Attorney General Rules Higher Ed Board in Habit of Violating Law
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) – Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem says a North Dakota Board of Higher Education dinner social at a Bismarck restaurant violated the state’s open meetings law.
In a written opinion Friday, Stenehjem says it’s “clear that violations of the open meetings laws by the board are pervasive.”
Stenehjem had issued an opinion last month saying that he could not find wrongdoing at the dinner social attended by a quorum of board members at the Bismarck restaurant. Stenehjem says the board denied that public business was discussed at that meeting.
But he says a board member provided information after the opinion was issued that contradicted the board’s official response.
“There is evidence that some Board members have a good faith desire to comply with the open meetings law but are unaware of the breadth of the statutes,” he wrote. “There is sufficient reason to conclude that for some members failure to comply may be intentional. In either case, it is obvious there is a need for thorough instruction on the open meeting laws.”
Stenehjem’s written opinion requires the board to set up a comprehensive training seminar to be conducted with his office within the next two months. Additionally, the board must create minutes for two past meetings and “scour” email exchanges to find other instances of a quorum of members discussing official business through emails – which also constitute separate violations of the open meeting laws.