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State v. Sandy Blunt: Developments PDF Print E-mail
Written by Chet   
Bizarro WSI

There've been some interesting developments, recently, in the felony case against Charles "Sandy" Blunt, the former CEO of North Dakota's Workforce Safety & Insurance (WSI).  Blunt's attorney had filed a bunch of motions with the court, asking for the case to be dismissed (again), asking for some "surplusage" to be stricken from some of the criminal pleadings, asking for a "Bill of Particulars," and asking for some special jury instructions, etc.  The State filed responses to all of those motions about a week ago.  Yesterday, Judge Bruce Romanick issued an assortment of orders relating to most or all of the pending motions.

I'm just going to write, here, about one of those motions.  I'm not going to cover the others in detail because my perception is that some were sort of "pro forma" motions which, though not insignificant, I'm not all that interested in today.  I'll just talk about the ones I think are most interesting, starting with the most significant. 

I will say this, just so you know:  The motion to dismiss was denied this time.

Today, I'll write about the "bill of particulars.

Blunt asked for a "bill of particulars."  (See Rule 7(f)).  This is something I've been talking about here since this case started.  If you look at the original charging document, you'll see that it is incredibly vague.  I'm not saying there is necessarily anything wrong with that, but a defendant does have a right to know what specific allegations are being made against him so that he doesn't have to worry about being charged with the same thing over similar facts down the road, if they're being alleged now.  

In the Blunt case, we can only tell that Blunt is accused of disposing of, using or transfering "any interest in property that had been entrusted to him in his capacity as an officer, director, agent, employee... in a manner that he knew was not authorized and that he knew to involve risk of loss or detriment to the... government and the value of the property misapplied exceeded $10,000" or $500.  (Click here).  You have to admit it'd be hard to tell what he's accused of from that.  There has been some chatter about trinkets, etc., worth $18,000 at the preliminary hearing, but remember that the state doesn't have to prove its whole case at a preliminary hearing.  The media -- not really savvy about these things -- have assumed this was only about $18,000 worth of trinkets and pickles. 

They were wrong.

As usual.

The State responded to the Motion for a Bill of Particulars with a brief you can read by clicking here.  In the response, you'll see that the state is tentatively intending to submit evidence it claims to have that relates to Blunt "illegally authorizing the payment of sick leave for an employee who was not sick and failed to seek reimbursement for moving expenses."  This relates, the State says, to Blunt authorizing 16 days of sick leave to Dave Spencer, a friend of Blunt's from Ohio who was hired by WSI.  The State claims to have evidence Spencer was not sick -- including "Spencer's own admissions to BCI agent Mike Quinn that he was not sick" -- and Blunt authorized the payment anyway, allegedly.  There are also, it appears, communications with subordinates that further confirm Blunt "knew the payment of sick leave to Spencer was illegal."  The State also alleges Blunt failed to seek reimbursement of $7,000 in moving expenses owed by Spencer to the State.  He did so, according to the State, "contrary to WSI policy and state law."

The State also alleges WSI "illegally committ[ed] $150,000 of the fund to an organization for a grant which did not exist."  According to the State, Blunt "sent a letter to the North Dakota Firefighter's Association committing $150,000 in grant money to the association."  The State alleges Blunt did so even though there was no grant program set up that would have money available to the Firefighter's Association.  I've written about this.  You can read that by clicking here.

The State further alleges that Blunt "illegally authorized the payment of bonuses for select WSI employees" and that he authorized expenditures of public funds to buy select employees "everything from gifts to inducements that are prohibited by state law." This was an issue raised by the State Auditor's Office in it's audit 2 years ago.  I wrote about this in November of 2006.  Click here to read a little about it. (That old website still crashes all the time.  If it doesn't work when you try it, try it again later.)

The State asserts that the amount of illegal expenditures by Blunt is, in the aggregate, "just under $200,000."  

The media has been reporting that this was a case about trinkets and pickles and things valued at about $18,000. 

They have been wrong.  

Those of you who read NorthDecoder.com aren't just getting more news; you're getting more accurate news.

Stay tuned.


Comments (19)add comment

Pegasus said:

....
Interesting. I wonder how many WSI board members and legislators will dare scream about the unfair and biased State Auditor's report? Of course, these charges could be dismissed and they still have to be proven. On the surface, though, it tends to corroborate 'where there's smoke there's fire'. No pun intended.
 
