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Officials: Mandan man’s record requests overwhelm agencies

January 6, 2019
In this Dec. 17, 2018 photo, S. Paul Jordan poses in Mandan, N.D. Jordan is a watchdog on the activities of local government entities. (Tom Stromme/The Bismarck Tribune via AP)

MANDAN, N.D. (AP) — Officials say one North Dakota man’s requests for open records are inundating local agencies and disrupting government duties.

Mandan resident Paul Jordan told The Bismarck Tribune that he’s uncovering the truth and advocating for good government. Jordan, a retired archaeologist, submitted more than 300 open records requests to the city of Mandan between 2014 and 2017, according to North Dakota attorney general opinions. Mandan city administrator Jim Neubauer said he’s since stopped keeping track.

“It’s because every time I turn over a rock, I find something else and it leads me to two more rocks,” Jordan said. “I turn over those rocks, and there they are.”

Jordan said he started spotting issues in his neighborhood that led him to begin requesting public records after moving to the city in 2013.

Mandan city administrator Jim Neubauer said 99 percent of the city’s records requests are from him.

“I think for the folks that are responding to information requests from him, it is time consuming,” Neubauer said.

Jordan has submitted requests for municipal citations, financial records and police reports, as well as attorney general opinions.

Under state law, government entities can charge for paper copies of records, postage and for staff time after the first hour it takes to fulfill open records requests. State lawmakers changed the law in 2017 to allow public entities to deny a records request if repeated requests disrupt their duties.

Jack McDonald, legal counsel for the North Dakota Newspaper Association, said there’s “a fine line” in making information requests.

“I find it very hard to believe that he really is somehow using all these records and he needs all these records that he’s trying to get from these various places,” McDonald said of Jordan.

Jordan said he’s just being an “advocate.”

“To me, doing something right is you do it because it’s the right thing to do,” Jordan said. “It’s not about whether it takes a lot of time or a little time.”

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Information from: Bismarck Tribune, http://www.bismarcktribune.com

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