Fri. May 24th, 2024

North Dakota state rep found guilty of misdemeanor charge tied to budget votes and building

By 37ci3 May7,2024

BISMARCK, ND – A North Dakota grand jury on Friday convicted a state lawmaker of wrongdoing in connection with a state-leased building he owns. The legislative leader said he disagreed with the ruling and plans to review the statute and regulations.

Republican Rep. Jason Docter, of Bismarck, was accused By speculating or betting on official activity in December 2023. He pleaded not guilty. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 360 days in jail and/or a $3,000 fine. Docter declined to comment on the verdict but said he would consider an appeal. His sentence has not yet been set.

The criminal complaint alleged that as a member of the North Dakota House of Representatives, Docter voted against the law and legislative regulations “on bills that appropriated money for the property he earned.” The charge stemmed from complaints filed with the state Ethics Commission.

House Majority Leader Mike LeFore, a Republican, said the case is relevant because “lawmakers will not feel comfortable knowing what a conflict of interest is.”

“I think we need to go to the rules, look at the state statutes, and have a thoughtful conversation with the Ethics Commission to make sure that legislators are not looking over their shoulders and worried that this will rise to the level of legislation. Is it a conflict of interest or not?” Lefor said.

He called it a “slippery slope” for the scenarios of a lawmaker voting on an education bill or a lawmaker voting on agriculture issues.

Prosecutor Ladd Erickson declined to comment on the verdict.

Docter’s charge is part of a nearly two-year dispute over the building leased by the late Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem to consolidate divisions of his office. cost overruns More than 1 million dollars and not fully agreed.

Stenehjem’s successor, Attorney General Drew Wrigley, disclosed the overreach and Stenehjem’s government email account. deleted day later his death In January 2022 at the direction of his executive assistant, Liz Broker who then resigned. A the prosecutor refused bringing charges for deleted emails.

Dokter owns the building and co-owns the companies that work on it. He was friends with Stenehjem but denied any wrongdoing in the lease. Doctor was first elected in 2012. He was re-elected in 2022 without opposition.

House Minority Leader Zach Easta called on Docter to resign after the verdict. Docter said he didn’t plan to do it right away. Lefort said he doesn’t expect the Republican-dominated House to take immediate action against Docter.

The legislature is not in session and is not scheduled to reconvene until January 2025, after the organizational session in December.

The cost overruns and the deleted emails have shocked state lawmakers, who have raised concerns about trust and transparency. Wrigley office earlier this year recovered Stenehjem’s thousands of emails via cell phone backup and freed them in response to records requests. Stenehjem’s phone records became part of the investigation former state senator Who is Ray Holmberg? accused travel to Europe with intent to pay for sex with a minor. Holmberg’s trial is scheduled for September.

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By 37ci3

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