- Associated Press - Friday, September 29, 2017

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - A new state law is keeping confidential the names of nearly 30 people who have applied to lead the North Dakota Department of Trust Lands.

The law, which took effect on Aug. 1, shields names of applicants for state government jobs from the open records law, The Bismarck Tribune reported. The names of the finalists, however, will be made public.

The department oversees the permanent educational trust funds and assets under the North Dakota Land Board’s control.

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, a member of the Land Board, doesn’t like the new law.

“The public is always interested in who applies,” Stenehjem said.

The North Dakota Newspaper Association also dislikes the law. Association attorney Jack McDonald said the law deprives the public of knowing who is pursuing government positions.

“I still disagree with the concept. It deprives the public of the information about who might be applying,” McDonald said. “It leads to less public participation in the public process.”

Gov. Doug Burgum supports the new law. The governor, who chairs the Land Board, said the change would help attract talent for state positions.

Secretary of State Al Jaeger has been a member of the Land Board since 1993. He said the number of applicants for land commissioner has exceeded the number of applicants in previous searches.

“It’s a significant amount. It surprised me,” Jaeger said.

The Land Board has also advertised the commissioner position more widely than in the past, including in national publications, Jaeger said.

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Information from: Bismarck Tribune, https://www.bismarcktribune.com

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