Five Scandals That Took Place In North Dakota
While some may think nothing ever happens in North Dakota, here are five of the biggest scandals to have occurred in the state.
Missing Nukes From Minot Air Force Base
In August 2007, crews at Minot mistakenly loaded six cruise missiles carrying nuclear warheads onto a B-52 heavy bomber that flew to another base in Louisiana. The warheads were not properly guarded for 36 hours before anyone realized they were missing. Partly as a result, the secretary of the Air Force was forced to resign.
Bison Football Voter Fraud
Ten football players at North Dakota State pleaded guilty in 2012 to misdemeanor election fraud and were sentenced to community service for faking signatures on ballot measure petitions they were hired to collect. Each player was ordered to serve 360 days of unsupervised probation, complete 50 hours of community service and pay $325 in fees. All of the sentences were deferred, meaning the crime will be expunged from a player's record if he completes the conditions of his sentence.
Wild Bill Langer
In 1943 North Dakota Gov. William Langer was convicted by the federal government on charges of corruption. The corruption charges stemmed from reports that the Republican governor had required state employees to donate money to his party. Langer refused to step down, declared North Dakota independent, and barricaded himself in the governor’s mansion. Langer was eventually exonerated and was reelected governor. Later he was elected to the U.S. Senate and served there until his death in 1959.
Honduran Potato Deal
In 1986, the Industrial Commission and the State Bank were embroiled in the infamous “Honduran potato deal.” The idea was to ship four million pounds of seed potatoes to Honduras, part of H.L. Thorndal’s quest to find foreign markets for North Dakota commodities. The Bank’s role was to issue $1.85 million in promissory notes to facilitate the deal.
Unfortunately, the nation of Honduras had no money with which to buy the potatoes, and the promoter of the deal, William Messner arranged for Agriculture Commissioner Kent Jones and others to visit Honduras, where they wined and dined with the nation's top political leaders. The whole deal proved to be a house of cards, and North Dakota’s Attorney General Nick Spaeth, ruled that North Dakota wasn’t liable for the note.
Messner pleaded guilty to federal bribery charges, Jones and Thorndal were cleared of legal wrongdoing, but a subordinate in the Agriculture Department pled guilty to accepting bribes.
Dickinson State Diploma Mil
It was discovered in 2012 that Dickinson State University awarded hundreds of degrees to Chinese students. A report described a campus that was so focused on attracting students that it cut corners to build its international enrollments. Fears of sanctions from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security over visa issues, from the state over enrollment figures, and from accreditors over failure to assure educational quality.
Briefings on campus about the audit were interrupted when Doug LaPlante, dean of the College of Education, Business and Applied Sciences, was found dead from a self-inflicted gun wound. The audit did not mention LaPlante by name, but officials said that many of the students who were awarded degrees inappropriately had been enrolled in the college he led.
No disciplinary actions were announced against anyone involved in the scandal.