“The Legislature created the Industrial Commission of North Dakota (the ‘Commission’) in 1919 to conduct and manage, on behalf of the State, certain utilities, industries, enterprises and business projects established by state law. The members of the Commission are the Governor, the Attorney General and the Agriculture Commissioner of the State.”
As you can see here, the last time meeting minutes were published was way back on July 18, 2017. Apparently the assistant to Executive Director Karlene Fine has been out with medical issues for the last six months. That’s left Ms. Fine in the unenviable position of handling double duty.
Lest some be quick to criticize the Executive Director, take a look at some of the existing meeting minutes. It’s obviously no small task to transcribe them. For example, the January 17, 2017 meeting minutes are a whopping 76 pages long. So, I’m certain that Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem is telling the truth when he says that she’s “overwhelmed”.
So, where should the responsibility fall for failure to keep up? I’d suggest that it falls with the Commission. Each of these three men have been elected to be leaders.
In the case of Governor Doug Burgum – the Commission’s Chairman – he is thought of as both an effective businessman and smart executive. Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem is not only the state’s chief representative in all legal matters, but as you can see on his website, he “enforces the Open Meetings and Open Records laws”. Isn’t it ironic that in looking at a history of his legal opinions, the majority of them are in relation to those very issues? Even Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring has a long history of leadership. These men are capable of seeing to it that the issue is resolved. The fact that they haven’t doesn’t reflect well on them.
Yet, aside from all of this, perhaps there’s a bigger issue at hand here. Could it be that the Industrial Commission is simply a product of too much government? I think so. As mentioned earlier, it was created to “conduct and manage, on behalf of the State, certain utilities, industries, enterprises and business projects established by state law”. As shown here, these responsibilities extend to oversight of the:
- Building Authority
- Bank of North Dakota
- Geological Survey
- Housing Finance Agency
- Lignite Research, Development and Marketing Program
- Mill and Elevator Association (State Mill)
- Oil and Gas Division
- Oil and Gas Research Program
- Pipeline Authority
- Public Finance Authority
- Renewable Energy Program
- Student Loan Trust
- Transmission Authority
That’s a lot of unnecessary government.
So, when it comes to meeting minutes, is there a staffing problem? Apparently. Could the Commission itself do a better job of resolving this issue? Absolutely. After all, couldn’t they bring on additional staff to get caught up? Yet, the greatest move that could be made is to begin scaling back the monstrosity that created the behemoth known as the North Dakota Industrial Commission in the first place.