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AG: Nonprofit tied to public educators is exempt from open records laws

BISMARCK-Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem on Monday said the North Dakota Council of Education Leaders, a nonprofit closely tied to the state's public education system, is not subject to the state's open records law. Stenehjem's opinion came four...

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FILE – North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
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BISMARCK-Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem on Monday said the North Dakota Council of Education Leaders, a nonprofit closely tied to the state's public education system, is not subject to the state's open records law.

Stenehjem's opinion came four months after the NDCEL declined to release copies of the applications of the four finalists for Superintendent of the Year to a Grand Forks man who requested them. It declined another records request by Rep. Jim Kasper, R-Fargo.

After both men requested an opinion, Stenehjem found that the NDCEL, while it receives some public funds, is "not a public entity subject to open records law and it was therefore proper to deny requests for public records."

A nonprofit corporation, the 768-member NDCEL advocates for the interests of school administrators, the opinion stated. It is not operated by the state.

Some of its members' dues are paid by school districts or other public entities. But the services provided by the NDCEL are commensurate with the cost of dues, Stenehjem wrote. State entities also give money to the NDCEL as grants, but those do not constitute "support" either, the attorney general stated.

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C.T. Marhula, who requested the applications of the Superintendent of the Year finalists, said he was "very disappointed" by the news.

Marhula, a semi-retired private researcher, requested the documents on behalf of a client, about whom he would not provide details.

Related Topics: EDUCATION
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