Today’s Ask Your Government

Dear readers,
Several weeks ago, I reported on the vacation time used by six North Dakota elected officials: the governor, attorney general, insurance commissioner, agriculture commissioner, tax commissioner and superintendent of public instruction.
For space reasons, I limited it to those six. I recently was asked to look at the vacation time of other state officials. I’ll feature three officials this week and the three Public Service commissioners next week.
As I reported earlier, elected officials are free to set their schedules and days off. They do not report annual leave hours or sick leave. I asked these officials the same questions that I asked the others: how much time they took off last year, how much they have taken this year and how they determine how much is appropriate.
Here’s how they responded:
State Auditor Bob Peterson
“I’ve taken 10 days of personal/vacation time this year. No sick time. Last year, it was seven days. No sick time. I don’t have a method. I just use my judgment.”
State Treasurer Kelly Schmidt
How many days did you take off in 2010? Records prior to Aug. 1, 2010, have been purged from the system and are no longer available. Annual leave: 6. Sick leave: 2. Family leave: 5.
How many days have you taken this year? Annual leave: 6 days. Sick leave: 1. Personal leave: 5. This was a political trip to Washington, D.C., paid at my expense.
How do you go about determining how many days off you take each year? Agency workload and board meeting schedules are always taken into consideration when determining vacation time. As a family, we traditionally take time over the Fourth of July and Christmas holidays.
As parents, Chuck and I do our best to be available to help celebrate our sons’ life accomplishments.
Annual leave is days which were taken off during regular business hours. Weekend and evening hours are always part of the job and expected. These weekend and evening commitments would more than make up for the amount of annual leave taken.
If using the state employee’s annual leave calculation, seven years of (service) would be entitled to 15 days of annual leave.
Secretary of State Al Jaeger
“Since statewide elected officials are not allocated a set amount of days for sick leave or vacation leave, I have not tracked my ‘out of the office’ days during my 18-plus years as secretary of state. Most often, my absence is related to office duties and not many ‘full’ days have been for personal reasons.
“Regardless of the cause of my absence, I still maintain daily Monday-Friday contact with my office and do office-related work each day on my laptop. Then, upon my return, I use evenings and weekends to catch up and do what could not be done while absent from the office. It is a tradeoff, which I don’t mind. When I am absent for personal reasons, it is definitely related to family.”
Do you have a question for a North Dakota state government official or agency? Send us your question, and we’ll do our best to find an answer.
E-mail (Subject: Ask your government).
You may also write to Teri Finneman c/o Forum Communications, Press Room, State Capitol, Bismarck, ND 58505.
Please include your name, town and a phone number to reach you for verification.

Updated election numbers

Secretary of State Al Jaeger just sent out some statistics regarding this year’s November election. Here they are below:

Gross Number of Ballots Mailed by County Auditors: 69,438

Gross Number of Ballots Returned to County Auditors: 65,061 = Percentage Returned – 93.69%


Number of Ballots Mailed by Vote-By-Mail Counties: 35,464

Number of Ballots Returned to Vote-By-Mail Counties: 32,804 = Percentage Returned – 94.94%

Number of Absentee Ballots Mailed by non Vote-By-Mail Counties: 33,974

Number of Ballots Returned to non Vote-By-Mail Counties: 32,257 = Percentage Returned – 94.94%

Early Voting Precincts

Votes cast in counties that had an early voting precinct = 23,118

Total Votes cast before Election Day = 88,179 or 36.6% of the total number of votes cast, which was 240,8761 (subject to results from 3 recounts)

Today’s Ask Your Government

Dear readers,

The Forum received this from a Rugby, N.D., reader, who also contacted the North Dakota Attorney General’s Office:

“I was reviewing the website Project Vote Smart for candidate profiles and discovered several candidates are using their official state-issued e-mail addresses as ‘campaign’ e-mail addresses.

“I believe that using this state-supplied service for campaign purposes clearly violates NDCC 16.1-10-01(3) and would like to know how to have an investigation started into the illegal use of this service for campaign purposes by any candidates.”

Here’s what Liz Brocker of the Attorney General’s Office said:

“You may wish to check with the Project Vote Smart organization to see whether they obtained this contact information directly from the candidate or simply obtained it without contacting the candidates by culling it from publicly available sources.

“If, after hearing from Project Vote Smart, you still believe there is a violation of the law, you can report your concerns to the local law enforcement agency having jurisdiction.”

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said he visited with one of the candidates questioned by the reader and said the candidate never responded to Project Vote Smart.

“There’s not much any of us can do when someone else publishes your state e-mail, and it’s available publicly,” Stenehjem said.

