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Higher ed policy on outside legal counsel goes back to the drawing board

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A committee of the Board of Higher Education has sent a proposed policy change on who colleges hire for outside legal counsel back to the drawing board.

The policy changes provide that – if a campus needs outside legal help, it should try to hire North Dakota lawyers – where possible and practical.

Board Legal Counsel Eric Olson told the Budget and Finance Committee – the policy would provide documentation on how and why those decisions were made.

Committee member Jeffry Volk objected to the policy.

"It creates an environment where it's far easier, after the fact, to throw darts at the decision makers, than to try and understand the role the decision maker was in when the decision was made in the first place," Volk said.

Volk said we need to rely on institution leadership, and trusting they are making the best decision for the institution.

"I don't see the need to take a policy like this, and put it down on paper, and put another set of handcuffs on our campus leadership," Volk said.

Volk said he feels the same way about other system policies.

But Olson said having documentation may stop some of those darts.

"What we've had is a situation where a legislator, or a board member, had questioned a decision made by a campus or the system office, in terms of hiring outside counsel," Olson said. "And they didn't have the documentation on why that decision was made."

The committee sent the policy back for further work.

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