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Port: Sen. Ray Holmberg resigns from powerful committee, hires criminal defense attorney

"Recent events and discussions have made it clear to me that the interim governing body of the legislature, Legislative Management, does not need to be any part of that discussion," Holmberg wrote in a released announcement.

holmberg chamber.PNG
Sen. Ray Holmberg, R-Grand Forks, gives a speech after receiving an award from the Grand Forks East Grand Forks Chamber of Commerce on Dec. 28, 2020.
Forum News Service file photo
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MINOT, N.D. — State Sen. Ray Holmberg is stepping down as chairman of Legislative Management, a powerful committee that oversees the North Dakota Legislature's interim work.

"Recent events and discussions have made it clear to me that the interim governing body of the legislature, Legislative Management, does not need to be any part of that discussion," Holmberg wrote in an emailed statement Wednesday, April 20. "Consequently, I will be stepping down as chairman of Legislative Management, effective immediately. This will allow Vice-chairman Chet Pollert to complete my term."

He added that "No further comments on this announcement will be forthcoming."

Holmberg legislative management resignation email
An email sent by Sen. Ray Holmberg, a Republican from Grand Forks, announcing his resignation as chairman of Legislative Management.
Screencapture by Rob Port

Holmberg, a Republican from Grand Forks and North Dakota's longest-serving state lawmaker, had previously announced that his current term in the state Senate will be his last. His seat is on the ballot in November, and he is not running for re-election.

The announcement comes in the wake of an April 15 story by reporter April Baumgarten indicating that Holmberg had exchanged 72 text messages with a man jailed on charges related to child pornography. Holmberg has said he no longer has the text messages exchanged with 34-year-old Nicholas James Morgan-Derosier and has subsequently changed his phone numbers.

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Previous coverage
Exclusive
State Sen. Ray Holmberg of Grand Forks told a reporter he no longer had the text messages. When asked what happened to the texts, Holmberg said, “They’re just gone.”
Democrat-NPL Chair Patrick Hart said North Dakota's longest-serving state senator should step down as chair of Legislative Management, a powerful group that decides who sits on committees in the Legislature.
Sen. Ray Holmberg should be eager to dispel any misunderstandings the public could have about such an intense episode of communication with someone who federal prosecutors have accused of having thousands of images depicting child sexual abuse.

Holmberg has not resigned as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, a position which also places him on the influential Emergency Commission alongside Gov. Doug Burgum and other legislative leaders. The Emergency Commission, among other duties, handles tweaks to state budget line items and the disbursement of federal monies received by the state when the full Legislature isn't in session.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Emergency Commission disbursed over $1 billion in federal funds.

Holmberg also has retained the services of Fargo-based criminal defense attorney Mark Friese, who works with the Vogel Law Firm. Friese is handling media inquiries for Holmberg.

Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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