UND Spent Over $16,000 on Consulting in Athletics Department Which Produced No Written Reports

UND athletic director Brian Faison listens to president Mark Kennedy during a press conference Tuesday morning, Oct. 17, at the High Performance Center. Faison announced his retirement effective December 31, 2017, after which he will serve as a consultant to the Athletics department until June of 2018. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

Brian Faison, the Athletics Director at the University of North Dakota, retired earlier this week.

Only my colleague, Grand Forks Herald sports reporter Tom Miller, doesn’t buy that it was a retirement. In a column he opines that Faison was pushed out and the university is keeping it quiet.

Miller notes that UND hired a consultant to talk with members of the athletics department about leadership. He supposes that this was a prelude to Faison getting the axe.

The problem? As Miller notes, the consultant apparently didn’t produce any documentation of the work they did in the athletics department. “UND said there wasn’t any,” he writes. “All feedback was done verbally.”

I was incredulous that a public institution could hire a consultant and get nothing in the way of documented work product as a result, so I contacted UND spokesman Peter Johnson and he confirmed that it was true.

I asked Johnson to confirm that there was no written report or other documentation for this work done specifically in the athletics department. “Correct, Rob,” he told me.

He told me that the consulting firm Murney and Associates has been paid $27,891.12 for “executive coaching” since July 1 of 2016, including $16,501.81 for work in the athletics department. You can see their contract below, and while it does reference the creation of written reports, apparently that’s not what happened.

I asked Johnson to confirm that there was no written report or other documentation for this work done specifically in the athletics department. “Correct, Rob,” he told me.

“The intent wasn’t to create and deliver a report, since this wasn’t an evaluation,” he told me, attributing this decision to UND President Mark Kennedy. “The intent wasn’t to hire someone to come in, examine things, and then make a recommendation to management; the intent was to work with the participants on professional development.”

Might the intent also have been to avoid any sort of a paper trail that could be picked up through an open records request?

In government just about everything is documented, and for good reason. Those who spend other people’s money, and who are paid by other people’s money, need to account for what that money is paying for.

What did we get for the more than $16,000 worth of work Murney and Associates did in the athletics department? That’s awfully hard to quantify without any sort of a record.

I wrote in a print column earlier this week about a disturbing trend in North Dakota government – in our university system, specifically – toward efforts to obscure public scrutiny of the public’s business.

This maneuver at UND seems a prime example of it.

UPDATE: Good point:

Here’s the full contract.

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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