Minute by Minute: Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem Flouts North Dakota Law with Eight-Month Backlog in Industrial Commission Meeting Minutes

Stenehjem, Burgum, and Goehring are in violation of open records laws

North Dakotans deserve sunlight on important regulatory body

(BISMARCK, ND) – An eight-month delay is too long for the public to be shut out of what goes on at North Dakota Industrial Commissions’ meetings, but that gap has grown–and shows no sign of stopping–under the leadership of three Republicans: Attorney General Stenehjem, Governor Burgum, and Agriculture Commissioner Goehring.

This weekend, the Bismarck Tribune reported that the Industrial Commission is eight months behind publishing the minutes of its meetings. What’s worse: this delay is in direct violation of North Dakota’s open record laws according to the 2014 opinion of one of its commissioners: AG Stenehjem.

There is no excuse for this backlog, nor is this an isolated incident. After Stenehjem released his initial opinion in 2014, the Commission was again cited for long delays in disclosing its minutes in 2016 by the Office of the State Auditor.

“The three Republicans members of the Industrial Commission have hidden their minutes from the public since July of last year,” said David Thompson, Democratic-NPL candidate for Attorney General. “An eight-month delay in publishing the minutes of North Dakota’s most powerful agency, which regulates our state’s oil and gas industry, is simply inexcusable. A reasonable conclusion from the Industrial Commission’s consistent practice of hiding its minutes from the public for months–and even years–is that these actions are not accidents. This practice is nothing less than a disgrace and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem should be ashamed for his continuing role in hiding these minutes from the public as the Commission’s legal advisor and as one of its three members along with Governor Burgum and Agriculture Commissioner Goehring.”