Former North Dakota legislator Ray Holmberg, who has been charged with traveling to Prague with the intent of paying for sex with a minor, used state funds to pay for at least three trips to Prague and other European destinations, according to travel records from the North Dakota School Boards Association. The trips were arranged through the Germany-based Global Bridges teacher exchange program, which received funding from the North Dakota Legislature.
Holmberg, 79, has pleaded not guilty to the charges, which also include receiving images depicting child sexual abuse. It is unclear whether the alleged conduct occurred during the publicly funded trips. However, the federal indictment states that Holmberg traveled to Prague “from on or about June 24, 2011, to on or about Nov. 1, 2016 … for the purpose of engaging in any illicit sexual conduct.”
The North Dakota Legislature provided funding to the state Department of Public Instruction, which then allocated the funds to Global Bridges for trips involving teachers and legislators. State Rep. Bob Martinson, who selected the legislators for the trips, stated that Holmberg had a good rapport with Global Bridges and was requested to attend the meetings. Holmberg traveled with teachers on two occasions and also participated in independent trips related to forums, annual meetings, or symposiums.
Holmberg’s use of state funds for these trips was first reported by KFGO and The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. Governor Doug Burgum’s spokesman, Mike Nowatzki, expressed the governor’s concern over the allegations, stating that perpetrators should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Longtime Democratic state Sen. Tim Mathern called for increased scrutiny and accountability in the legislature’s budgeting process, suggesting a thorough review of expenditures and records retention. Mathern also criticized Holmberg’s alleged misuse of tax dollars.
Ray Holmberg served over 45 years in the North Dakota Senate and held influential positions such as chairing the Senate Appropriations Committee. He resigned last year after text messages exchanged with a man in jail on charges related to child sexual abuse images were revealed. The state panel has unanimously voted to suspend Holmberg’s lifetime teaching license, with the intention to revoke it immediately if he pleads guilty or is convicted based on the case’s underlying facts.