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Bryan Horwath, Forum News Service, Published May 10 2013

Whistle-blower plans defamation suit against university system

DICKINSON, N.D. – A North Dakota University System whistle-blower who questioned her boss’s conduct before a legislative body this year said she plans to file a defamation lawsuit against her employer.

In a letter sent Friday through her attorney, Linda Porter, a University System office liaison officer for reporting and information, outlined her intent to sue the university system on the grounds of “libel and unlawful retaliation” that she said she has encountered.

In March, Porter testified before a North Dakota House Appropriations subcommittee, saying that embattled University System Chancellor Hamid Shirvani presented misleading information and “alternate data” about school graduation rates to North Dakota lawmakers in an effort to present the system in a certain light.

“I had hoped it would not come to this,” Porter said. “There are laws that protect people from retaliation from (whistle-blowing). I’m looking to get my reputation back.”

In the claim, Porter’s attorney, Mark Schneider of Fargo, states that Shirvani and University System compliance officer Kristen Franzen have made “false accusations” against Porter in recent weeks.

Porter said she was asked by system employees to compile data for a March 18 presentation to the House Appropriations education and environment subcommittee. She said Shirvani and university system information officer Randy Thursby instructed her to change aspects of the data she compiled.

Since her testimony before lawmakers – which Porter said was as a citizen and not a university system employee – Porter said she’s been ostracized by other University System staff members. Citing stress and anxiety attacks related to testimony and the aftermath, Porter has been on leave from her job since May 3.

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