- Associated Press - Thursday, January 15, 2015

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - The Bismarck Tribune, Bismarck, Jan. 15, 2014

No need to chip away at open records, meetings

The Legislature shouldn’t do anything to weaken the state’s open records and open meetings laws.

The laws have served the state well, providing the public with access to information to which they are entitled. When efforts are made to withhold information to the public the reasons tend to ring hollow.

There are two bills in the Legislature that would make changes to the open records and meetings laws. Both are related to education and that’s unfortunate. Both should be rejected.

Educational institutions should be setting the standard for the state, demonstrating to students and the public the value of openness.

Instead they are looking for exceptions.

The North Dakota School Boards Association favors SB2153. The bill, if passed, would seal relevant records in a school district employee’s file should the employee be charged with a crime in court. The records would become public once the case is resolved.

Jon Martinson, executive director of the association, defended the bill.

“Without this legislation, it puts school district employees in a really difficult situation because it is an open record, yet the issue is an ongoing investigation.”

The question is whether the bill is intended to protect the employee or protect the school district from embarrassment. As Jack McDonald, an attorney for the North Dakota Newspaper Association points out, when criminal charges are filed many details become public in court filings. So efforts to protect the employee wouldn’t be successful.

The bill would protect the school district from disclosing documents until the case is resolved. Any parent or member of the public wanting to know whether the school district had handled the case in a proper manner would have to wait.

Parents should have the right to know if the district is taking the proper steps to safeguard their children. School districts apparently want to stall the release of any potentially unfavorable information, possibly in hopes the case will drag out long enough for the public to forget.

Senate Bill 2134 would allow the State Board of Higher Education to hold private discussions about the hiring or firing of a chancellor. It also would make confidential all records involved in the preparation of job evaluations of top educators. The president of the board has said if the bill fails the board will quit doing the evaluations.

Apparently the board, which has violated the law on numerous occasions, has decided the law needs to be changed to fit the board’s needs, not the public’s. A board that governs an educational system should want sunshine on its proceedings, not the ability to work in secrecy.


Minot Daily News, Minot, Jan. 8, 2015

Not time to give up on Bakken

It didn’t take long for Watford City’s Alco store to be repurposed. Home of Economy, a solid business name in North Dakota since 1939, has stepped in and will open a new store there later this month.

With oil prices tanking and North Dakota residents trying hard not to say the word “bust” out loud lest their fears come true, some might say the owners of Home of Economy are taking a chance by committing to Watford City even if it is in the heart of the state’s oil patch and therefore more insulated.

The addition of a Watford City store brings Home of Economy’s total number of locations to seven.

The opening of this Home of Economy store comes on the heels of a 2014 major expansion at the Williston location, a 2013 opening of the chain’s largest store in Jamestown, and the 2012 opening of a brand new store in Minot.

So what does having taken that latest risk say about the times and the players? That the smart money isn’t giving up on the Bakken yet, not by a longshot. Believe.


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