FARGO – The North Dakota State University Development Foundation and Alumni Association has released an audio recording from a Dec. 16 meeting that, according to the state attorney general, was illegally closed to the public to discuss a severance package for Doug Mayo, the fundraising group's former CEO and president.
Mayo, who was ousted in late December, initially asked for a severance package worth $600,000, according to the recording made available Wednesday.
But in the end, Mayo settled for a deal worth an estimated $104,000 that included four months' pay, moving expenses and a 2014 Ford Expedition, a foundation vehicle that he used.
Hired as CEO and president in mid-2013, Mayo departed after a dozen members of his staff resigned in 2014 and key employees claimed they were demoted without cause. Such issues led leaders of the development foundation and alumni association to meet in closed sessions on Dec. 4 and 16 to discuss Mayo's ouster.
In an opinion released Tuesday, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said closing the meetings violated North Dakota's open meetings law.
While the audio recording of the Dec. 4 meeting has not yet been made public, the recording from the Dec. 16 meeting has been released. It consists mainly of Lisa Edison-Smith, the fundraising group's attorney, giving board members an update on her negotiations with Mayo, who is also an attorney.
Edison-Smith told board members that during negotiations she and Mayo discussed his claim that his work environment was hostile. Although, both sides agreed they had much to lose from any protracted litigation, she said.
Edison-Smith said she told Mayo: "There are a number of concerns about your performance, and we're concerned that there could be other claims out there as well." However, she did not detail those concerns.
During the closed meeting, a board member said Mayo "feels that he cannot practice in this community anymore, probably not in the state. He would need to relocate, and it would take him substantial time to find comparable employment."
Mayo did not return phone messages Wednesday. His replacement has not yet been selected.
Reporter Grace Lyden contributed to this story.