September 30, 2008
Votes: +2

Big Jake said:

...
It really is difficult to craft a defense when yourclient is probably guilty. Blunt's dog won't hunt.
If I was a republican from Hoeven down, I would be worried as hell. Blunt has control. The question is will he roll over on them. For sure, a lot of dirty laundry is in the laundry basket. It is just not plausible that Blunt was acting on his own and independently for the "good Ol boys".

We should all be grateful that Chet is keeping an eye on this. The states attorney needs to be monitored. Certainly pressure has been and will be brought to bear on that office---in some manner. That's how politics work. You just can't accuse the Burleigh County States Attorney's office to be democrat influenced ----far more leaning to the right. So, Chet, watch the details ----this is just the beginning. One can hope that the truth will come out and justice will prevail. Really, it does happen occassionally.
 
October 01, 2008 | url
Votes: +5

doug d.riley said:

I was
I was wrong in thinking that the state was just going after blunt for 18,000 dollars..thanks Chet for clearing this up for me,i just couldn't understand why the state uncovered so much and they were only using 18,000 dollars of it,i also have a question on the article that came out on wsi today about the denied claims and unfair to injured workers-is there anyway to get the rest of the story out because the press really jumped the gun on this one and again only told one side of the story and in doing so is letting wsi off the hook....
 
October 01, 2008
Votes: +4

iwofndadvocates.com/blog said:

...
Thank you again Chet for the details, as usual, you are right on top of it where the news seems to want to bury this story or not even let it out to the public. I am sure that Blunt, and some of the upper management of WSI are now gritting their teeth again. I knew there was more to it then the 18k everyone was reporting, or this would have been like Indivik's case they would have just said it is not worth prosecuting over. Although I had NOOOO idea, it was almost 200k in "gift money".

Like Doug said that WSI has put out a report to the newspapers way to early, or did that to shine a new light just before Blunt's trial. I for one am not buying any of the last audits. If WSI can pass on $150k to the North Dakota Firefighter's Association, could it be possible that they might have paid the auditor company BERRY, DUNN, MCNEIL & PARKER, A CERTIFIED PUBLIC ACCOUNTANT a bonus for getting the audit done on time, and following WSI guidelines on how to do the audit. Could this be why it favors WSI? I mean it seems WSI moves money without the public knowing now, so what’s $100k more for a favorable audit. Obviously, nothing is beyond this agency. Well I sure hope all involved take tail and run, because you know it took more then Blunt to move this money around. There are more heads to roll here, it could even be all the way up to the governors office!!!
 
October 01, 2008
Votes: +4

Chet said:

Interesting
You make an interesting point. That's something I hadn't thought of.

We all know that WSI cut a deal with Conolly to pay Conolly an unlimited amount of money at a HUGE hourly rate after Conolly (woefully) provided cover for the whistleblower retaliation. It looks like that deal might have been worked out before Conolly issued the report it claimed was unbiased. But how unbiased does the report look after we find out Conolly got the sweetheart deal with WSI? Not very.

I'd like to think WSI did not offer a similar sweetheart deal to Bury, Done, McKneel and Parkher (partly because I think the contract went through the SAO, and I tend to trust the SAO staff waaaaaay more than I trust anybody in WSI mgmt), but WSI's past questionable behaviors still make me wonder.
 
October 01, 2008
Votes: +4

iwofndadvocates.com/blog said:

It's your fault Chet :D
Well Chet you're the reason I thought about that possibility since your put out there about all the charges against Blunt. It is obvious from the charges, and the money he handed out through WSI that WSI has a system of backdoor deals. Like I said in order for Blunt to move that kind of money out the door to the Firefighters Association, and to his buddy Spencer that he was not alone in these actions. I cant wait to see whom else might have their fingerprints on this stuff say like John Halvorson, Mark Armstrong, and Jodi Bjornson just to name a few. I wonder if they were involved will Sandy Blunt take them down with him to hopefully get himself a reduced sentence?
 
October 01, 2008 | url
Votes: +3

Pegasus said:

I'm a cynic where WSI is concerned BUT
CPA firms will not purposely look the other way for sweetheart deals. That said, Arthur Anderson went down because of their complicit, some would say unethical and fraudulent, relationship with Enron. Motivation? $$$$ and industry referrals. CPA firms are in business to serve their clients and they depend on good relationships for referrals, just like most businesses. My understanding is the worker's comp industry is pretty small and close-knit. This particular firm used (unless it changed) an insurance industry specialist from BISMARCK. I don't know if that person had anything to do with reviewing claims. Problematic regardless.

