Grand Forks School Board candidate explains court records

Lee Hensrud says past issues have taught him lessons from which he can draw. "I may have learned the hard way, self-inflicted,” he said.

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A candidate for Grand Forks School Board has been in and out of district court on foreclosure, small claims and collections cases for the last six years, court documents show.

Lee Hensrud, the candidate, is one of five seeking four seats for four-year terms on the School Board in the coming election. All the other candidates seeking those seats are current members of the board, including Amber Flynn, Eric Lunn, Jeff Manley and Cynthia Shabb. The top four vote-winners in that election will serve on the board (a separate, two-way race is also underway for a two-year term on the board).

Hensrud, who said in a Herald candidate survey of the race that he is “self-employed,” said that he’s running “in hopes of making a difference rather than just holding a board seat.”

"I think we have a real issue with needs versus wants when it comes to budgeting. While one could say everything is 'needed,' we must prioritize and be responsible with the taxpayers' money,” he said. “I feel the greatest challenge our district faces is rebuilding trust between the taxpayers and the district. Transparency, accountability and open communication are key to overcome this challenge.”

Pressed on how to reconcile his belt-tightening rhetoric with his financial record, Hensrud said he knows about the importance of good budgeting from personal experiences.


“I would have to say that, my comments, I stand by them. To be honest with you, it’s a lot of my own life lessons that I’ve learned,” he said. “I may have been reflecting on my own self a little bit. There does come a time when you have to make tough decisions. I may have learned the hard way, self-inflicted.”

Court documents show that financial matters have had him in court, on and off, since 2014. According to a complaint filed in district court in February by Alerus Financial, he had fallen behind on payments on a Cherry Street home. It’s the third time the property has had him in court in roughly six years, all of which have had to do with failure to keep current on payments.

Court records show that those most recent proceedings on the home, from February, are still open.

Other court documents detail several small claims affidavits filed against him, including two from 2017 following bad checks of $50 and $66, made to Valley Dairy and Longhaul Saloon, respectively. Another affidavit, from 2001, appears to show a small claim from an Emerado-based gas station, though court records state that the documents in that case have been destroyed in accordance with administrative rules.

Hensrud was also pursued in district court in May 2018 for nearly $6,000 in debt to Altru Health System and for more than $650 owed to a payday lender in August 2019.

“I don’t know anybody else’s business, but I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs in life. I’ve had issues with being able to keep going in life,” Hensrud said. ”Sometimes things have happened. Had a couple of incidents where I had accounts that were overdue and I had trouble catching up on them. ... With the foreclosures and whatnot, I’ve gotten behind a couple times and I’ve been able to bring it up to speed, been able to reinstate the mortgage.

“I’ve never had a house taken away from me, I’ve never gotten to that point,” Hensrud added. “It still doesn’t excuse that you get behind on your payments, but at the same time, sometimes life happens and you have to pick yourself up off the ground and charge forward.”

After weeks of mail-in voting, the election is set to culminate on June 9. The deadline for voters to postmark their ballots is June 8.

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