ND Attorney General Clears President Bresciani’s Name
Email controversy put to end
Published: Friday, December 6, 2013
Updated: Friday, December 6, 2013 01:12
After months of scrutiny, President Dean Bresciani’s name is cleared.
The NDSU president was accused earlier this year of unlawfully deleting upwards of 43,000 emails following an open records request. Upon further examination by the North Dakota Attorney General’s office, it seems that no evidence exists to support the allegations.
North Dakota University System Interim Chancellor Larry Skogen and State Board of Higher Education President Kristen Diederich released a statement late last month announcing the AG’s decision to end the matter.
“Calls for his resignation are unfounded, and like the Attorney General, we consider the matter closed,” the press release stated.
The controversy transpired in the midst of what Skogen terms “The Time of Trouble.”
He said tensions had been building between the university system office and several ND legislators, mostly due to conflict surrounding former Chancellor Hamid Shirvani. The former chancellor received a vote of no confidence this spring, but ND officials were torn.
“Some people were sup¬porting the former chancellor and others were opposing the former chancellor, and the degree of acrimony just kept rationing up and up,” Skogen said. “Finally someone somewhere said they were going to collect all these emails as some sort of evidence, so they put in this request for all these emails.”
Public officials, such as university system employees, are subject to open records requests without question. Skogen said he and other university system employees were happy to comply with the ND AG’s investigation requests.
The AG office pursued this open records request and retrieved emails from 11 university system presidents and employees, including Bresciani. They handed over thousands of emails, including those from personal accounts that had anything to do with university system business.
“When I took over here at the end of June, I said we would comply with relish. We’re going to jump up and respond to whatever we have to with the compliance of the law,” Skogen said.
Shortly after the request, 43,000 emails were dumped from Bresciani’s email account by way of what officials thought was deletion. After a thorough investigation, it appears the emails were purged automatically by the email system. However, they were not lost forever.
“There are no lost emails,” Skogen said. “From everything that I’ve seen and everything the technical staff has told me, it appears that the auto purge kicked in…but the other part of it is that every one of those emails was recovered. Every one of them.”
Somewhere along the way, Skogen explained that the AG office received the impression that the university system believed Bresciani had purposely deleted the emails.
But Skogen said there was never a doubt in his mind that Bresciani was innocent.
“I can say categorically that that is not true,” Skogen said of allegations towards Bresciani. “I speak for the system office and I have never said that and I have never believed that.”
Student Body President Robbie Lauf and Vice President Erik Diederich said they were more than relieved to hear the news. The student body officials said they have a close working relationship with Bresciani and they were rooting for him from the get go.
“I’m just hoping this will alleviate some of the concerns of people who have not been following it as closely as everybody else. The President was not in the wrong here,” Lauf said.
As far as Skogen, Diederich, Lauf and the AG are concerned, they all said the matter is closed. Bresciani could not be reached for comment.
“I think President Bresciani has been an absolute prince in all of this. He has done what he does best, and that is running NDSU,” Skogen said.