Case over deletion of deceased North Dakota AG’s emails will not be prosecuted

A special prosecutor will not press charges over the deletion of late North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem's email account shortly after his 2022 death.

A special prosecutor has declined to press charges in connection with the deletion of late North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem’s state email account days after his death in 2022.

The deleted emails are part of a nearly 2-year-old controversy involving a building cost overrun of over $1 million disclosed by Drew Wrigley, Stenehjem’s successor. The issues, which happened before Wrigley’s tenure, rattled lawmakers, who tapped the state auditor to look into the matter. A Montana state investigator also probed the situation and gave a lengthy report last year.


In July 2022, records Wrigley released in response to media requests revealed that Stenehjem’s executive assistant, Liz Brocker, had directed the deletion of his emails the day after he died, as well as those of his chief deputy, Troy Seibel, after Seibel resigned months later. Brocker herself resigned around the time reporters found out.

Mountrail County State’s Attorney Wade Enget outlined his decision in a memo Thursday to Burleigh County State’s Attorney Julie Lawyer, saying he can’t file a charge of tampering with public records because North Dakota law didn’t clearly define at the time that emails are a government record. A new state law for email retention has since taken effect.

Enget told The Associated Press he is still reviewing the Montana report regarding the remodel and lease of the building, which houses divisions of the attorney general’s office. The cost overrun occurred under Stenehjem.

Brocker’s attorney, Tom Dickson, said Enget made the correct decision.

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“When you looked at the law in effect in 2022 or during the time frame we’re talking about here, it wasn’t a violation, and I concluded that almost right away,” Dickson said.

Brocker now works in the Burleigh County State’s Attorney’s Office.

Separate from Enget’s review, Republican state Rep. Jason Dockter, of Bismarck, who has an ownership interest in the building, was charged with a misdemeanor for “voting on legislative bills appropriating money to pay for property he had acquired a pecuniary interest in,” according to a complaint. He has pleaded not guilty; a trial is set for May.

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