Would a CPA firm spin the facts in the most possible favorable light? Yes, because they are client-centric. It happens.

Findings for this report are highly dependent on what they looked at. There has been a lot of time since the concerns were intially raised. In situations where there's a great deal of incentive to have a favorable outcome, who knows what may have transpired over those months.

What would be interesting is for someone to explain the discrepancy between the Marsh report and this new report. And how having a ND firm involved in this wasn't a problem. In a small state where your business may depend on not making waves.
 
October 01, 2008
Votes: +2

leo said:

Very Interesting
If Blunt gets cornered, he'll squeal. He's not the type to take the fall himself. He will start blaming everyone under the sun for the illigalities at WSI. If I were top management, I'd really be worried.
 
October 02, 2008 | url
Votes: +3

iwofndadvocates.com/blog said:

Three opinions and none match
Three different reports about wrongfully denied claims, one says a hand full of wrongfully denied claims, another says fourteen percent, and now the last one says there are NO wrongfully denied claims. Maybe I am missing something but it seems no matter what consultant does the report WSI just keeps getting different numbers. Another one hundred WSI handpicked claims for this last audit to view, as I am sure the hand picked ones were probably degenerative diseases that WSI rules can clearly deny the claim with no question.

Anyone see a problem here? Yesterday WSI (Bruce Furness) was tripping all over himself to get to the media to announce the great news. Yet where is anyone from WSI today to argue the points here about handing money out that was illegally taken out of WSI to favored outfits, and people. I am waiting for you Bruce Furness to brag about this issue!!!
 
October 02, 2008
Votes: +3

doug d.riley said:

I'm Hoping
I'm hoping that everyone shows up at the Harvest Room,at the State Capitol in Bismarck on October 23, 2008 at 8:00am to try and set things straight,let the people of north dakota know that the injured workers have been wrongfully denied their benefits an have been mistreated-let the people know the voting records of rick berg,kieser an anyone else who wants to get up there and say their trying to help the injured that have track records like these folks do,if there weren't any wrongly deniel claims just what has wsi been doing for the last two months or should i say 428 injured workers claims,i myself am very tired of wsi painting the picture their way one example of what i'm talking about is when one of wsi's paid mouth pieces talks before the legislative counsel an says that an injured worker received a 12.5 or 11.7 or 10.5 on a test score but fail to tell the counsel that it was a third grade level test or fail to tell them that the injured worker still had one or two surgeries to go threw but were made to go to the schools before they were even healed up-so tell your mother your brother your friend to go to the meeting on the 23rd a take a stand against wsi an their one way system,help put an end to the madness,the lies the bs....
 
October 02, 2008
Votes: +0

HalfFull said:

Heads gotta roll
So, did the Firefighter's Assn. officially get $150,000? It will be interesting to see what else comes out at this trial. And here we thought it was just about bottled water and pickles and unfair salary increases, ha! I hope ALL invovled in this mess will be shown for who they truly are. Heads need to roll. Many people know what went on inside the walls of WSI, and know who is dirty and who is not. Many know the injustice that many people have lived with at the hands of some of the corrupt WSI elite staffers. People need to be held accountable for what they did to get WSI into this sad state of affairs to begin with and for what they did to others personally. I hope all the dirty laundry gets aired, to include things like investigating Blunt bringing some of the OH people and others on staff to WSI. Look into their previous personnel files and see what they hold. Ask yourself what Blunt knew about the past actions of some of these people, did he possibly seek any legal advice internally at WSI, and for crying out loud, if something is found, ask how Blunt could have operated ethically and in the best interest of over 200 employees by knowingly bringing risk to WSI. I would think this would speak a lot of one's character.
 
October 02, 2008
Votes: +2

leo said:

to HalfFull
Two years ago, Ohio's official policy was not to release anything that would be considered negative out of one's personnel file. Mighty handy for the Ohio crew that arrived here. Blunt brought in two from Ohio for the basic purpose of eliminating employees who didn't play his games. He brought in the third to attempt to repair the damage of the first two. I'm sure Ohio WC is still laughing their ass off after ridding themselves of those four.
 
