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Cost-overruns and deleted e-mails -- the issues before the Legislative Audit and Fiscal Review Committee

Attorney General Drew Wrigley testifies before the Legislative Audit and Fiscal Review Committee
Dave Thompson
Attorney General Drew Wrigley testifies before the Legislative Audit and Fiscal Review Committee

The Legislative Audit and Fiscal Review Committee heard reports of an investigation into alleged cost-overruns in a project authorized by Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, as well as deletions of Stenehjem's e-mails after he died in office.

The matter was brought to the Legislature by Attorney General Drew Wrigley, soon after he was appointed to take Stenehjem's place. He briefed lawmakers about what he called "cost overruns," as well as the deleted e-mail account.

Wrigley also contracted with the Montana Department of Criminal Investigation, to see if laws were broken.

The LASFRC committee heard from Wrigley, as well as the lead Montana Investigator. But lawmakers also heard from an attorney who represents the company that owned and developed the building in question, min south Bismarck. Monte Rogneby represents Stealth Properties, as well as a contracting firm that did the building renovation. Rogneby told the Committee there's been a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation about the lease agreement.

Rogneby gave the LAFRC committee a number of documents that he said shows increased costs, but not "cost-overruns."

"Some of this is increased costs because of COVID and supply-chain issues," Rogneby told the Committee. "Some of this is a change in the scope of work, from what originally was anticipated."

Rogneby told the Committee Stenehjem and assistant AG Troy Seibel agreed to lease the building – and then went to department heads, asking what they needed.

"It's more of a "cost-plus” project, which means the tenant — the Attorney General's office — understood it would make decisions as the project went forward, and depending on the decisions, would have to pay more money," Rogneby said. He also told the Committee the owners have reached out a number of times to Wrigley and his staff, to do a project reconciliation, but have not been successful.

Rogneby also said DNS LLC — the contractor — does have a valid license, unlike what some reports have said.

The Committee will take another look at the matter at its next meeting. The Committee does not have subpoena power, and can only get reports.

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