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North Dakota tax commissioner resigns after hotel incident

November 16, 2021 GMT

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger announced Tuesday he will resign, one day after he was jailed after allegedly passing out drunk in a hotel room that wasn’t his.

In an email to Gov. Doug Burgum obtained by The Associated Press, Rauschenberger, who has a history of alcohol problems, said, “my recovery needs to be my main focus. I don’t believe I can fully execute all of the duties of the office I hold while focusing on recovery.”

In a statement, Burgum thanked Rauschenberger for his service and said he would appoint someone to serve the remainder of Rauschenberger’s term, which expires at the end of next year.

“We are deeply grateful to Ryan for his dedicated and effective service to the citizens of North Dakota for more than 13 years, and the First Lady and I applaud him for having the courage to take the steps necessary to prioritize his recovery, health and well-being,” Burgum said.

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Rauschenberger, 38, said his resignation would be effective Jan. 3 and that his formal letter of resignation would be forthcoming.

“I hope this will give you ample time to find and appoint a successor,” Rauschenberger said of his resignation date.

According to police, Rauschenberger was waiting to check into a clean room at a Bismarck hotel when he entered one that wasn’t cleaned. He shut the door and refused to answer cleaning staff. Police were called, and Officer Brandon Rosen said in his report that he found Ryan passed out and face down on the bed. He said Rauschenberger was “intoxicated beyond the point of being able to take care of himself” and he was brought in for detoxification at 1:31 p.m.

Rauschenberger, who was not arrested, didn’t immediately respond to a message left on his cellphone Tuesday.

Rauschenberger, a Republican, has been tax commissioner for seven years. His alcohol problems first came to light in 2014 when he took a leave of absence to complete a 20-day inpatient treatment program in Minnesota. That came after he loaned his vehicle to a man he met while undergoing substance treatment and the man crashed it while driving drunk.

Rauschenberger was arrested on a drunken driving charge in September 2017, when a preliminary breath test indicated his blood alcohol content was more than twice the legal limit for driving. As part of his guilty plea, he completed a recommended outpatient treatment program in March 2018.

Court documents show Rauschenberger pleaded guilty three months ago in Bismarck Municipal Court to driving with an open container of alcohol in his vehicle and paid a $100 fine. The police citation shows he was stopped early on Aug. 1.

A police report filed by Officer Joseph Gebhardt said Rauschenberger was passed out behind the wheel of his car in downtown Bismarck, the Bismarck Tribune reported. Gebhardt said he found no keys either on Rauschenberger or in the vehicle, but he did find two open containers.

“Ryan’s level of intoxication posed a threat to his own safety,” Gebhardt wrote. “I subsequently transported him to Sanford where he was placed for detox.”

Rauschenberger was appointed to tax commissioner at the end of 2013 to fill a vacancy after a resignation. He won a full term in 2014, beating Democrat Jason Astrup, and won reelection in 2018, defeating Democrat Kylie Oversen.

Deputy Tax Commissioner Sandy McMerty is running the office in Rauschenberger’s absence, the agency said.

The state Tax Office has a two-year budget of $64.4 million and is authorized for 118 full-time employees. The tax commissioner’s annual salary is $121,814.