Recipient of public publishing grant not subject to records law
NORTH DAKOTA–An association of the state chamber of commerce is not subject to the open records law, according to the Supreme Court of North Dakota in Bismarck. The early June decision affirmed a lower court ruling denying the Adams County Record access to records of the Greater North Dakota Association (GNDA).
The Record sued to force the GNDA to disclose its business records, claiming that because the GNDA was supported by public funds, it was a public entity required to open its records for public inspection.
The high court disagreed, holding that even though some public funds were used to pay membership dues and the GNDA received a $60,000 public grant from the state tourism department to publish a magazine, the organization was not “supported” by public funds.
The court reasoned that when the GNDA accepted public grant money to publish the magazine, there was a bargained-for exchange — a simple business contract. This did not turn the GNDA into a state supported agency subject to the opens records law, the court held.
The GNDA called the decision “a victory not only for the state’s chamber of commerce, but a victory for all North Dakota businesses.” (Adams County Record v. Greater North Dakota Association; Media Counsel: Chad Nodland, Bismarck)