Dalrymple: No reason for NCAA nickname meeting to be closed
By: Associated Press,
BISMARCK — Gov. Jack Dalrymple said Thursday he “cannot imagine any reason” why a planned private meeting of NCAA and state officials about UND’s Fighting Sioux nickname should not be open to the public.
Separately, Heidi Heitkamp, a former North Dakota attorney general, said she believed North Dakota law requires that the April 22 meeting be public.
The NCAA considers UND’s nickname and Indian head logo to be hostile to American Indians, and UND faces sanctions if the name and logo are retained. The North Dakota Legislature has approved a bill, which takes effect Aug. 1, that orders UND to keep both.
The NCAA’s president, Mark Emmert, and its chief inclusion officer, Bernard Franklin, plan to come to Bismarck to speak with state and college officials about the issue April 22.
“The time has come that this needs to be in full view of the North Dakota public,” the Republican governor said. “And if the NCAA intends to say something, which I assume they would, I would hope that this would be their opportunity to explain to the people of North Dakota why they are doing what they’re doing.”
The meeting was arranged by UND’s president, Robert Kelley, at the request of Jon Backes, president of North Dakota’s Board of Higher Education, and Grant Shaft, its vice president. Shaft, a Grand Forks attorney and former state legislator, has been a board spokesman on the UND nickname issue.
Backes, Shaft, Kelley, Dalrymple, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, UND athletics director Brian Faison, and the Legislature’s Republican majority leaders, Fargo Rep. Al Carlson and Bismarck Sen. Bob Stenehjem, have been invited to attend the meeting, Shaft has said.
North Dakota’s Democratic legislative leaders, Towner Sen. Ryan Taylor and Fullerton Rep. Jerry Kelsh, have sent their own letter to Backes, asking that the NCAA meeting be open and that representatives of the Standing Rock Sioux and Spirit Lake Sioux tribes be invited.
Heitkamp, in an email, said Thursday that the Board of Higher Education “has created an implied delegation of authority to ‘leadership’ to act on behalf of the board on the nickname issue.”
Heitkamp, a Democrat who was attorney general from 1992 until 2000, was referring to North Dakota law and attorney general’s opinions that say that if at least two members of a public board are gathering information for the entire board, meetings that the members arrange should be public.
An open meetings and records manual published by the attorney general’s office encourages state and local officials to hold public meetings in such circumstances.
“Any doubt whether a committee or other group is subject to the open meetings law should be resolved in favor of opening meetings of the group to the public,” the manual says.
North Dakota law allows public boards to hold closed meetings to consult with lawyers about pending litigation. The board and UND sued the NCAA after the collegiate athletics association declared the Fighting Sioux nickname “hostile and abusive” in 2005, but the suit was settled out of court in 2007.
Dalrymple said he did not believe the exemption would apply. “The settlement is over. The legal activity is over,” Dalrymple said. “Why would (the NCAA meeting) not be open? I have no idea.”