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Board of Higher Education's first American Indian member resigns

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By Dale Wetzel -- Associated Press

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - Charles Murphy, believed to be the first American Indian appointed to North Dakota's Board of Higher Education, has resigned his seat after less than seven months on the panel.

Murphy had a spotty attendance record at board meetings, and his resignation letter to Gov. John Hoeven said the ''time that is required to serve the board successfully is more than I can devote at this time in my life.''

Murphy's letter, which was dated Jan. 22 and made public Jan. 23, said his resignation was effective immediately. He did not elaborate about other demands on his time. Murphy could not be reached for comment Jan. 23.

''It has been an honor to serve on the state higher education board during your administration,'' Murphy said in his letter to Hoeven. ''I appreciate your confidence and appointment.''

Board minutes show Murphy missed all or part of six of the board's 11 meetings since he joined the panel on July 1. Since September, Murphy has missed five of the board's six meetings, including its most recent one, held Jan. 18 at Bismarck State College.

Hoeven announced Murphy's appointment to the board in May, saying he believed the former Standing Rock Sioux tribal chairman was the first American Indian appointed to the board. Murphy was also an unsuccessful Republican candidate last fall for the North Dakota House.

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William Goetz, Hoeven's chief of staff, said he spoke to Murphy in mid-November about the time demands on board members and the need to attend meetings. Earlier, the board's president, John Q. Paulsen, had told Hoeven aide Ron Rauschenberger he was concerned about Murphy's absences.

Goetz said he did not suggest that Murphy resign.

''I did visit with him about how this is a demanding board,'' Goetz said. ''There is a high expectation there, not only from the university system, but from the public at large ... I left it at that, in terms of his judgment.''

Paulsen said he regretted Murphy could not continue serving.

''During the time that he was a member of the board, when he was able to be present, I felt that his contributions were really significant to our discussions and decisions,'' Paulsen said Jan. 22.

Murphy was serving a four-year term. The Board of Higher Education, which has eight voting members, oversees North Dakota's university system of 11 public colleges.

Candidates for the Board of Higher Education are vetted by a screening committee, which is headed by Chief Justice Gerald VandeWalle. It also includes two legislators, the state superintendent of public instruction and the president of the North Dakota Education Association.

Hoeven said he has asked the panel to provide him with another list of possible appointees to serve out Murphy's term before the 2007 Legislature adjourns. Members of the Board of Higher Education begin serving after the governor appoints them, but they must be confirmed by the North Dakota Senate.