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Legislator thinks NDSCS, Indian Affairs Commission audits may show potential crimes

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A member of the Legislature’s Audit and Fiscal Review Committee wants the results of performance audits of two state agencies to be referred to the Attorney General’s office for possible criminal prosecution.

Rep. Marvin Nelson (D-Rolla) wanted the results of the audits of the State College of Science and the Indian Affairs Commission to be looked at by the Attorney General’s office. Nelson said in the NDSCS case, he’s concerned about the college not turning over e-mails about a potential conflict of interest by college vice-president Tony Grindberg, who is married to the chief financial officer of the Flint Group. Flint was hired by the college as a consultant to the campaign to raise money for a new career academy, to be located in Fargo.

Nelson told the Committee the Attorney General should also look at over $7000 in gift cards spent by the Indian Affairs Commission.

"I think what we've been given rises to the level of saying to us that there may -- not that there is -- potential criminal action," Nelson said. "We're not the jury or judge. But there may be a law broken here."

Nelson said pursuing any potential criminal action is not the Committee's responsibility.

"However, we need to pass it on, as we're supposed to," Nelson said.

Other Committee members said there isn't enough information yet to make that referral.

"I think voting on it today is a little premature," said Rep. Keith Kemenich (R-Bowman). "It is something we should look into."

A vote to send them to the Attorney General’s office failed 10 to 8. It will be on the next committee agenda.

Earlier in the meeting, the Committee heard discussion on e-mails and documents that NDSCS did not provide to the Auditor's office, but that the Auditor later received from the North Dakota University System's main office. College president John Richman told the Committee no documents were provided because the Auditor's request was too vague.

"The College never received a specific written request for e-mails," Richman said.

State Auditor Josh Gallion disputed that.

"They (NDSCS) said no e-mail correspondence existed," Gallion told the Committee. "The e-mails we received from the NDUS says otherwise."

Richman said he negotiated with Flint via phone, not via e-mail.

The State Board of Higher Education is requiring Richman to make reports to Chancellor Mark Hagerott on the progress of an "action plan" NDSCS has put in place to make improvements.

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