BISMARCK-An inquiry from an unknown North Dakota lawmaker has prompted a large survey on the cost of state employees attending events hosted by Gov. Doug Burgum and state agencies.
Legislative Council staff sent a survey to 47 state agencies last week asking how many of their employees attended events, such as the Main Street ND Summit, Recovery Reinvented and Burgum's 2018 State of the State address in Minot. It also asks about registration fees paid and employee travel expenses.
Responses to the survey, first reported Tuesday morning, April 17, by Rob Port of SayAnythingBlog.com, are due Friday.
Allen Knudson, a budget analyst and auditor for the Legislative Council, declined to name the lawmaker whose request prompted the survey. He said its results would become public if the legislator chooses to release them.
Burgum's spokesman Mike Nowatzki said state employees were charged registration fees for only one event listed on the survey: the Main Street ND Summit. That event carried a $100 price tag for non-Department of Commerce employees, which he said is "consistent with other events" the department has hosted, including ones that predate the Burgum administration.
The summit was held in February at the Bismarck Event Center and featured talks from community development experts.
State Rep. Roscoe Streyle, R-Minot, was unsure who requested the information, but he called it "nit-picky" when there are bigger issues that demand state leaders' attention. He noted Burgum will issue his budget guidelines for the 2019-21 budget cycle Wednesday, April 18.
House Minority Leader Corey Mock, D-Grand Forks, acknowledged "there's a cost" to putting on conferences and events but was interested in the results of the survey.
The survey also asks about a symposium on transportation funding held by the state Department of Transportation and the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute in March, as well as last week's Day for Prevention hosted by the state Department of Human Services, during which the governor and first lady Kathryn Helgaas Burgum gave opening remarks. It also asks for "information regarding any major conferences your agency has hosted during the biennium," including costs.
The survey comes amid a separate inquiry led by State Auditor Josh Gallion into travel expenses incurred by Burgum's office. That audit is expected to be completed in two to three months.