State Senator Charges High-End Meals, Booze And Country Club Membership To State Credit Card
Yesterday we wrote a post illustrating that the NDSU Technology and Research Park, under the leadership of state Senator Tony Grindberg (who is double-paid for his time as the director of the TRP and his time as a state legislator) and NDSU President Dean Bresciani has not been following written policy regarding the use of corporate credit cards. TRP policy states that there are to be no corporate credit cards, and yet we have documents showing credit card charges in excess of $35,000.
Now we would like to delve in to what has been charged to these cards.
The State of North Dakota has policies against charging the taxpayers for alcoholic beverages. North Dakota Office of Management and Budget Policy 215 states that “Alcoholic beverages will not be provided by the agency at an agency-sponsored activity.” OMB Policy 516, titled “Miscellaneous Charges on Travel Vouchers (Reimbursable and Non-reimbursable Expenses)”, lists “alcoholic beverages” as an example of an expense for which state employees and contractors cannot receive reimbursement.
Thus, the policy of the state is pretty clear. No booze on the taxpayer nickle, and no booze provided at state meetings or functions. But that policy doesn’t seem to be stopping Senator Grindberg and other TRP employees from charging top-shelf booze to their state credit cards.
Here are some examples, though by no means a conclusive list, of the rather lavish charges to the state credit cards:
January 14, 2010: A $541.71 charge at Sarello’s Restaurant in Moorhead, MN descirbed as a “dinner meeting” on the expense report. What the detailed receipt shows is $70 sea bass meal, a $32 filet mignon meal and $221.50 in charges for booze including two bottles of wine at $107.00 each and a $75.00 tip. Click here to view the receipt.
July 23, 2009: A $67.57 charge for what the expense claim states, “Beverage Charges – Redhawks game.” The receipt shows that the entire purchase was alcohol. Click here to view it.
September 22, 2009: A $50.00 charge at Basies for “Refreshments for Incubator Advisory Committee meeting.” What the detailed receipt describes is “alcohol drinks and a $10 tip, total $50.00” Johnny Walker Black and Crown Royal was the choice of several. Hey, why not go top shelf, the state is paying right?
June 22, 2009: A $530.07 charge at Norman’s for what the expense claim states was a “Group-discuss options to locate in research park.” The detailed receipt shows about $100.00 in wine, and the 20% automatic tip of $85.90 was not enough, ‘Champagne Tony’ added another $20.00. Click here to see the receipt.
December 5, 2009: A $124.78 charge at Happy Harry’s liquor store for what the expense claim states was “refreshments for Board of Directors social.” Click here to see the receipt.
January 22, 2010: A $162.68 at Happy Harry’s liquor store for what the expense claim states was “refreshments for social for clients/staff.” What the detailed receipt shows, “$162.38 of alcohol, a ‘Polar Package.”
March 5, 2010: A $336.52 charge at a Fargo Force hockey game for what the expense claim states was “hockey game refreshments for incubator clients.” What the detailed receipt shows is $336.52 in charges including some snacks, a case of Bud Light, and case of Heineken and other alcohol.
March 25, 2010: A $77.62 charge at Doolittles for what the expense claim states was a “staff meeting.” The detailed receipt shows, about $25.00 in appetizers, the remainder in alcohol. Tab closed at 5:44 p.m.
February 5, 2011: A $72.86 charge at Ground Round for what the expense claim states was a “staff meeting.” What the detailed receipt shows, “Two Bloody Mary’s and two domestic bottles, plus food. Tap opened at 11:26 a.m.” Yes, 11:26 a.m. February 5, 2011, was a Saturday. Click here to see the receipt.
March 1, 2011: A $148.79 charge at Maxwells for what the expense claim states: “Shane Goettle/Dean Bresciani/Bruce Bollinger – discuss COE.” The detailed receipt is very interesting. The total bill of $250.00 included over $50.00 in wine. Interestingly, the bill was split in half, and Bresciani & Bollinger did not pick up the other half. It appears Goettle personally paid the other half, we are working to confirm this. Kudos to Goettle. If he did claim the established per diem rate, he is entitled to that amount.
June 17, 2011: A $64.02 charge at Buffalo Wild Wings for what the expense claim states was “Lunch” The detailed receipt shows some food, some alcohol, and the tab was closed out at 8:45 p.m. June 17, 2011 was a Friday.
July 28, 2011: A $61.73 charge for Crown Liquor, described on the expense claim as refreshments for Trollwood play.
Not only are these charges made on credit cards that shouldn’t exist under NDSU TRP policy, they’re for things that you cannot charge to state credit cards under statewide policy from OMB. What’s more, these aren’t trifling charges. This isn’t a couple of Budweisers with dinner. This is high-end, top-shelf liquor.
Grindberg, his staff and his board of directors are clearly living high on the hog at the Technology and Research Park’s expense. But the egregious abuse of TRP expense accounts doesn’t end there.
There are also $4,000 in dues for the Fargo Country Club we discovered, charged to the NDSU “Center of Excellence” so that Senator Grindberg can be a member. That allowed the taxpayers to pay a $233.42 tab incurred on June 7, 2011 per the records we have. It did include about $40.00 in food, a $135.00 bottle of wine, and additional alcohol. Life is good if you are Champagne Tony Grindberg.
Again, this is not an exhaustive list of the fine food, drinks and other amenities charged by Grindberg and others to the TRP credit cards. It is also important to note to our readers that the NDSU TRP employees informed our researchers they had been instructed to not answer any questions, only provide requested documents. They also had a $200 or more per hour attorney observe our researchers at all times. If there is a logical explanation for any of these expenditures, Bresciani and Grindberg prevented the employees from providing it to our researchers.
Remember from yesterday, Mr. Eric Miller, internal NDSU Auditor and Ethics Officer, recommended in an email to NDSU TRP President Bresciani; “…full inspection of all records…or an inspection by an objective third party or certified public accounting firm.” This was not done. Instead, Bresciani concluded, “…my review leads me to conclude that, related to the complaint, appropriate Research and Technology Park personnel policies are in place and being followed.” Chancellor Goetz stated, “…documentation of the review…was provided to my office…I fully support the actions that have been taken by President Bresciani…” Bresciani said the school has been criticized for questionable business practices in the past and he has instituted a zero tolerance policy. He failed to add the zero tolerance policy does not apply to state senators who are vice-chair of the Senate Appropriations committee.
Last year the director of the the Upper Great Plains Research Institute was fired by NDSU President Dean Bresciani for padding his expense accounts to the tune of roughly $6,000. Yet Senator Grindberg enjoys double-dipping on his state salary, as well as an expense account that allows him to bill high-end food and booze and even his country club membership to a state credit card.
I guess there’s a different standard if you’re a state Senator who sits on the legislature’s higher education committee.
The NDSU folks may defend these charges by claiming that the Technology and Research Park is a private entity. But that’s not really true. The TRP is subject to state open records laws (that’s how we got all of this information), was planned for and incorporated by North Dakota State University, is overseen by NDSU President Dean Bresciani and is funded (at least in part) through appropriations Senator Grindberg helped pass in the legislature.Tags: dean bresciani, NDSU, ndsu research and technology park, ndsu technology and research park, North Dakota News, north dakota state university, tony grindberg