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North Dakota lawmaker seeks info on Burgum's security costs

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum speaks at the first meeting of the Fargo-Moorhead Flood Diversion Task Force on Monday, Oct. 23, at the Fargodome. Blake Gumprecht / The Forum

BISMARCK — A North Dakota Democratic lawmaker is seeking information about the costs to protect Gov. Doug Burgum through a records request submitted Tuesday, Aug. 7.

A Legislative Council attorney submitted the request on behalf of House Minority Leader Corey Mock, D-Grand Forks. The email asked for the cost of providing Highway Patrol security to the governor's office from the start of 2016 through Tuesday.

The attorney said the information is "not protected from disclosure" under state laws that shield security plans. The email to the head of the Highway Patrol, Col. Brandon Solberg, was first obtained by the Associated Press through an open records request.

Mock said he wants the information to prepare for next year's legislative session. Burgum, a Republican, has called for cuts during the next two-year budget cycle.

"The last thing I want us to do is to ask the Highway Patrol to do more work by keeping our elected officials safe and serving the people without having the resources they need," Mock said.

Mock said Burgum has had "more of a security presence than any other prior governor, to my knowledge." He noted security around the state Capitol increased around the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, which ended last year.

"Many of those practices have stayed in effect," Mock said.

Burgum's office was already the subject of scrutiny from State Auditor Josh Gallion this year. His audit said there were "no issues" to report regarding the security provided by the North Dakota Highway Patrol.

Burgum's spokesman, Mike Nowatzki, said they don't discuss the governor's security "as has been past practice" and deferred to the Highway Patrol.

Solberg said his agency would seek legal advice on how to respond to the information request, which also asks for an "overall summary" of overtime costs for the Highway Patrol since the beginning of 2016.

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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