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Dave Olson, Published May 07 2010

NDSU's top building official says audit had role in his exit

Bruce Frantz said an audit critical of North Dakota State University building projects played a role in his stepping down from his job as the top building official on the campus.

Frantz said his decision Thursday to resign as director of facilities management was mutually arrived at through talks with NDSU administrators.

He stressed, however, that controversy surrounding projects like the new president’s home at NDSU shouldn’t overshadow the 10 years of progress made during his tenure at the university.

Top university officials would not grant interviews Thursday, but Vice President of Finance and Administration Bruce Bollinger said in a written statement that Frantz’s resignation was reached through mutual agreement.

“Our discussions revolved around the ongoing scrutiny of capital projects at NDSU, specifically those covered in the recent audit,” Bollinger said, referring to a report released this week that showed NDSU and the University of North Dakota circumvented policies to avoid getting approval for president’s office remodeling projects.

‘Decisions made’

The audit was also critical of cost overruns involving construction of the new NDSU president’s home.

“There were decisions made regarding those two projects that, in hindsight, clearly should not have been made,” Frantz said Thursday.

“But at the time, with pressure and things like that, decisions were made,” he added, declining to go into detail about what he meant by “pressure.”

Former NDSU President Joseph Chapman, who is referred to several times in the audit, resigned last fall as criticism over the house-building project grew.

John Adams, NDSU’s former vice president for finance and administration, was asked to resign in March.

While Frantz’s resignation takes effect May 17, he said Thursday that he is currently on administrative leave.

A separation agreement signed by Frantz and university officials provides Frantz with three months of severance pay, as well as annual leave and sick-leave pay accrued as of May 17.

Frantz’s salary is $129,909.

His severance pay for wages and retirement after tax deductions comes to $24,715, according to the separation agreement.

The net leave and sick-leave severance pay comes to $16,199 after tax deductions.

Shaky ground

Frantz and NDSU were in the spotlight in December after the partial collapse of Minard Hall, which was undergoing an $18 million expansion.

Dirt had been excavated about 25 feet deep near the northwest corner of the building several weeks before the failure, which left offices exposed to the elements.

Although the building’s foundation had been exposed prior to the collapse, the university believed the area around Minard Hall was stable, based on the advice of engineering and design experts, Frantz said after the incident.

“We made decisions with the best knowledge available at the time,” Frantz said.

A review of Frantz’s personnel file at NDSU showed consistent positive performance reviews and no record of disciplinary action in the 10 years he headed the university’s physical plant.

In Frantz’s 2009 review, Adams, who was Frantz’s supervisor at the time, described Frantz as a critical member of the President’s Council and Division Leadership Team.

Adams also said Frantz had “the best interests of the university in the forefront of all he does.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555