Why would a California developer make the largest donation to a ND legislative race in the history of the state?
What’s the connection?
The answer is found within the NDSU Development Foundation where both serve as Trustees and until only a few months ago, were both on the Property Management committee of the Foundation.
The nexus between their activity on the Foundation Board and on the Property Management Committee exposes a troubling conflict of interest within the foundation.
On March 2nd, the Foundation’s Property Management committee met to discuss development of the 1600 Block of University Drive and 12th Street N. Committee Chair Jeff Volk advised about conflicts of interest for people who would be serving on the Foundation Board and bidding on the project. According to the Forum report, Volk’s comments were directed at Jim Roers and Bob Challey.
“I caution those of you that want to be on the other side of the table at the end (bidder for the project) to figure out where the conflict starts,” said Volk.
Challey and Roers appeared to argue with Volk, not understanding the issue.
“I don’t think the committee should try to exclude the expertise that’s there, certainly in the early part of the process,” Challey said.
Jim Roers appeared to want to continue to serve on the Property Management side of the project until it came to voting.
Other prospective developers likely heard is that Jim Roers would advise the Committee as they lay out the plans, timelines, and work on the requirements of the project. They should have also understood that Roers Development would likely have inside information on the project well in advance of other firms – putting Roers in the drivers’ seat.
On March 6th, the Forum opined that both were missing the larger point. ‘some developers appear to have an inside track on foundation/university projects…, by virtue of insider status with the foundation, enjoy what other builders might see as unfair advantage’
Roers eventually resigned from the Property Management Committee, but not the Foundation that the Property Management Committee represents.
This fall, the Property Management Committee narrowed the list of proposals from developers down to three. Roers Development was one of the three selected. Robert Challey remains on the Property Management Committee as do numerous other members who served with Jim Roers.
The Forum editorial continued, ‘The university and foundation are being scrutinized as never before.. The foundation, in particular, has found itself in a harsh spotlight in the past couple of years. If ignored or even minimized, the conflict-of-interest matter could be a headline-making blowup.’
Well, blowup time has arrived. Given Bob Challey’s willingness to buy a win for Roers in a Senate race, why would anyone believe Challey wouldn’t try to deliver the 1600 project to him as well?
Given all of this, how could any other developer believe bidding on a Foundation driven project is anything other than a stacked deck?
Just because Jim Roers resigned from the Property Management Committee doesn’t mean that the conflict was removed. Roers is still a Trustee and he submitted a development proposal for the 1600 block while still a Trustee. And unless he resigns his position, Roers will be on the Development Foundation Board when the 1600 block project is awarded. Roers will be on the board of a non-profit that may award a development contract to himself!
The ONLY WAY for Jim Roers to remove himself from this glaring conflict of interest is to withdraw his development proposal.
If Jim Roers is really concerned about the future of NDSU and possible harm that will come if Roers Development is selected as the contractor, he would withdraw now. If he thinks people will believe Bob Challey (and other foundation friends) won’t give him favored treatment – he needs to think again.
If Jim Roers doesn’t want to harm President Bresciani as he faces challenges before the SBHE, he should pull his bid and quit attacking the NDSU’s Nursing Program with campaign fliers in the district.
District 46 already has one Legislator in Jim Kasper who can’t see a conflict of interest in a forest full of them. We don’t need to elect someone else who doesn’t get it to join him in the State Senate.