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Monday, January 18, 2010

TOP WORKMANS COMPENSATION INDUSTRY PUBLICATION WEIGHS IN ON FELAND PROSECUTION OF SANDY BLUNT

WorkCompCentral is the nations premier publication dealing strictly with the Workmans Compensation industry. WorkCompCentral is a news and information service for that industry. They publish news daily and provide information regarding rules, regulations, case law and various related legal issues. They also have extensive continuing education training and facilities.

That said, they have now seem to have gotten a whiff of the North Dakota stench coming from the persecution/prosecution of Sandy Blunt. WorkCompCentral is a subscription only website but they have graciously given The Dakota Beacon permission to reprint the article by Bill Kidd.

 

Columnists Defend Former WSI Director, Blast Prosecutor: Top [01/11/10]         
By Bill Kidd, Central Bureau Chief
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Two prominent workers' compensation columnists say they believe former North Dakota Workforce Safety and Insurance (WSI) Director Sandy Blunt got a raw deal when he was convicted of misusing state funds to pay for items such as employee lunches and sick leave.

And they have targeted the prosecutor in Blunt's case for severe criticism. The prosecutor says the columnists don't have their facts straight.

Joseph Paduda, principal in Health Strategy Associates, and Peter Rousmaniere, columnist for Risk & Insurance, cite, among other issues, allegations that the prosecution may not have disclosed information that could have exonerated Blunt. They also argue prosecutors inflated what were at most misdemeanor violations into felony charges.

Blunt was convicted in December 2008 of charges relating to misapplying more than $10,000 of entrusted money from the state monopoly workers’ compensation insurance fund. Jurors found Blunt not guilty of a second count, which alleged that he gave out illegal bonuses totaling $7,509 to four employees.

Blunt’s case is currently on appeal before the North Dakota Supreme Court.

Blunt told WorkCompCentral Friday he could not comment on the case. “My attorney would absolutely excommunicate me if I did,” he said. But Blunt said he had seen the columns by Paduda and Rousmaniere and said he was grateful that "some people appreciate that there are some significant issues" involved.

Cynthia Feland, assistant state’s attorney for Burleigh County, began to investigate Blunt in 2006. In April 2007, she charged him with criminal misapplication of entrusted property.

Rousmaniere, in a column published Jan. 5, called “virtually all of the evidence…trivial, such as the $320 the fund spent on lunches at an employee summit and other sums for gift certificates, flowers and small employee bonuses.”

Blunt also was charged with misusing an employee’s license plate number in an attempt to find who had leaked WSI payroll data to reporters, Rousmaniere said.

In August 2007, a district court dismissed the charges as lacking merit but the state Supreme Court reversed that decision.

Rousmaniere wrote that the prosecutor, “lacking a respectable case,” added to the earlier allegations, including that Blunt allowed an employee whom he had recruited to “earn…unused sick leave” and not require the employee to repay relocation expenses after the employee was forced out.

Steve Cates, who publishes the Dakota Beacon, has run a series of articles on "The Prevaricating Prosecutor," examining the case against Blunt and actions by prosecutors in Blunt’s case.

An article published in November alleges prosecutors withheld an exculpatory memo from Blunt and his attorney, Mike Hoffman.
Cates wrote that the document would have allowed Hoffman to argue at pretrial that the sick leave and moving expenses at issue "had no probable cause to support them and therefore should not be added to the case against Blunt."

"Possession of the memo would have also allowed Hoffman to stop dead the primary assertion of the prosecutors regarding Sandy Blunt’s preferential treatment of WSI employees (which was a major prosecutorial theme in the trial)," Cates argued.

Cates said the alleged action violated North Dakota’s rules of criminal procedure and professional conduct.

Paduda, who has written several times on the Blunt case, quoted from Rousmaniere’s column in a Jan. 6 column of his own, concluding that “what the state of North Dakota has done to Sandy Blunt is reprehensible.”

