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Chapman takes no blame for NDSU president's house cost overruns

The front of North Dakota State University's president's house in August as seen looking south. (Forum file photo)

FARGO -- Joseph Chapman accepts no blame for the president's house controversy in a recent national interview and calls the magnitude of the cost overruns "amazing."

The former North Dakota State University president did an interview on the $2.07 million house with the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Here's an excerpt of the interview, which appears in the latest issue:

Q. How did the house end up costing $1.5 million more than expected?

A. There were no contracts, no plans, people were adding things on here and there. There was no regard to what the ultimate cost was going to be.

Q. How involved were you with the planning?

A. I really was not involved in that part of it at all. The reason I didn't want to be involved was, the minute they start talking presidential houses, there's trouble.

Q. Should you have been more involved?

A. I assumed the issues had been handled, and they weren't. Don't assume people who are responsible are doing what they're supposed to do.

Q. If you're not involved, how do you make sure the house stays on budget?

A. It's a terrible Catch-22, but in hindsight, it would have been much better if there were more public disclosure. The magnitude of the overrun was really amazing.

Jim Miller, executive director of the NDSU Development Foundation, which managed the project, said he didn't have a comment on the interview.

"I think Dr. Chapman is entitled to his perspective," Miller said.

The story does not mention that Chapman's wife, Gale, and his administrative assistant, Cathy Backer, were members of a committee that made decisions about the house.

In documents explaining why the price of the president's house more than doubled, Miller said the Chapmans pressured the architect to fast-track the project, driving up the costs.

Architect Terry Stroh has said Gale Chapman asked for the so-called bonus room above the garage, which added $120,000 to the project cost.

A document written by university system attorney Pat Seaworth said Chapman did not let officials know about the cost overruns or the use of NDSU dollars for the project.

In Chapman's resignation letter, he asked for a full audit of the house project. That audit is still ongoing.


The entire Chronicle of Higher Education story is available at Paid registration is required to view the story.