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North Dakota State U. president accused of destroying 45,000 emails subject to an open records request

The North Dakota Legislative Council is asking the state attorney general for an opinion on whether North Dakota State University President Dean Bresciani broke the law by deleting more than 45,000 emails that may have been subject to an open rec...

North Dakota State University President Dean Bresciani
North Dakota State University President Dean Bresciani. (Dave Wallis / The Forum)

The North Dakota Legislative Council is asking the state attorney general for an opinion on whether North Dakota State University President Dean Bresciani broke the law by deleting more than 45,000 emails that may have been subject to an open records request.

Legislative Council attorney John Bjornson has asked Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem if Bresciani broke laws by destroying records that may have been subject to an open records request.

On April 29, the Legislative Council, on behalf of an unnamed legislator, requested emails from a number of State Board of Higher Education officials – including each university president from July 1, 2012, to April 28, according to the letter.

NDSU was slow in responding to the request, Bjornson wrote in his letter to Stenehjem. After more prodding, North Dakota University System attorney Claire Holloway said information technology personnel from the State Board of Higher Education identified the deletion of about 45,375 emails from Bresciani’s inbox on April 29, the same day the state made its open records request and a day after The Forum wrote a Page 1 story from other emails it had gleaned through its own university presidential open records requests.

North Dakota’s open records law states that “an electronic copy of a record must be provided upon request.” A public official found guilty of destroying public records could be charged with a felony.

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The Forum requested emails that Bresciani sent or received from Sept. 25, 2012 to March 25, 2013, that mentioned State Board of Higher Education Chancellor Hamid Shirvani. The Forum published a story April 28 detailing Bresciani and other university presidents’ correspondence about the embattled chancellor.

After months of turmoil, Shirvani was ousted as chancellor June 3.

Kelly Boldan has been editor of West Central Tribune and Wctrib.com in Willmar, Minnesota, since October 2001. He joined Forum Communications Co. in November 1998 as editor of the Bemidji (Minn.) Pioneer.
Boldan can be reached via email: editor@wctrib.com or telephone: 320-214-4331.
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