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Attorney for DAPL security firm seeks settlement amid legal dispute

BISMARCK — An attorney for TigerSwan hopes to settle a legal dispute with a North Dakota board that has alleged the security firm operated in the state without a license during the monthslong protests over the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Bismarck-based Lynn Boughey plans to attend the Private Investigation and Security Board’s quarterly meeting Tuesday, May 15, and advance settlement discussions. He said a high-level official from the North Carolina-based firm will be there as well.

“We’ve asked to have an opportunity to address them and we’re going to be there to settle it if they’re interested in settling it,” Boughey said.

But Boughey said Monday that the board’s attorney, Monte Rogneby, told him they would not be on the agenda.

Rogneby said the TigerSwan case might be discussed "in some form," but legal discussions are usually conducted between attorneys.

The meeting comes amid a spat between the two sides in the background of the court case that’s set to go to trial in October. The Private Investigation and Security Board, or PISB, first filed a lawsuit in Burleigh County District Court nearly a year ago.  

Now, the PISB is fighting TigerSwan’s efforts to depose board members, calling it an effort to “improperly obtain confidential, protected information.” It instead offered its former and current executive directors for depositions, according to court documents.

TigerSwan, meanwhile, said it “has the right to conduct discovery upon the opposing party,” adding that it’s necessary to depose board members because the former PISB executive director instructed them to “destroy their copies of information” regarding TigerSwan, according to January 2017 meeting minutes. The PISB said “no original records have been destroyed.”

TigerSwan has argued that it didn’t provide private security or investigative services in North Dakota as defined by state law. Doing so without a license is a Class B misdemeanor.

“(TigerSwan’s) strategy is to avoid discussing their behavior, which is what the point of the lawsuit is, and try to turn this into a discussion about whether or not the board was justified in bringing an action against it,” Rogneby said. “And it’s an improper strategy.”

The PISB is also seeking to prevent TigerSwan from talking to a former board employee whose comments were relayed in a court affidavit from Bill Butcher, the board's former chairman who has been hired by TigerSwan's defense. The board said he “has been using his personal relationship with (the former employee) to obtain confidential information for the advantage of (the) defendants.”

In a court filing, Boughey said the former employee “has not relayed any protected information.”

Butcher, a private investigator and former FBI agent, told board officials about a month after his July 2016 resignation he was under contract to consult with Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the controversial oil pipeline that sparked large protests south of Mandan, according to emails included in court filings. ETP also hired TigerSwan.

Butcher chaired the board for nine years before his departure.

“We’re more than happy to have him assist us in pulling together the evidence that shows that all these things that are alleged just simply aren’t true,” Boughey said in an interview.

District Judge John Grinsteiner has dismissed one of three counts against TigerSwan, prompting the firm to seek dismissal of the final two because “there is nothing left of the complaint that falls within the district court’s (purview) and the matter should be resolved administratively.”

A hearing in the court case is scheduled for May 30.

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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