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North Dakota AG: Governor's office lagged in fulfilling records request

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North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem issued an opinion Friday that a three-week delay by the governor's office in providing requested records was "unreasonable."

"Editor, NorthDecoder" had requested records relating to a disputed District 8 House seat.

The House seat was a boiling legal issue last fall when Republican nominee David Andahl, 55, of Baldwin, won the office after he died from COVID-19. Gov. Doug Burgum tried unsuccessfully to appoint a successor.

The governor's office told Stenehjem the delay was due to a “significantly larger volume of open records requests" amid the coronavirus pandemic, and requests were answered in order of receipt.

Stenehjem called the delay "unreasonable," and factored in the office's lack of communication explaining the delay.

"Here, given the circumstances, a certain amount of delay is understandable and reasonable, however, prior opinions have explained that delayed responses are closely scrutinized. Based on past opinions, a three-week delay to provide 334 pages is unreasonable," Stenehjem wrote.

The attorney general also concluded that the governor's office provided all records in response to the request. 

Reach Jack Dura at 701-250-8225 or jack.dura@bismarcktribune.com.

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