Paul Jordan says he’s an advocate for the truth and good government.
Mandan and North Dakota officials say he’s a "prolific and persistent requester" who inundates local government with requests for open records and attorney general opinions.
"It's because every time I turn over a rock, I find something else and it leads me to two more rocks," Jordan said. "I turn over those rocks, and there they are."
Jordan, a retired archaeologist and former military medic, moved to Mandan in 2013. He said he saw neighborhood issues that led him to begin requesting public records that provided him with what he says has been incorrect, delayed or withheld information.
From 2014 to 2017, Jordan submitted more than 300 open records requests to the city of Mandan, according to AG opinions. Mandan city administrator Jim Neubauer said he's since stopped keeping track.
"I think for the folks that are responding to information requests from him, it is time consuming," said Neubauer, who added that 99 percent of the city's records requests are from Jordan. His requests have asked for municipal citations, financial records, police reports and arrest records, to name a few.
Jordan’s contact with the attorney general’s office also has been lengthy. In a recent batch of AG opinions, seven of eight were issued to him, regarding open meeting violations and response times to requests.
In 2017, the state passed an amendment to North Dakota's open records law that allows a public entity to deny an information request if repeated requests disrupt government duties. Jordan said he's already "been hit" by the law, which he called "a real joke" aimed at him in its passage.
"I see it as unconstitutional. That's because you're denied property without due process," Jordan said.
Neubauer testified in 2017 to the state Senate Judiciary Committee on recommendations to the state's open records law. He said his testimony involved Jordan's frequent requests.
"Sometimes people go above and beyond what might be considered reasonable," said North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, pointing to one woman who requested all of the state's information concerning Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard and President Dwight Eisenhower.
Jack McDonald, legal counsel for the North Dakota Newspaper Association, said there’s “a fine line” in making information requests, especially when a person is “weaponizing” many requests as a kind of harassment.
"I find it very hard to believe that he really is somehow using all these records and he needs all these records that he's trying to get from these various places," McDonald said of Jordan.
Jordan says he is "at odds" with Mandan city government. He also said he won't appear before the city commission to voice his concerns as he says the board has no rules for allowing the public to speak at meetings.
"If I go up there, what happens?" Jordan said.
"I do not think that any mayor that I've ever worked under has ever denied someone permission to speak," Neubauer said.
Mandan Mayor Tim Helbling declined to comment on Jordan’s requests. When reached by phone, he said he had recently received a packet in the mail from Jordan that he had yet to open.
Neubauer said Jordan's situation is "very unusual," but "I think he obviously would like to see some changes made in his neighborhood."
Jordan said his requests can be time consuming, but he'll keep being an "advocate."
"To me, doing something right is you do it because it's the right thing to do," Jordan said. "It's not about whether it takes a lot of time or a little time."
Reach Jack Dura at 701-223-8482 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
"It's because every time I turn over a rock, I find something else and it leads me to two more rocks. I turn over those rocks, and there they are."
-- Paul Jordan, of Mandan