North Dakota Supreme Court hears arguments in pipeline security license case
BISMARCK — Attorneys for a North Dakota licensing board and an out-of-state company butted heads before the state's highest court Tuesday, May 14, over allegations the firm operated here illegally during the Dakota Access Pipeline protests.
The North Dakota Private Investigative and Security Board filed a complaint in mid-2017 alleging North Carolina-based TigerSwan conducted private investigative and security services without a license. The board sought an injunction preventing future violations as well as fines and attorney's fees.
But a district court judge dismissed the board's claims last year because the company claimed it voluntarily left North Dakota and didn't plan on returning, according to the state's appeal. TigerSwan also argued it was hired merely as a "consultant" to Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the $3.8 billion oil pipeline.
Though the original complaint said TigerSwan maintained armed patrols, the board's attorney said Tuesday that appeared to be inaccurate. The state's brief to the Supreme Court still maintained the company's activities required a license.
Providing private security or investigative services in North Dakota without a license is a Class B misdemeanor.
Monte Rogneby, the board's attorney, said granting an injunction restraining TigerSwan from coming back to North Dakota was a matter of "protecting the public." He said there's another "placeholder" administrative case pending that, like the one before the Supreme Court, seeks up to $2 million in fines.
The pipeline sparked months of protests over its river crossing near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, resulting in hundreds of arrests. It went into service months after the protests dissipated in early 2017.
Jim Reese, TigerSwan's chairman and CEO, attended Tuesday's oral arguments at the state Capitol. Afterward, he called the board's complaint "disappointing" and said the pending case could affect their efforts to obtain licenses elsewhere.
The justices took the case under advisement.