Bismarck, ND – Attorney General Drew Wrigley informed the ND Legislative Budget Section that the Attorney General’s office had accrued significant cost overruns due to a building it leases to house BCI, the Lottery, and the State Fire Marshal.
There was a total of $1.8 million in overrun costs. $1.4 million of the unanticipated costs had to be scrapped together from the existing AG office budget. Another $400,000 is expected to be paid in the coming year. The Budget Section voted, today, to investigate building leases under the Attorney General’s Office.
Wrigley stated that in January 2021, Attorney General Stenehjem and Deputy Attorney General Seibel were aware of these overrun costs, however, budget staff within the AG Office was not made aware until June 2021.
House Minority Leader Josh Boschee stated, “It completely dumbfounds me that the highest ranking attorney and his deputy blatantly ignored state procurement and contracting procedures to secure a lease that now leaves North Dakotans overpaying for leased office space. As part of committee investigation or performance audit, we need to understand their motivations to fleece the public like this. Transparency, proper disclosure and checks and balances are integral at all levels of government to maintain the public’s trust. This is why I have been supportive of greater disclosure laws required of lawmakers who rent space to or provide services to state government, to keep sweetheart deals from occurring. I am thankful for the dedicated public employees who brought these inappropriate actions to the light.”
Senate Minority Leader Joan Heckaman remarked, “The state has well documented procurement and contracting procedures in place for North Dakotans to have trust that their tax dollars are handled appropriately. Learning about this situation raises many concerns about what other misuse of power occurred in the Attorney General’s Office. As a member of the Legislative Audit and Fiscal Review Committee, I am committed to finding out how this could occur, and ensure that there is stronger oversight of existing leases, contracts and procurement processes to ensure any actual or perceived conflict of interest is addressed.”