Lawmakers look into $1.8 million cost overrun by AG’s office

June 28, 2022 GMT

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota lawmakers are investigating a $1.8 million cost overrun on a building leased by the attorney general’s office under the late Wayne Stenehjem.

Attorney General Drew Wrigley on Tuesday told the Legislature’s Budget Section that he learned in March of the problem that predates his tenure. Wrigley took office in February when he was appointed to fill the remaining months of Stenehjem, the longtime office holder who died in January from cardiac arrest.

The Budget Section approved of two interim legislative committees to probe the lease, which Republican House Majority Leader Chet Pollert compared to “a discovery phase,” The Bismarck Tribune reported.

Wrigley said Stenehjem and former Chief Deputy Attorney General Troy Seibel were told in January 2021 of “a very significant” cost overrun for the leased building in south Bismarck that houses several divisions of the agency, including the state crime bureau, fire marshal and lottery.

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Democratic House Minority Leader Josh Boschee said in a statement that it “completely dumbfounds me that the highest-ranking attorney and his deputy blatantly ignored state procurement and contracting procedures to secure a lease.”

Stenehjem’s office in July 2021 paid off $1.4 million using its previous budget and is now making monthly payments to cover the rest by tapping salaries of vacant positions and holding back on certain budget items, Wrigley said. About $300,000 remains to be paid off.