Auditor Alleges a Violation of Law. Now What?

According to North Dakota Auditor Josh Gallion, the Department of Commerce violated state law on bidding contracts for the state’s “Be Legendary” logo. The logo caused a lot of conversation about the design and ultimately the process used by the Burgum administration to complete the new look earlier this year. At the time, I asked if the process was a coincidence or business as usual? The audit suggests the latter.

“The audit found two temporary employment contracts were used to stay under the purchasing thresholds that required contractor competition and continue the work from the original contract. These contracts should have been treated as one contract for services and bid appropriately following OMB procurement requirements. The total cost of both contracts was $87,162.50 which would require the Department to follow Level 3 procurement requirements.”

Recall the cozy relationship between the artist “approached” by the administration that raised red flags in the first place. It goes back to Great Plains Software that Burgum sold to Microsoft. Who “approached” the artist from the administration as first reported by Patrick Springer in February? Was it a coincidence the administration selected $9,500 as the contract amount or was it purposefully selected to not meet the bidding requirements of the state at $10,000? Turns out the full amount for the logo project was found to be more than $87,000. Gallion says it doesn’t appear to be a coincidence but a purposeful circumvention of state law. 

The Auditor’s Office claims the Department of Commerce broke state law. The Department of Commerce maintains they did nothing wrong. Now what? “Auditor’s spokeswoman Brianna Ludwig said the purchases have already been made, so there is no remedy.” No remedy? That seems to suggest that if someone breaks state law at a high enough level of state government they’ll just verbally slap the violator on the wrist and move on. What good is a law if there is no enforcement?

This begs the question, isn’t there a role for Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem here? He should issue an opinion. That is his job. Gallion has done his job, perhaps he should make the request of Stenehjem.

As for Governor Burgum, it appears he has simply replaced the “Good old boy network” he campaigned forcefully against with his own. The Governor is ultimately the head of the Department of Commerce. Business as usual in Bismarck.

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