Way back in April I made a request to get the details of an incident between NDSU Women’s Athletic Director Lynn Dorn and a student which led to a reprimand and a suspension for Dorn. The details of the specific incident weren’t made public, and the typically incurious (when it comes to NDSU matters) Fargo media didn’t press the issue.
I felt that the school didn’t have legal justification for keeping the info secret, so I filed an open records request. Not surprisingly, it was denied by NDSU. I filed a complaint with Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem’s office, and today Stenehjem sided with NDSU on the complaint, but in a very interesting opinion.
NDSU, always less than helpful in responding to good-faith requests for open records, directed me to a statute which allows them to keep their records secret as long as their is an on-going investigation by the Risk Management department of the Office of Management and Budget. At the time of my request, months and months ago, there apparently was an on-going investigation. It is my understanding, from talking to officials at the AG’s office, that if Risk Management has concluded their investigation the records should now be available.
Assuming NDSU hasn’t since destroyed them (the opinion below does state that NDSU retained a copy).
So now, roughly eight months after my original request, I start the process over again. I’m checking with OMB to see if the investigation is complete. If it is, and how could it not be, I’ll follow-up with another request to NDSU.
Why does all this matter? It’s a matter of principle. NDSU doesn’t just get to keep facts from the public, as embarrassing as they might be for the institution. And since NDSU is a place where a lot of kids from North Daktoa and all over the country go, I’d like to know the details of this incident which involves an official at the university who is still working with students there.
The public, I think, has a right to know no matter how many obstacles NDSU may throw in the way.