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Kansas lawyer chosen to investigate Bresciani's handling of NDSU Bison media guidelines

FARGO--A Kansas lawyer has been selected to conduct an independent investigation into North Dakota State University President Dean Bresciani's handling of a controversial new media policy for covering Bison athletics.

North Dakota State University President Dean Bresciani.
Kathy Perkins, a lawyer in Lawrence, Kan., has been named as the independent investigator to examine NDSU President Dean Bresciani's handling of new media guidelines for covering Bison football and basketball games.

FARGO-A Kansas lawyer has been selected to conduct an independent investigation into North Dakota State University President Dean Bresciani's handling of a controversial new media policy for covering Bison athletics.

The chancellor's office of the North Dakota University System announced on Thursday, Sept. 1, that it has hired Kathy Perkins, a lawyer in Lawrence, Kan., whose legal practice focuses largely on workplace and employment law, investigations and mediation.

Perkins' proposal was one of eight that were considered, with fee estimates ranging from $7,000 to $150,000. Perkins' estimated fee is $8,000 to $12,000, according to the chancellor's office.

The audit committee of the State Board of Higher Education voted unanimously last month to hire an independent investigator to determine whether Bresciani's handling of the media guidelines violated any board policies.

At the time, board members said it was important to hire an independent investigator, someone with no ties to NDSU or the University of North Dakota, to conduct an impartial review.

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Kevin Melicher, a higher education board member from Fargo, said he hopes disposition of the investigation-a final report is due Sept. 30-can enable the focus to be on the 45,000 students who are returning to campuses this fall.

"Timing is very important to me," he said. The board meets Sept. 29, but Melicher said he thought a decision would come later, either in a special meeting or at one scheduled for Oct. 27. "It's just my feeling that I'd like to get it on the agenda as soon as possible."

Bresciani, through a spokeswoman, declined comment. Earlier, when the investigation was announced, he said he welcomed the review and would cooperate.

The investigation follows controversy that ensued after new media guidelines were announced on July 29 and scrapped days later.

The new policies would have restricted the access of news outlets that did not have contracts with NDSU to broadcast football and basketball games. KVLY-TV won the television contract and Radio FM Media won the radio contract for both sports.

Forum Communications Co., which publishes The Forum and owns WDAY-TV, submitted a bid but did not win a contract.

Text messages between Bresciani and athletic department officials showed that Bresciani initially supported efforts to defend the new media rules and mocked those critical of them, a tone that seemed to contradict his Aug. 2 public statement that he was "profoundly disappointed when I learned the facts about the issue."

In a subsequent clarifying statement, Bresciani said his comments were misinterpreted.

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"It appears that this comment has been interpreted to mean that I was disappointed in the new guidelines, when in fact, I was disappointed in the process," Bresciani wrote. "Because of this interpretation, some people believe that my initial support of the guidelines ... cannot be reconciled with this statement. I can understand how some misunderstood my meaning. The simple truth remains that I was disappointed in the process."

Kathleen Neset, the higher education board's president, said the way Bresciani handled the controversy was similar to earlier communication concerns board members had, cited among the reasons for delaying a decision on extending his contract.

Perkins, whose investigation findings are expected in a final report by Sept. 30, described her approach to outside employment investigations on her website. Perkins didn't return calls seeking comment, but on her website she noted that a third-party investigator is "helpful to improve credibility of an investigation" and to restore faith.

"Kathy Perkins performs confidential investigations designed to assist the organization in resolving the complaint and moving forward," she said in a summary of her services. "She will provide a report with practical suggestions for addressing any conduct uncovered which poses a risk to the company, taking into account employee perceptions and misperceptions revealed by the investigation."

Kathy Perkins' law career combines legal investigations in the workplace with service as a mediator.

According to the bio on her website, Perkins has 25 years of experience litigating employment and commercial disputes.

A graduate of Harvard Law School, Perkins has practiced law since 1983. She opened her workplace law and mediation practice in 2008, and earlier was a managing partner in a Kansas City law firm and a partner in other law firms in Kansas City and Boise, Idaho.

Her undergraduate degree, from Kansas State University, was in civil engineering. She serves on a panel for the Kansas Agricultural Mediation Service and also works with the Kansas Farm & Ranch Succession Facilitator Program.

Patrick Springer first joined The Forum in 1985. He covers a wide range of subjects including health care, energy and population trends. Email address: pspringer@forumcomm.com
Phone: 701-367-5294
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