- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 29, 2020

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - The Bismarck School District violated state open records law when it destroyed handwritten notes sought by an attorney, North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said in an opinion released Wednesday.

Bismarck attorney Lawrence King asked for documents from the school district in January, including handwritten notes of the school’s human resources director. Stenehjem said the district determined the notes were not legible, so the district transcribed the notes, gave those to King and shredded the handwritten ones.

But in the attorney general’s opinion, the school should have provided the original notes.

“I appreciate the School’s attempt to be helpful in creating a more easily readable Word document of the notes; however, the request specifically asked for the handwritten notes. Therefore, the School should have provided the notes, even if illegible,” Stenehjem wrote.

Because the notes were discarded, remedies for the open records violation are limited, Stenehjem said. No further action is available or necessary, he said.

An attorney representing the school district said a district employee made “good faith decision” to type the records for readability and had no ill intent by destroying them, The Bismarck Tribune reported.

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