Rep. Pollert: Holmberg’s decision to step down as head of legislative committee was ‘the right thing’ – Grand Forks Herald
GRAND FORKS — The resignation Wednesday of Sen. Ray Holmberg as chairman of the state’s Legislative Management Committee was “the right thing” to do, according to a longtime leader of the North Dakota Legislative Assembly.
State Rep. Chet Pollert, R-Carrington, told the Grand Forks Herald that he supports the move by Holmberg, a Republican from Grand Forks who announced he would step down as head of the powerful committee after he It was reported last week that Holmberg had traded scores. text messages with a man who, at the time, was imprisoned for child pornography. Holmberg remains on the committee, but not as leader.
“He did the right thing by stepping down, and he has some things to sort out and he needs to work on that,” Pollert said. “As lawmakers, we have to keep working with the work that we also have to do.”
This is the latest in a story that was first reported on Friday April 15 by the Fargo-Moorhead Forum, which uncovered phone records of Nicholas James Morgan-Derosier, 34, who was in Grand Forks County Jail at the time of the text exchanges with Holmberg. Inmates are allowed to send text messages through a paid service.
Through a public records request, the Forum obtained the prison log of text messages exchanged between Holmberg’s phone number and Morgan-Derosier. In total, they exchanged 72 text messages over two days in August; of these, 65 were exchanged within two hours.
Holmberg said the texts were for home repair work, but the longtime senator said he couldn’t prove it because the texts “just went away.” He changed his phone number in December.
Calls for his resignation from legislative management came shortly after the Forum first broke the story. Although Holmberg announced earlier this year that he would not run for office, he is technically still a member of the Legislative Assembly and remains chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Pollert — who praised Holmberg’s work on behalf of Grand Forks, the local air base and the UND — declined to say whether Holmberg should also step down as appropriations committee chair, saying the decision was up to the Senate. .
Democratic Rep. Josh Boschee, Fargo’s House Minority Leader, said he doesn’t believe Holmberg should resign from the Senate Appropriations Committee. He also does not believe that Holmberg should resign as senator, since the legislature is not in session at the moment. This position could however change if more information on the text exchanges between Holmberg and Morgan-Derosier is revealed.
“At this point, all I know is that he had conversations with someone who was in jail,” Boschee said.
Boschee said he spoke with Holmberg earlier on Wednesday, April 20. Boschee said he agreed with Holmberg’s decision to step down from legislative management, and he noted Holmberg’s concern about the committee’s continued work.
“It is in his best interest and that of the Legislative Assembly that he has stepped down from this leadership position,” Boschee said. “He and I had a conversation this morning about it, and he wanted to make sure we could continue to do our jobs without the situation he’s going through being a distraction (from) that.”
Contacted Wednesday, Sen. Curt Kreun, R-Grand Forks, said he only recently learned of Holmberg’s resignation as chairman of the Legislative Management Committee. He said Holmberg should not resign from his position on Senate appropriations — another powerful legislative group — and he cautioned against jumping to conclusions. More information is needed to form an opinion, he said.
“I think we need to get more facts to come out and find out what’s really going on,” Kreun said. “There are two sides to every story, so I think we have to make sure we listen to (Holmberg’s side) as well as the other side.”
Sen. Scott Meyer, R-Grand Forks, also said he supports Holmberg’s decision to leave the Legislative Management Committee. Like Kreun, Meyer said there was still a lot to know about the situation and he was waiting for more facts to come forward.
“If (Holmberg) thinks this is going to be a distraction for the interim committee and leadership going forward, I support his decision to step down from this committee and let Rep. Pollert preside for the remainder of the interim,” Meyer said.
Resigning from any other position, however, should be Holmberg’s decision, Meyer said.
Meyer, who said he did not speak with Holmberg on Wednesday afternoon, noted that Holmberg has not been charged with a crime.
“There’s so much information out there that I think we just need to find out before I can make any decision about it,” he said. “Obviously, (Holmberg’s legacy) is going to have a shadow on it.”
The Herald reached out to the other Grand Forks state senator, Democrat JoNell Bakke, for comment, but she did not return phone messages until after this report was published.
Mike Nowatzki, spokesman for Gov. Doug Burgum, said the governor “agrees with Sen. Holmberg’s decision to resign from his position as Director of Legislative Management given the current circumstances and the potential for distraction. The Governor respects the responsibility of the Legislative Assembly in handling matters involving its own Members and will continue to monitor the situation in conjunction with the legislative leadership.
Holmberg, reported last year as tied for the nation’s longest-serving state senator, was first elected to the Legislature in 1976. He has been particularly lauded in recent months. In December, he was named Person of the Year by the Grand Forks Herald after being recognized by various sources for helping the community secure hundreds of millions in public funds for various development projects – all during of the regular legislative session of 2021 and a subsequent session. special session.
In early March, his decision not to seek re-election drew an outpouring of praise, including from Burgum and the three congressional delegates from North Dakota.
The Herald’s Adam Kurtz, Ingrid Harbo and Korrie Wenzel contributed to this report.