FARGO, N.D. (AP) — The North Dakota Board of Higher Education spent much of its monthly meeting in Bismarck Thursday behind closed doors discussing a pair of disputed claims, including a labor complaint against the university system chancellor by a vice chancellor who was fired.
The board met privately for about an hour to discuss the complaint by Lisa Feldner, who was the system’s vice president of information technology and institutional research before she was let go in September. Feldner accuses Chancellor Mark Hagerott of creating a hostile work environment and discriminating against women. Hagerott says he “strongly disagrees” with her assertions.
The board did not discuss the complaint when it returned to open session. Board President Don Morton, who said earlier he “strongly disagrees” with the grievance, said during the meeting that the board doesn’t want to debate it publicly.
“We’ve chosen to go with due process,” Morton said. “Due process is a part of our society. It’s a part of our democracy. Due process can take time, but due process also can get to the truth. “
Hagerott has been running the university system since July 2015. He’s paid $372,000 annually.
The board at its September meeting rejected requests by board member Mike Ness for a special session to discuss Hagerott’s contract. GOP Rep. Al Carlson, the House majority leader, said after the meeting that the state has “done enough buying out” of contracts for chancellors and college presidents. The contract of the previous chancellor was bought out after one year.
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum earlier this month announced the formation of a task force to look at governance of the state’s 11 colleges and universities.
The board went into executive session a second time at Thursday’s meeting to discuss a claim from a Fargo contractor asking for $1.3 million in cost overruns for construction of a North Dakota State University building. The facility houses classes for science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM.
Roers Construction says the $29.4 million A. Glenn Hill Center was a complex project that was compounded by pressure on the company to finish it in time for an opening ceremony with politicians and guests from Korea. Architect Brian Berg says there was nothing unusual about the project and the claim was not submitted in a timely fashion.
NDSU officials say they agree with Berg but would be willing to participate in mediation with Roers to avoid a lawsuit. The board on Thursday approved the mediation, but didn’t discuss it further.