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Port: Democratic legislative candidate owes a fuller explanation for relationship with student

Hoffarth is going to be asking the people of District 18 to decide whether or not she's qualified to wield the power of government in the Legislature. Part of that process needs to be a more fulsome explanation of what happened between Hoffarth and this student.

Jacqueline Hoffarth.jpg
Jacqueline Hoffarth
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MINOT, N.D. — My print column today is about the struggles North Dakota Democrats are having to recruit candidates this election cycle.

To illustrate my point, I point to a lack of candidates in a Grand Forks-area legislative district 42, which was once considered a stronghold for the Democrats.

Yesterday, Democrats got a new candidate in a different Grand Forks district. Jacqueline Hoffarth announced her candidacy for the state House of Representatives in District 18.

That was long a deeply blue district until Republicans turned it purple in 2016, taking two of the district's three seats (Rep. Corey Mock, a Democrat, holds the third).

Hoffarth's candidacy is raising some eyebrows, however. Earlier this month her name was on the agenda of the North Dakota Board of Social Work Examiners under the "complaints" section.

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The Grand Forks Herald reported on the situation, though few details were available officially from the state and Hoffarth herself was ducking inquiries.

Hoffarth is also a member of the Grand Forks School Board, and until November of last year, she was an assistant professor of social work at the University of North Dakota.

It was apparently something that happened during her time at UND which put Hoffarth on the agenda of the oversight board for social workers.

Earlier this month the board denied the Herald's request for records, citing exemptions from open records laws for disciplinary proceedings, but shortly before announcing her candidacy Hoffarth finally got around to providing an explanation.

Though it's light on details.

"On Monday, Feb. 24, Hoffarth told Forum News Service the complaint was submitted to the board by former UND colleagues who alleged that a relationship between Hoffarth and a social work graduate student was unethical," the Herald reported yesterday . "Hoffarth said the student was not under her supervision in any way. She also said she completely disagrees with any allegations of improper behavior."

Hoffarth claims that leaving employment at UND was her choice, a move born of "personal differences" with other staff.

Given that some of her colleagues at UND filed complaints with a state board over her behavior, I'll bet there were some "personal differences."

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It's worth noting that the board dismissed the complaint against Hoffarth on Feb. 12, but there are few details publicly available about the events leading up to that outcome.

At this point, all we have is Hoffarth's abrupt explanation.

She owes us more.

We are now living in the #MeToo era. There has been a popular uprising, transcending cultural and political boundaries, against those with power manipulating and abusing subordinates. An alleged relationship between a professor and a student certainly has the potential for that sort of abuse.

The social work board dismissed the complaint against Hoffarth, but does that mean nothing voters might consider untoward or unethical happened?

Hoffarth is going to be asking the people of District 18 to decide whether or not she's qualified to wield the power of government in the Legislature.

Part of that process needs to be a more fulsome explanation of what happened between Hoffarth and this student.

To comment on this article, visit www.sayanythingblog.com

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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, a North Dakota political blog, is a Forum Communications commentator. Listen to his Plain Talk Podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RobPort.

Related Topics: ELECTION 2020NORTH DAKOTA
Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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