“If and when the (North Dakota Supreme) Court does the right thing and throws out his conviction, Blunt should sue the prosecutor and her accomplices for every dime they have and ever will have. Their behavior was that egregious,” Paduda wrote.

JIM’S TRUCKS

 

 



WorkCompCentral furnished Feland copies of the articles by Paduda and Rousmaniere for comment.

In an e-mail reply, Feland said that “I find it unfortunate that the authors have chosen to print information without checking their facts.”

“A transcript of the trial is available and if they would have reviewed it, it would have been obvious that the information they received and used to write their stories and base their opinions was inaccurate,” Feland wrote.

“For example:  Mr. Rousmaniere stated (I) ‘tarted up the criminal count with three more heavier-looking allegations.’

“The facts from the case established that no new ‘allegations’ were added.

“They were always part of the case and the information concerning them was provided to the defense at the beginning stages of the case,” Feland said.

Rousmaniere told WorkCompCentral that Blunt may have been caught up in “a lot of turmoil” regarding the operation of WSI.

Rousmaniere said in his column that as Blunt was settling in at the fund in 2004, WSI was being attacked in newspaper articles as becoming an “unchecked empire” after being placed under an autonomous board in 1997.

Over the next few years, WSI was targeted by a state auditor’s investigation, subjected to “intense media attention and legislative hearings,” and drew public attention because of salary increases not given to other state employees, Rousmaniere said.

The board’s status was changed by a public referendum, so the fund is back under the control of the governor’s office, Rousmaniere said.

Unlike other state funds, Rousmaniere told WorkCompCentral, “this is a state that’s going in the reverse direction,” away from professionalism.

Blunt’s prosecution was “nasty froth atop a wave of popular distrust of the autonomous status of the fund,” Rousmaniere wrote.

Paduda, who has described Blunt as “a decent, honest, very capable guy who has been absolutely screwed,” concluded his column with the warning that “if this could happen to a person as above-board and completely honest as Sandy Blunt, it could happen to you.”

One thing in the controversy seems clear:  whatever the North Dakota Supreme Court decides, it will generate a lot of comment.

Rousmaniere’s column can be found at http://www.riskandinsurance.com/story.jsp?storyId=316815677.

Paduda’s column can be found at http://www.joepaduda.com/archives/001712.html.

Cates’ article can be found at http://dakotabeacon.com/entry/the_prevaricating_prosecutor_iii_no._4_states_attorney_withholds_exculpator/

Click here to email your elected representatives.

Comments

Avatar for Doug

This is more evidence that Mr. Blunt, a good man, was thrown to the wolves over unjust cause.  What is just as distressing is that people stood idly around while this innocent man was attacked.  Worse yet, are the people that piled onto the baseless charges.  The Forum was a piler.  Gov. Hoeven removed the then innocent man from office and could also be considered a piler for his own political expediency. 
This leads to another question on a separate issue.  Do we have the right Republican front runner for the US Senate seat?  A candidate that does not seek true justice in his domain, I do not want as a senator.  I want a senator that will protect innocent people from injustice, even if the result is to their political peril.  As a US Senator, there will be opportunities to protect the innocent.  What will Gov. Hoeven do then?  Look out for his own bacon again?  I guess we don’t know.  Uncertainty exists with that candidate.

Doug on January 18, 2010 at 05:08 pm
Avatar for Chatcath

I would imagine there are numerous individuals out there that have been treated less than fairly by this particular prosecutor, but lacked the resources to defend themselves. I pray they get the opportunity to get justice in the near future.

Chatcath on January 21, 2010 at 03:43 pm

s reports that he believes that prosecutors of the Burleigh County State’s Attorney’s Office committed criminal violations in the prosecution of Charles Blunt which occurred in 2008. He also alleges that a prosecution witness committed perjury during trial and was involved in a conspiracy with the State’s Attorney Office concerning the prosecution.

This matter is under investigation.

Dress on April 22, 2010 at 08:25 am
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