We shouldn’t be surprised that the State Board of Higher Education decided to do, well, something in response to the serious and long-standing leadership problems at the North Dakota State School of Science. Despite board President Don Morton preemptively poo-pooing an ugly audit of NDSCS, and a cadre of powerful Fargo-area business interests circling the wagons, it seems the board is going to get NDSCS President John Richman a babysitter:
BISMARCK — The state’s university system may keep a closer eye on North Dakota State College of Science management after a state audit found problems with how the school handled business regarding its planned career academy.
Kathleen Neset, chair of the State Board of Higher Education audit committee, is expected to work with North Dakota University System Chancellor Mark Hagerott to draft a temporary system oversight plan at NDSCS. No vote was taken during the Wednesday, May 29, audit committee meeting to implement the plan, but it likely will be considered at a future meeting.
“It’s put in place as needed for a duration of time until confidence is rebuilt and trust is restored,” Neset said. “It would be overseeing the management at NDSCS.”
For what it’s worth, Richman is making $201,896 per year plus a vehicle allowance of $11,000 per year, per his contract.
Now he needs someone else to watch his work because, as Neset puts it, there are reasons not to be confident in his leadership.
By the way, the genesis for this much needed and long overdue move was a recent report from Auditor Josh Gallion’s office which found some serious problems. Not the least of which was Richman’s administration trying to hide public records from the auditors. Records related to NDSCS Vice President (and former state lawmaker/current Fargo City Commissioner) Tony Grindberg negotiating a contract with his wife’s public relations firm without officially disclosing his connection to that firm.
Richman has denied doing this, but he’s not getting a babysitter because people trust him.
Many, including this observer, feel the NDSCS audit was part of the genesis for the Legislature gutting the Auditor’s authority to conduct performance audits earlier this year. Yet, as we can see from the SBHE’s moves, Gallion’s work has paid off in the form of some accountability for a highly paid public servant desperately in need of it.
The legislation limiting the Auditor’s powers is the subject of a referendum effort. Let’s hope it is successful so that the lawmakers who voted for that nonsense get some accountability of their own.