State Lawmaker Receives Conviction

State Lawmaker Receives Conviction

(—Prosecutors indicted a North Dakota state representative in December on a misdemeanor charge related to a building he owned with others. Although he pleaded not guilty to speculating or wagering on official action, a jury found him guilty on Friday, May 3. Now, some are calling for his resignation.

The charges against Rep. Jason Dockter (R) stemmed from his votes “on legislative bills appropriating money to pay for property [in which] he had acquired a pecuniary interest.” Former Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem leased the property in question under a state contract to house his department’s offices. Dockter co-owns companies that owned and renovated the building. His actions directly violated legislative rules and state law.

The fact that Stenehjem used the building as an office complex for the Attorney General’s Office and related divisions also drove the controversy surrounding the case. When construction costs exceeded the budget by more than $1 million, Stenehjem’s successor, Drew Wrigley, discovered and reported the overrun. He also found that Stenehjem’s executive assistant had directed subordinates to delete his emails after his death. She later resigned.

However, the fact that Dockter co-owned at least one company working on the building and voted for legislation appropriating money to that purpose triggered an ethics complaint. The complaint then drove the legislature to craft new laws surrounding email retention and leasing transparency.

Dockter denied any wrongdoing despite his conviction and was resisting calls to resign. He said he had no plans to leave office, and House Majority Leader Mike Lefor (R) said it’s unlikely the legislature would take any action against him. However, Lefor added that lawmakers might revisit the idea of what defines a conflict of interest.

The state representative was set to face a maximum of 360 days in jail and up to a $3,000 fine. He was scheduled to be sentenced on Thursday, May 9.

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