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Attorney general finds Horse Race North Dakota violated open meeting laws

In July, The Forum requested the opinion of Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem after it asked Horse Race North Dakota to receive notices of meetings.

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Jockey Evan Herman, No. 4, holds on to the lead during a race at North Dakota Horse Park.
Forum file photo
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FARGO — North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem has issued an opinion that Horse Race North Dakota violated open meeting laws by not posting clear notice of a meeting and its agenda.

Horse Race North Dakota operates North Dakota Horse Park, the horse racing track in Fargo. Since Horse Race North Dakota is a nonprofit corporation that receives grants from the state of North Dakota and is supported in part by public funds, it is considered a public entity subject to open records and meetings laws.

In July, The Forum requested the opinion of the attorney general after it asked Horse Race North Dakota to receive notices of meetings. The Forum also requested from the group agendas and minutes for all 2020 and 2021 meetings.

Prior to the request, The Forum had received complaints from the public claiming it could not find upcoming meetings of the board, and no notices were were posted on the North Dakota Horse Park website.

Later, a notice for the Aug. 26 regular meeting of the board was posted. The notice for the meeting, which was held remotely, was made on Horse Race North Dakota’s website but not sent to The Forum despite its request to receive meeting notices.

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In Stenehjem's opinion, he wrote, "In addition, the meeting notice did not include an agenda or the information necessary to join the remotely held meeting. Based on the multiple deficiencies in the notice and how it was posted, Horse Race North Dakota failed to provide proper notice of its August 26, 2021 meeting."

The request for agendas and minutes from meetings in 2020 and 2021 was adequately fulfilled by Horse Race North Dakota, the attorney general concluded.

The Forum also asked Stenehjem's office to consider whether the board met illegally during the 2021 live race meet. In his opinion, Stenjehem said he must take the statements presented by Horse Race North Dakota as fact, and he found they did not violate open meetings laws at that event.

"Although, at times, a quorum of board members were in attendance at the race events in July, 2021, the members did not meet as a board and were otherwise involved with racing activities," stated the attorney general.

Horse Race North Dakota has posted meeting notices and agendas for upcoming meetings on its website at www.hrnd.org.

As the West Fargo editor, Wendy Reuer covers all things West Fargo for The Forum and oversees the production of the weekly Pioneer.
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