Bresciani Emails Found, University System Apparently Getting A House Cleaning


Some very interesting developments in the email scandal at North Dakota State University today that make me think back to a line that President Dean Bresciani wrote about former Chancellor Hamid Shirvani in an email obtained by Forum Communications: “start getting bids from movers.”

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

I’m told by multiple sources that there was a meeting between incoming State Board of Higher Education President Kirsten Diedrich (from Fargo) and multiple university system presidents including Bresciani. The result of that meeting is, according to one source, the university system is now “looking to fire several people from the NDUS offices that aren’t backing Bresciani’s story.”

After getting rid of the chancellor they didn’t like, and trashing the evaluations they didn’t like, I guess the university presidents are now apparently going to get rid of university system office staff they don’t like.

A second source gave me some names: Director of Communications and Media Relations Linda Donlin, General Counsel Claire Holloway (who was the one who divulged the fact of Bresciani’s 45,000 deleted emails to legislative council) and Compliance Officer Kirsten Franzen whose job, among other things, is to ensure compliance with open records laws.

That it’s absolutely tone deaf to begin pushing out university system employees who are a part of a major scandal involving public records allegedly destroyed by a university president is apparently beyond the folks currently in charge of the system.

But perhaps bigger news is that the Bresciani emails have been found. I’m told by a source that, before leaving her position today, Holloway delivered over 100,000 of Bresciani’s emails – including the infamous 45,000 – to the Attorney General’s office. These emails were located on a university system recovery server. As many, including myself, had speculated these emails were deleted from Bresciani’s system but maintained on a university system backup.

I’m also told that Legislative Council attorney John Bjornson met with Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem about the emails. Bjornson indicated that he was aware of the existence of the emails, and apparently they are now safe in the hands of the AG.

The questions now are: What’s in them? And were they deleted illegally?

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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  • RCND

    Somebody tell these guys that when you find yourself in a hole its best to stop digging

    • yy4u2

      Unfortunately it has worked for them so they don’t consider it diggin a hole but rather business as usual.

  • Bubba

    Holloway is super smart, by all accounts.

    • RobertD

      I have heard the same thing. The problem is she supposedly made enemies of not just some of the President’s but Kari Reichert who is a lawyer and one of the board member found conspiring to oust Shirvani. She worked for Wally Goulet whose wife worked for Pat Seaworth who was pushed out by Shirvani and the Board last summer.

    • Bubba

      Why would someone thumbs that down? She seems exceptionally bright, and it’s generally bad news when the state loses a high performing attorney.

    • RobertD

      Confirmed last night that the emails were never “lost” as most believed. Skogen, Bresciani, and Diederich were trying to find a way not to turn them over. I am also hearing that Don Morton, head of Microsoft in Fargo and a SBHE member, may be trying to assist in creating confusion around the emails in a deliberate attempt to aid Bresciani.

      • speakinmymind

        Slander is a serious matter and Microsoft (Don Morton) has a lot of backing to prove it.

  • RobertD

    Who authorized people to be replaced? Was it a board action and if so when was the meeting held? Was it unilateral action by acting Chancellor Skogen in which case where is the outrage from the Fargo Forum and others!

    Was the removal of the names you mentioned part of the discussion with the Presidents held by the SBHE chair, vice chair and chair elect? If so then the meeting is another open meetings violation. Will the AG actually say something now that Shirvani’s job is not on the line?

    The Fargo Forum will probably report this is a good move since it seems to be Bresciani’s idea. Wonder if he will have his legal counsel placed in the NDUS general counsel position to make sure nothing is released by the NDUS. Of course it was his counsel to is responsible for the failure to turn over all emails to the NDUS and legislative counsel.

    Corruption is now spelled NDSU.

    • Jonesy

      “Corruption is now spelled NDSU.”
      Been that way for 10+ years.

  • Say It

    Emails do not “evaporate” from your computer. NSA has them in their server.

  • speakinmymind

    How is this different from Shirvani getting rid of the majority of the NDUS staff that he didn’t like?…no real defendable reasoning behind it.

    • RobertD

      Shirvani only replaced two people that I saw and one of those was a retirement. In contrast it looks like Skogen backed by Diederich, who is a shill for NDSU, and the King Presidents are looking to replace three or four competent people.

    • Rob

      He repealed a few people when he took over. That’s very different than people because they let the legislature know their info requests weren’t being honored.

      • speakinmymind

        specualtion Rob…you would not know the reasoning behind any new terminations/replacements. there was much turnover in Shirvani’s short time…terminations, forceouts, and resignations (due to fear).

        • RobertD

          Please enlighten us with the names and reasons they left. Otherwise it is just one more allegation that should not have merit.

          • Rob

            We won’t get any names.

            For all the allegations that Shirvani was a monster, we have zero evidence of any unprofessional behavior.

          • speakinmymind

            you already know two…Mike Hillman and Pat Seaworth. Bob Larson’s retirement is/was timely too. You also know one of his staffers testified that he skewed data to make things look worse than they really were regarding student completion rates…and the new SBHE chair had mentioned herself that he essentially ‘quieted her’ at a meeting (likely because she is female). If all of this isn’t unprofessional then what is?

          • RobertD

            The skewed data testimony was shown to be without merit. Hillman was pushed out as apparently was Seaworth though he “retired”. Larson was at or past retirement age so it may be he was nodded. Again going to allegation regarding the new chair. Her comments should be taken very skeptically as she has misled people many times in the past six months if the reporting and comments are to be believed.

            The new Chancellor and the new chair supposedly told staff in a meeting this past Monday that healing was needed and that there would be no further removal of staff, etc. Less than a week later look at what is happening. This is worse than Shirvani.

          • Rob

            I know that Linda Porter tried to accuse Shirvani of fraudulent data because he made a peer comparison the university presidents found inconvenient. I also know that Porter worked with someone else to record a phone call with Shirvani which showed nothing but him acting professionally.

            As for the rest, big deal. Shirvani was an incoming executive and wanted to hire some of his own people. Given how many problems the university system has, Dickinson state not the least of them, it was appropriate that he bring in some fresh people and reshuffle the deck.

            You’re making mountains out of molehills.

          • speakinmymind

            and you are the pot calling the kettle black. who cares about the emails and what was written?…the emails didn’t fire Shirvani. Past history (in CA) offers plenty of consistent reasoning for getting rid of Shirvani and he was not generally liked by his own staff. Regarding the data…if you knew anything about reliable research you would question the validity of the data. You don’t compare and apple to an orange and then use the comparison to generalize for each. Rob, quit reaching.

  • devilschild

    I smell a lawsuit over this which will cost the state of ND even more money. This is really getting out of hand.

  • Roy_Bean

    This whole system is beyond repair. We are stuck with it until at least 2014 when we have a chance to vote it out. The best thing that can happen now is for it to completely disintegrate into total chaos so that the voters can see it for what it is and then make the right choice in the election. I hope the AG’s office takes their time and does a proper investigation so that this is still in the news, to the extent that we have real news in this state, and still in the minds of the voters on election day.

  • Drain52

    When did Chicago ward heelers take over ND’s higher education?