Here’s what Secretary of State Al Jaeger said about the matter:

“When a candidate files for office, they file an Affidavit of Candidacy. On that form, they are given the opportunity to provide an ‘e-mail address of candidate (if applicable).’

“The e-mail address provided is then placed on the candidate list, which can be viewed at If you select ‘Legislative’ from the ‘Jurisdiction’ list and then ‘All’ and hit search, you will find the entire list of legislative candidates where the provided e-mail address can be found.

“We do not question what is provided for an e-mail address. I am sure many organizations, such as Project Vote Smart, access that list and then use it for their own purposes.

“Because of your question, I checked the legislative candidate list and found 13 legislators who had listed an e-mail address. There were three Senators and 10 House members. There were 11 Republicans and two Democrats.

“In checking the entire candidate list, I did find one Democrat statewide candidate who also provided an address on the Affidavit of Candidacy. There were four candidates for district judge that listed either an address or a address.

“I also found many county officials that listed an address. The judge candidates and county candidates are nonpartisan positions.

“According to N.D.C.C. 54-03-26, which was adopted by the 1997 session, a legislator can use their computer for personal use upon payment of a fee, which I understand is currently set at $9 per month.

“The one caveat in 54-03-26 is that such use cannot be in violation of 16.1-10-12, which states that state property cannot be used for a political purpose, which means any activity undertaken in support of or in opposition to the election or nomination of a candidate.

“Whether the e-mail address listed by the legislators or other candidates is being used for this purpose, we do not know. Keep in mind, the e-mail addresses might just be listed for contact purposes.

“The key is whether the activity with that listed address is being used in support of or in opposition to the election or nomination of a candidate. If it would be determined that it was a violation, the person would be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.

“Since this would be considered a criminal matter, the Secretary of State’s office has no authority to investigate or prosecute. That would be a decision made by a county state’s attorney.

“My guess is that the listing of these e-mail addresses by many of the candidates was a misunderstanding of what was being asked or the purpose it was requested and that they were only providing a contact e-mail address for the filing of the report and not necessarily providing it for campaign purposes.

“For example, the statewide candidate (questioned by the reader) has a website that has different contact information from that listed on the affidavit. I also found separate websites and contact information for at least one of the legislative candidates and there could be more.”

Do you have a question for a state government official or agency? Send us your question, and we’ll do our best to find an answer.

E-mail (Subject: Ask your government).

You may also write to Teri Finneman c/o Forum Communications, Press Room, State Capitol, Bismarck, ND 58505.

Please include your name, town and a phone number to reach you for verification.

Republican rallies

North Dakota’s Republican candidates will tour the state in the coming days in one last campaign burst before Election Day.

U.S. Senate candidate Gov. John Hoeven, U.S. House candidate Rep. Rick Berg of Fargo and the Republicans running for state office will cross the state on a bus tour and host rallies.  

State-level candidates on the tour are Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, Secretary of State Al Jaeger, Public Service Commissioner Kevin Cramer, Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring and Tax Commissioner Cory Fong.

Here’s the tour schedule: 


10:00 AM:         Kick-off Rally at Bismarck GOP Headquarters

1029 N. 5th Street, Bismarck, ND 58501 

1:00 PM:            Rally at Minot Victory Center

1310 E. Burdick Expressway, Minot, ND 58701 

4:30 PM:            Rally at Williston GOP District Headquarters

11 St. & Main St, across from Harmon Park, Williston, ND 58801 

7:00 PM MT:     Meet-and-Greet with Dickinson Supporters

                           Dickinson State University Alumni Association Office

230 8th Ave, Dickinson, ND 58601-4819 


12:00 PM:        Rally at Grand Forks Victory Center

                        1923 Gateway Drive, Grand Forks, ND 58203 

2:00 PM:       

                          Meet-and-Greet in Larimore, ND

Good Friends Restaurant

220 Towner Ave, Larimore, ND 58251

6:00 PM:          Final Rally at Fargo Holiday Inn

                        Executive Room

                        3803 13th Ave S, Fargo, ND 58103

Latest early N.D. voting tally

Another report from Secretary of State Al Jaeger regarding early voting. Total votes cast as of 11 a.m. today: 33,801

Gross Number of Ballots Mailed by County Auditors: 59,743

Gross Number of Ballots Returned to County Auditors: 33,518 = 56% 


Number of Ballots Mailed by Vote-By-Mail Counties: 32,977

Number of Ballots Returned to Vote-By-Mail Counties: 17,586 = 53% 

Number of Ballots Mailed by non Vote-By-Mail Counties: 26,766

Number of Ballots Returned to non Vote-By-Mail Counties: 15,932 = 59% 

Early Voting Precincts: 

Votes cast in counties that have an early voting precinct = 283

More counties are in the process of opening their early voting precincts today or within the next few days.

