26 maintain confidentiality in bid for ND land commissioner | North Dakota News

Twenty-six people have applied so far to be commissioner of the North Dakota Department of Trust Lands, but applicants’ names won’t be made public under a new state law that took effect Aug. 1.

Land Commissioner Lance Gaebe said this week he had not yet applied to keep his job but he planned to do so before the search deadline closes on Saturday.

The Board of University and School Lands voted in May to open a search for land commissioner. Gov. Doug Burgum, who is chairman of the board, also required members of his Cabinet to reapply for their positions after he took office.

Gaebe’s appointment was set to expire at the end of June, but commissioners extended it through Dec. 31 or until a new commissioner would be appointed. Gaebe has held the position since 2010.

Jack McDonald, attorney for the North Dakota Newspaper Association, said he believes this is the first search for a statewide appointment since the new law took effect that shields names of applicants for state government jobs from the state’s open records law.

Under Senate Bill 2152, which legislators approved last session, names of candidates who become finalists will be made public.

“I still disagree with the concept. It deprives the public of the information about who might be applying,” McDonald said. “It leads to less public participation in the public process.”

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, a member of the Land Board, said Thursday he also disagrees with the action legislators took.

“I don’t like that law,” Stenehjem said. “The public is always interested in who applies.”

Burgum supported the bill during the session, saying it would help attract talent for state government positions.

Secretary of State Al Jaeger, who has served on the Land Board since 1993, said the number of applicants for land…

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