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Top North Dakota Indian Affairs official to resign, join Sanford Health

Top North Dakota Indian Affairs official to resign, join Sanford Health

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North Dakota's top Indian Affairs official is resigning to take a job with Sanford Health.

Gov. Doug Burgum on Monday announced the resignation of Indian Affairs Commission Executive Director Scott Davis, effective April 30.

Davis has been in the position since 2009, serving three governors as a Cabinet official. He also served 23 leaders with five tribal nations in that time, working to strengthen state-tribal relations and advocate for tribal nations at the state and federal levels.  

“Within those processes I have been blessed to have worked with thousands of amazing, professional, highly skilled people,” Davis wrote in his resignation letter. “This decision does not come easy. Throughout my entire career, my heart directs me to strengthen opportunities for my Tribal members across the State. There is still much work to be done.”

He's taking the position of head of Native American outreach for Sanford Health, which is based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and has a hospital in Bismarck. Sanford bills itself as the nation's largest rural nonprofit health care system, with 46 hospitals and more than 200 Good Samaritan Society senior care locations in 26 states and 10 countries.

Sanford Health Bismarck Region President Dr. Michael LeBeau said the Native American outreach position is a new one that Davis applied for after the job was posted.

"With our growing outreach and growing regional presence we thought it was really an important part for us to really just work on serving our tribal communities, tribal members," LeBeau told the Tribune. "This position, for us, we just envision to just improve health care to Native Americans and the tribes that we service."

Burgum said Davis has played a key role in such accomplishments as a state oil tax revenue sharing compact with the Three Affiliated Tribes and updated agreements to enhance child welfare services for Native American children and families.

“Scott’s role is one of the most challenging and important in our state," the governor said in a statement. "He has been fearless in advocating for closing the serious gaps that exist for enrolled tribal members who are citizens of North Dakota. He has always worked to bring positive change by bringing all sides of the issue together to a point of greater understanding, often amidst emotionally charged topics and deeply held views."

Davis also served on the Mandan City Commission from 2016-20. He did not seek reelection last year.

Burgum last October placed Davis on administrative leave pending an investigation into allegations of misconduct regarding a personal relationship Davis had with an employee from a different state agency. The probe by the state’s Human Resource Management division concluded that Davis did not misuse his position of authority, and Burgum reinstated him three weeks later.

Governor's spokesman Mike Nowatzki said Burgum did not ask Davis to resign. He didn't say whether the misconduct allegations were a factor in Davis' decision to resign, and Davis didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. LeBeau said he is aware of the incident and he has no concerns.

Davis also was in the news last fall when he underwent a heart bypass in September, after tests showed a blockage.

His annual state salary is $115,120. 

Reach Jack Dura at 701-223-8482 or jack.dura@bismarcktribune.com.

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