Lieutenant governor could take top spot for first time in 75 years

BISMARCK – For the past 10 years, a vote for John Hoeven has been a vote for Jack Dalrymple.

The same is true again this November, even though Dalrymple’s name is nowhere on the ballot.

If voters elect Republican Hoeven to replace Byron Dorgan in the U.S. Senate, Dalrymple moves from being the state’s lieutenant governor to being governor.

It would be the first time in 75 years that a North Dakota lieutenant governor took over for a governor, said Rick Collin of the State Historical Society.

Since the move is so rare, questions have been raised about how the potential transition would work and what it would mean for North Dakota. Although not everything is determined yet, here’s what we do know.

Transition of power

Article V of the North Dakota Constitution would give Dalrymple the power to fill the governor position: “The lieutenant governor shall succeed to the office of governor when a vacancy occurs in the office of governor.”

If for any reason Dalrymple could not serve, “the secretary of state shall act as governor until the vacancy is filled.” Al Jaeger, who is up for re-election on Nov. 2, is secretary of state.

There have been four times in state history when a lieutenant governor became governor, Collin said. Like Dalrymple, all were Republicans.

In 1898, Frank Briggs died in office, and Joseph Devine completed the term. In 1928, Arthur Sorlie died in office, and Walter Maddock stepped in.

In 1934, William Langer was removed from office, and Ole Olson became governor. In 1935, Thomas Moodie was removed from office, and Walter Welford completed the term.

Although some think a Hoeven win would automatically mean he isn’t governor anymore, there is a process involved.

Jaeger said state law requires the written resignation of an officer. Since the Legislature won’t be in session at the time, the notice must be given to the secretary of state.

“He is governor until he resigns,” Jaeger said.

The State Canvassing Board is tentatively scheduled to meet Nov. 16. Until then, the results of the Nov. 2 election are not official.

Therefore, there’s speculation that Hoeven would step down between Nov. 16 and Dec. 6, the day the organizational session begins for the state Legislature. If elected, Hoeven’s work in the U.S. Senate would begin in early January.

Don Canton, a spokesman for the governor’s office, said the topic of when Hoeven would step down hasn’t been discussed.

“There is an election under way, and it’s premature to discuss that at this time,” he said.

Dalrymple also said they haven’t discussed a potential transition. Like Canton, he emphasized there’s still an election process.

“I have not been one to sit around and think idle thoughts about how wonderful it would be if my boss left town,” Dalrymple said. “That is really not the way my mind works.”

Who is Jack Dalrymple?

So, who is the man who might be the state’s next governor?

Well, for one, he would be the fifth governor who considers Casselton home. Born Oct. 16, 1948, Dalrymple grew up in Casselton on the family farm, established in 1875 as North Dakota’s first large-scale wheat farm, according to his official biography.

He graduated with honors from Yale with a bachelor’s degree in American studies and returned to North Dakota to manage the farming operations. He and his wife, Betsy, have four daughters.

Dalrymple served on the Casselton Jobs Development Commission and helped establish Share House, a Fargo residential treatment program for recovering alcoholics and drug dependents. He was the founding board chairman of Carrington-based Dakota Growers Pasta.

He served eight terms in the North Dakota Legislature, beginning in 1985, and was chairman of the House Appropriations Committee for six years.

In 1992, he challenged Kent Conrad to serve out the U.S. Senate term of the late Quentin Burdick and lost. In 2000, Dalrymple and Hoeven were elected to the state’s top posts.

Dalrymple said his role as lieutenant governor has been multifaceted. He’s chairman of the state Commission on Education Improvement, created after school districts sued the state over school funding equity.

The commission has worked to improve equity and adequacy and is about to bring forward a third major piece of legislation to further reform education funding and policy, Dalrymple said.

He has also been point man on the preparation of the state budget and on economic development policy, particularly in regard to value-added agriculture. He serves as the primary liaison to the state Legislature and as chairman of the North Dakota Trade Office.

He’s chairman of the State Investment Board and takes on “a number of other assignments that the governor has given to me from time to time.”

Dalrymple said he sought public office in the 1980s because he kept giving other people his opinion on how state government should run.

“Finally, one day, I decided that I should quit complaining and get involved myself,” he said.

When Hoeven was looking for a running mate in 2000, Dalrymple said he had a revelation that he should volunteer for the job.

“For the simple reason that I felt that I could be a big help to him,” he said.

Looking ahead

If Dalrymple becomes governor, he would appoint a lieutenant governor. State law says “any vacancy in a state or district office, except in the office of a member of the legislative assembly, must be filled by appointment by the governor.”

