on my radio show Monday for an interview.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and the host of the Rob (Re)Port on Fargo-based WDAY AM970 from noon-2pm weekdays.

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