October 02, 2008 | url
Votes: +3

What the Heck said:

MIA
Isn't this headline making stuff? Nothing in any newspapers. Such a big deal made over $18,000 and water and birthday cakes and gift certificates and no one is excited over another $150,000???? Unbelievable.

Who knew about the $150,000 and when did they know? Chet's previous blog with email from WSI attorney was dated early 2007. Did the board know about this? If they did then why was someone on leave for pending charges not terminated for this? If they didn't know about it, why not?

Will there be a last minute rescue from this boondoggle? Stay tuned, Chet says. For an organization that whines about negative attention, holy crap. Talk about running naked in the streets.
 
October 02, 2008
Votes: +2

Big Jake said:

...
Based upon the available information, I would conclude that Blunt was brought in by the greedy group that exists in the republican party. they are in power and have all expressed the same right wing nonsense as the Beacon, Americans for Prosperity, Sand, etc. Who knows what they really believe. Blunt arrives with the credentials to gut the agency and reward the favored ones. Blunt figures out that these saps are easy picking so he assists in creating some side deals. When the big boys catch on (to the degree they have) it is too late. Blunt knows that they are all co-conspirators and that creates deep cover. Who knows what might come out at trial. Stay tuned. For those of you who think this is just conspiracy nonsense, Look closer and at history for guidance. I think that Chet has been saying from the beginning that this is bigger than we think. He has been proven right. With what is at stake here, the scramble to cover it up increases. If it blows, it really could change the political course of our state. It could serve as a transfusion and the other side could start growing a backbone. As a related issue, the rulings if that is what you call them from Jaeger's office are a reflection of the same arrogance and no fear of challenge by the Dems. A real nightmare could be in the making. If any close races result in recounts, the 20,000 bad applications will become an issue and they should. If a new election is forced, the Dems will look bad as they are causing this expense. There nearly always is a consequence for failing to stand up for what is right. The law is the law---in spite of Hoeven, Stenejhem, Jaeger, Blunt, Halvorson, Berg, Keiser, Wald, and a host of others. Just how much we will tolerate is a measure of our cumulative integrity.
 
October 02, 2008 | url
Votes: +6

What the Heck said:

Pitchfork Revolt
There are lessons to be learned from the Bailout fiasco for ND. Outrage and anger count for something. Paralysis resulted from thousands of angry Americans speaking out. The best thing to come out of this so far has been the pleasure in watching Congress cover their backsides.

In ND, the truth isn't coming out fast enough to fuel the revolt we need. Citizens are fixated on preserving their assets and the economy, which while good for the Obama campaign, isn't doing much for politics at the state level. Maybe now is the time for local Dems to channel outrage to the fat cats in ND who support handouts with little to no oversight or accountability. Every legislator who attacked the auditors, apologized for WSI, supported bills to take away from workers while $ walk out the door with little or no scrutiny should be held accountable. What's the catalyst to make that happen?
 
October 02, 2008
Votes: +3

HalfFull said:

"Yes" on 4 on November 4
I believe the best start to taking a stand on this WSI mess is to vote "yes" on Measure 4 on November 4. We the people of ND have a chance on November 4 to say we are sick and tired of the lack of action by our state government officials and our legislative body for letting this WSI issue get out of hand.
 
October 03, 2008
Votes: +5

doug d.riley said:

just think
Just think how conolly would have felt if he had done an actual report and found out that wsi's ime's were paid 5000.00 dollars an hour and wsi only paid him 400.00 dollars an hour-you know he would have felt like used toilet paper and would have more than likely have told the truth.....
 
October 03, 2008
Votes: +0

MIKE said:

...
First we must define “denied”. The public doesn’t understand the WSI terminology but Mr. Furness does. Shame on you Bruce.

How many of the 1,400 plus NOID’s sent out in the few years were wrongful termination due to the great CorVel vocational rehabilitation program trap?


 
October 03, 2008
Votes: +5

leo said:

Where are you, Bismarck Tribune?
Today's Fargo Forum article by Janell Cole outlined the latest performance audit report findings. Why haven't we seen anything about this topic in the Bismarck Tribune? Why haven't we seen anything regarding Blunt's newest court happenings in the Tribune? The Tribune recently posted a half-paged add with Blunt's picture on it (which I liked) stating they are reporting the events surrounding the WSI ordeal and will continue to do so. So where in the hell are they????
 
October 05, 2008 | url
Votes: +1

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