Christensen says he plans to be at next board meeting

Mitchell Board of Education President Bob Everson said Thursday that board member Eric Christensen plans to be present at Tuesday's regularly scheduled meeting.

Mitchell Board of Education President Bob Everson said Thursday that board member Eric Christensen plans to be present at Tuesday's regularly scheduled meeting.

"He said he intends to function as normal," Everson said.

It's unknown if Christensen will make a statement about his Thursday arrest on charges of grand theft. The matter is not on Tuesday's agenda, said Superintendent Joe Graves.

Neither Christensen nor his attorney, Chris Nipe of Mitchell, returned calls Thursday from The Daily Republic.

Since Christensen is an elected official and his legal problems do not directly involve the school district, the school board's role will be limited until those legal issues are resolved, said Graves.


If a board member is convicted for a felony, board policy, which is based on state law, states that "a vacancy shall exist on the school board." If that happens it will be the board's job to appoint a successor, Graves said.

The board would advertise that vacancy, accept applications from interested citizens and appoint a board member to serve until the first official meeting of the next school year. It would be up to voters to choose a new board member, he said.

Graves said the arrest of Christensen, a first-year board member, is a "distraction" and could intrude upon school district business.

"In any kind of a situation where something like this happens, it's disappointing because it's a distraction. That doesn't mean it's anybody's fault, but you're trying to get certain things done and it's one more thing you have to leap over or get around," he said.

Graves said he doesn't foresee difficulties if Christensen continues serving on the school board, "but it will depend on the people who are there."

While news of Christensen's arrest came as a surprise to many, Everson said he wasn't totally unaware of Christensen's legal problems.

"I talked to him last night," Everson said Thursday, "and he informed me that he was turning himself in this morning."

Following a Dec. 7 grand jury indictment, Christensen was arrested Thursday on two counts of grand theft. He surrendered to authorities and later was released on $1,000 bond.


Everson said the 31-year-old board member notified him of his difficulties weeks earlier.

"He came to me," recalled Everson, "and said, 'As board president, you need to be aware that my employer has begun some kind of investigation. ... I (don't) want you to be surprised by it.' He understood that they were looking at something relative to theft or stolen property."

Everson said he could not recall the actual date of that conversation, but he said Christensen's legal difficulties were never discussed during any school board executive sessions.

Christensen was employed for the past five years as director of finance and operations at Dakota Ag Innovations LLC, 40690 253rd Street, Mitchell, a company that markets farm and industrial cleaning and reconditioning supplies. He was discharged from that position in late September, said company President Lynn Odland.

Odland, on the advice of the state's attorney's office, would not comment further.

There are no plans at this time, said Everson, to call a special meeting with board members prior to the next regular meeting.

That meeting -- the sole school board meeting for the month of December -- is scheduled for 5 p.m. Tuesday in Room 116 at Mitchell Technical Institute.

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