Shirvani, Espegard should quit

We’re troubled, to say the least, by the latest revelations about continued open meeting violations by the State Board of Higher Education, especially when Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem terms the violations as “pervasive.”

It’s clear from Stenehjem’s opinion that the board and Chancellor Hamid Shirvani have repeatedly and purposely broken state open meetings laws, and that is simply unacceptable.

At a minimum, Shirvani and board president Duaine Espegard should resign immediately, and perhaps it’s time for the entire board to be replaced, too.

The behavior exhibited by Shirvani and Espegard is reprehensible for leaders of the state’s higher education system. Their attitude has been arrogant and single-minded, and they have repeatedly shown open disdain and disregard for state law. Stenehjem’s investigation and subsequent report are proof. Any trust the public and those in the state’s university system had in Shirvani and Espegard is gone, and their continued presence as leaders is undermining the effectiveness of the entire system. They must go, and go now.

Stenehjem’s report shows a pattern of repeated violations of state open meetings laws. There have been discussions about board business at informal gatherings, as well as discussions held via e-mail or telephone, which are clear violations of state law. The board has its own attorney to counsel them on such matters, and Shirvani and Espegard are not strangers to holding public positions. They know better, and they have failed in their roles.

“I will not tolerate the circumvention of the open meetings law due to actual or feigned ignorance of the law,” Stenehjem wrote, adding later in his opinion that “This practice of using e-mails to circumvent public discussion on public business violates the open meetings laws and must cease immediately.”

We couldn’t agree more, and the best way to accomplish that is with a new chancellor and new board leadership.