The last time a North Dakota lieutenant governor was appointed was in 1987, Collin said. Lloyd Omdahl was appointed after Ruth Meiers died.

Although names of possible Dalrymple selections are being thrown around in political circles, at least one name is ruled out.

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said he likes the job he has. He thinks Dalrymple has a list of people who have expressed interest.

“I’m not on it,” Stenehjem said.

Dalrymple wouldn’t speculate about 2012 and whether he would seek his own term as governor.

“I have not felt the need to address that,” he said. ‘I think it’s premature to speculate on what I would do in a future situation.”

Discussing his leadership style in general terms, Dalrymple said he and Hoeven are “remarkably compatible in our views on policy.” The state’s future should include further development of the economy, as well as K-12 and higher education policy, he said.

Another priority is improvements to the state’s infrastructure, he said.

House Majority Leader Al Carlson of Fargo said Dalrymple is “very thorough” and “very organized.”

“He’ll be a good governor,” Carlson said. “He understands both sides of the issues: the legislative side of the issue, as well as the executive branch side.”

Senate Assistant Minority Leader Carolyn Nelson of Fargo said Dalrymple is talented and academically well-prepared.

“For at least this two-year period until we can figure out where we’re all going, I think he’s the best one to step in and do the job,” she said.

As for the state’s potential next first lady, Nelson said she thinks the world of Betsy Dalrymple and called her a “people person.”

“His wife is a very talented lady,” Nelson said. “She’s got a history in Casselton and in the Fargo-Moorhead area of being involved and engaged in things.”

Dalrymple said his wife has been “very much a part” of his public service career. If voters so decide, Dalrymple said he would be ready to be the state’s next leader.

“As far as readiness goes, I would simply say that when you sign up to be lieutenant governor, by definition, you have accepted the fact that you must be ready at all times to step into the governor’s chair,” Dalrymple said.

“And I told the people in my talk to the state convention that I stand ready to step into that job the moment that it is necessary. I think that my experience these last 26 years will be very helpful in that regard.”

Petition turned in

Secretary of State Al Jaeger says the committee proposing the statutory initiative relating to the operation of a pharmacy has turned in its signatures.

The committee told Jaeger they collected about 12,905 signatures. To be placed on the November ballot, the committee needs 12,844 signatures of qualified North Dakota voters.

For more on the topic, read the official wording here and the Forum story here.

Ask your government

 Here’s this past week’s Ask Your Government. Next week, I’ll answer a question sent by a Mayville reader.


Dear readers,

This week, I stumbled upon the fact that the North Dakota secretary of state is also the state athletic commissioner. Curious as to how that happened and what that means, I visited with Al Jaeger for this week’s Ask Your Government. Here’s what I found out:

The state athletic commissioner is in charge of administering the regulation of boxing, kickboxing, sparring and mixed-fighting competitions.

The first state athletic commission was created by the Legislature in 1935, according to the 2007-2009 biennial report on the secretary of state website.

At the time, the commission consisted of the labor and agriculture commissioner, as well as a physician and an attorney appointed by the governor.

In 1971, the Legislature transferred the duties to the secretary of state. In 1991, the duties were more defined and allowed for the creation of an advisory board.

Until boxer Virgil Hill came along, the athletic commissioner position didn’t involve much, Jaeger said.

The job involves protecting the health and safety of participants, he said. This includes ensuring there are weigh-ins and physicals, observing hand wrapping and checking that there is a doctor on hand.

“There’s a lot of record-keeping,” Jaeger said. “The bottom line is for the protection of the participant and to make sure it’s fair.”

Due to the time involved, Jaeger does not attend the events unless deemed necessary. Instead, two of his staffers are in charge, as well as the advisory commission.

Although boxing isn’t as prevalent as it once was, mixed martial arts events are becoming more popular.

“There’s quite a bit involved actually,” Jaeger said of the position. “It might seem on the surface that there isn’t.”

Ask Your Government seeks your questions

Do you have a question for a state government official or agency? Send us your question, and we’ll do our best to find an answer.

E-mail (Subject: Ask Your Government).

You may also write to Teri Finneman, c/o Forum Communications, Press Room, State Capitol, Bismarck, ND 58505.

Please include your name, town and a phone number to reach you for verification.



Finneman is a multimedia reporter for Forum Communications Co.

Random fact

 As I was surfing the secretary of state’s website today looking for some information, I came across this random bit of information: 

"The secretary of state, Al Jaeger, acts as the state athletic commissioner. The secretary of state has the authority to appoint an athletic advisory board to assist and advise him in the regulation of boxing, kickboxing and mixed fighting style."

Perhaps I’ve been out to lunch and should have already known that, but I found that to be an interesting fun fact for the day and worth exploring.