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Amy Dalrymple, Published October 16 2009

UPDATED: Chapman explains role in home construction, new policies in place for future as audit moves forward

UPDATED 11:46 a.m.

FARGO – A committee of the state Board of Higher Education recommended today a full audit of the North Dakota State University president’s house.

The committee also recommended several policy changes, including removing the ability for university foundations to manage campus construction projects.

The three-member Budget, Audit and Finance Committee did not ask President Joseph Chapman questions during the meeting.

Afterward, Chapman said he disagreed with comments by NDSU Development Foundation Executive Director Jim Miller that he pressured them to complete the project in 11 months.

“Certainly I wanted to be back on campus,” Chapman said. “But I just don’t feel we put undue pressure on them.”

Committee members are investigating why the house that was authorized to cost $900,000 is now up to more than $2 million.

Miller said by the time the architect provided an estimate for the house – at that time about $1.2 million – the footing was already in the ground and it was too late to turn back.

“The process broke down, basically,” Miller said.

The committee plans to wait for the results of an audit before voting on whether to approve the cost overruns.

Board President Richie Smith said he’s had discussions with Chapman in recent days about his role in the cost overruns of house.

“Joe was as removed as possible from the daily decisions that were made,” Smith said after the meeting. “If there’s any fault here, the fault is he didn’t pay attention … He probably should have and, in retrospect, we probably all should have.”

Chancellor Bill Goetz said the policy changes will make the process more transparent in the future.

“When errors are made and mistakes are made, we learn from that,” he said.

The committee will be at the University of North Dakota this afternoon to discuss overruns on that president’s house.

For more on this story, read Saturday’s Forum.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Amy Dalrymple at (701) 241-5590