NDSU's first family spent $22,000 on DC trip

Joseph Chapman spent more than $22,000 in donations to North Dakota State University to take his family to President Barack Obama's inauguration in January.

Joseph Chapman
Joseph Chapman

Joseph Chapman spent more than $22,000 in donations to North Dakota State University to take his family to President Barack Obama's inauguration in January.

Chapman took a $17,420 charter flight to Washington, D.C., using money from a discretionary fund of the NDSU Development Foundation, according to documents provided by the foundation.

Chapman took the charter flight because the university-owned plane needed maintenance and a part did not arrive on time, said NDSU spokeswoman Najla Amundson.

Meanwhile, University of North Dakota President Robert Kelley spent about $2,000 in hotels and airfare for a similar trip to the inauguration.

Chapman took his wife, Gale, his daughters Jennifer and Valerie, and Valerie's now-husband, Mike Casano, to Washington.


Chapman said Tuesday that attending the inauguration and other related events gave him a chance to interact with members of the new administration, agency heads, other officials and prominent North Dakotans.

He attended multiple meetings each day in Washington, including spending time with members of the congressional delegation.

"It was a tremendous opportunity to represent NDSU in a very important set of events," he said.

Chapman spent nearly $4,300 for three nights at the Embassy Suites in Washington, foundation documents show. The charges were for two rooms.

"You couldn't book a hotel for less than three nights during that time," Amundson said. "They were very expensive."

The family spent one night at Courtyard by Marriott in McLean, Va., costing about $640 for two rooms.

The cost of the trip was covered by the president's discretionary fund in the NDSU Development Foundation, which is funded with donations that were not designated for a specific purpose.

Chapman said he thinks it was appropriate for the foundation to pay for his children to attend because they also represented NDSU at the events.


"The foundation has always supported my family at these kinds of activities," he said.

The Chapmans planned to take the university plane, but a part needed to fix it didn't arrive in time. They opted for a charter flight through the Fargo Jet Center, Amundson said.

"By that time it was too late to make another arrangement," she said.

Of the $17,420 charge for the plane, $10,495 was for the flight itself, Amundson said. The other charges were for pilot fees, meals, parking and other fees.

If the Chapmans had taken the NDSU plane, the flight would have cost $6,732, plus the cost of lodging and meals for the flight crew, she said.

UND spent $2,176 in institutional money for President Kelley's trip to the inauguration, said spokesman Peter Johnson.

That included $576 for Kelley's airfare. He rode economy class on a commercial flight, Johnson said. His wife, Marcia, traveled with him, but the couple paid for her airfare.

They spent $1,600 on five nights in a bed and breakfast in the Washington area, Johnson said.


In addition to the inauguration, Kelley attended a mandatory NCAA conference and had other meetings while in Washington.

At NDSU, the foundation will no longer reimburse the university for use of the plane, which totaled $65,000 last year. The foundation also set a $35,000 limit on the president's discretionary fund, part of an effort to cut expenses.

Chapman said he doesn't think any of his expenses through the discretionary account were excessive.

"Whenever I do anything, I always do it with the best interest of the institution in mind," Chapman said. "What I've accomplished over the last 10 years speaks pretty well to what we've done."

Chapman's flight expenses

* Charter flight: $10,495

* Fees for two pilots: $3,325

* Pilot meals: $309


* Charge to park plane: $1,751

* Other fees and taxes: $1,540

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