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UND still silent on reason for director’s leave: Groenewold: no explanation for removal from post Monday

GRAND FORKS — The director of the University of North Dakota’s Energy and Environmental Research Center said Wednesday he still doesn’t know why he’s been put on paid administrative leave.

But Gerald Groenewold said a UND official contacted him Tuesday afternoon to say that, for now, President Robert Kelley would have no further comment on the situation.

Groenewold, who has been director of the EERC since 1987, said he was handed a letter written by Kelley that notified him Monday morning he was being put on administrative leave “until further notice.” He said he was told Tuesday by Pat Hanson, UND’s director of human resources, that Kelley asked her to call him and say the letter would be his only comment at this time.

Groenewold said he asked Hanson when he might hear from Kelley, and she said that it could be soon.

“It was very vague,” he said. “I forget exactly how she worded it.”

UND spokesman Peter Johnson declined to say why Groenewold had been put on leave, and Kelley, through Johnson, declined to comment.

Meanwhile, North Dakota University System spokeswoman Linda Donlin said interim Chancellor Larry Skogen had been briefed on the situation, but said it is “a campus matter.”

University Police Capt. Tracy Meidinger said there is no ongoing criminal investigation happening at UND and had no knowledge of any formal complaints or police reports regarding Groenewold. Likewise, Johnson said UND’s Affirmative Action Office and the Office of Human Resources have not received any recent personnel-related complaints or reports regarding Groenewold.

The EERC is an applied research, development and commercialization facility that develops efficient energy and environmental technologies, according to its website. It employs 235 people, according to Johnson.

Thomas Erickson, the EERC’s associate director for business, operations and intellectual property, is now in charge of the day-to-day operations of the facility.

Letters on file at the UND human resources office show that Kelley had given Groenewold positive job reviews over the past few years and recommended a 4 percent pay raise last year. Groenewold’s annual salary is roughly $308,000, according to Johnson.

Forum News Service reporter Anna Burleson contributed to this report.

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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