September 15, 2014

Conflict Between University of North Dakota's First Ombuds and President Becomes Public

Last Thursday, the Grand Forks Herald revealed the details of a dispute between UND President Robert Kelley and the University's first Ombudsperson, Dusty Farned. Unfortunately, Farned's side of the story wasn't revealed until a follow-up article.

The newspaper's lede on Thursday said that Farned “often failed to return messages sent by President Robert Kelley, keep regular office hours or manage his time well.” At one point, campus police were dispatched to find Farned. 

The letter revealed by the newspaper had been written on April 3. Only much later in the article was it acknowledged that Farned received a positive performance review by UND's Ombuds Committee and that his contract subsequently was extended by two months.

A follow up article published Friday provided significantly more information favorable to Farned.  The UND Ombuds explained that his problems with availability and time management show an even more pressing need for a full-time position. 
“It had been a busy year,” he said. “I think the whole availability issue and not being able to get back to you and others, I think that more than anything shows the need for a full-time office.”
A packed schedule
Farned was paid $47,500 annually for working 20 hours a week, but he said he often worked much more than that.
“I purposely tried to keep it less than 40 so it didn’t feel like I was working a full-time job for half-time pay, but the busy months were 40-hour weeks,” he said.
According to his annual report that was sent to UND President Robert Kelley in early August, Farned met with 110 people in his time at UND and had more than 20 initial contacts in February, the most of any month. 
Farned also revealed that the University offered him a second extension, which he turned down because he didn’t want to work month-to-month.  (Grand Forks Herald, Sept 11, 2014, Sept 13, 2014.)

Related posts:  University of North Dakota to Reconsider Ombuds; Push for Ombuds at University of North Dakota Gets Boost From Students; Job Posting; University of North Dakota Appoints First Ombuds.


  1. I was very conflicted about posting this article. The President's letter seems like the sort of employee matter that should be confidential. I don't want to expose Farned to any further discomfort, but his situation highlights the some of tensions between Ombuds and their institutions.

  2. The president sounds like an asshat. I mean...sending the police when you don't get a response to an email is simply heavy handed.
    -Angry Ombuds

    1. Thank you for being the first to say 'asshat' on this blog.

    2. Andrew Larratt-Smith9/15/2014 10:03 AM

      Shouldn't there be an award for that? (:

  3. How is this even a public matter? At my university this kind of thing is considered a private employment matter and exempt from disclosure under the public records law. If it is a public matter, the newspaper totally failed to provide the positive review by the ombuds committee as a relevant document. Very disappointed in the university and press.
    -Long Time Listener, First Time Caller

    1. Thanks, LTLFTC. I couldn't agree more.

  4. I believe the message here that might be of most import to the ombuds community, to borrow from the Boy Scouts, is "Be Prepared." Very good thing there was an Ombuds Committee given this situation. Do you, gentle ombuds reader have one? Very few programs do. The absence of programatic Alignment, Embeddment and Integration, common among programs, can lead to the easy demise of programs when one high ranking member of the institution wants to end the program.

    If you currently report to a single individual - ANY SINGLE INDIVIDUAL - get busy putting together a different structure to connect you to the organization and ensure you have both and acceptable amount of oversight and workable political coverage BEFORE someone comes after the program.

    John W. ZInsser
    Co-founder and Principal, Pacifica Human Communications, LLC.
    Lecturer, Negotiation and Conflict Resolution, Columbia University