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Tough Luck for Integrity PDF Print E-mail
Written by Chet   

ND Government Corruption WhistleIn an AP story entitled "Tough Luck for Dismissed N.D. Workers Comp Employees," writer Dale Wetzel summarizes the state of the law in North Dakota for public employees who catch their bosses engaging in crimes, fraud or other misconduct.  Here's the message for public employees who do the right thing and seek protection when they report crimes or fraud by their bosses:

"Pound sand."

Bismarck Tribune (paraphrased)

That's neither a reference to Congressman Pomeroy's latest challenger nor a Menard's advertisement for winter ballast for your pick-up truck.  It's the message North Dakota's Republican leaders want every state employee to hear when they start thinking about turning in their corrupt Republican bosses.

To recap, four North Dakota Workforce Safety & Insurance (WSI) employees reported criminal misconduct by their boss(es) at WSI back in late 2007.  Some of the conduct reported by some of them eventually led to the conviction of WSI's CEO, Charles "Sandy" Blunt, who was sentenced last week in Bismarck.  All four WSI employees were retaliated against by WSI despite the fact they had sought protection under North Dakota's whistleblower "protection" act.  Each lost their job.  Several of them brought civil lawsuits against the State of North Dakota.  Two of them have settled with the State, receiving thousands of dollars in public money.

Apparently being troubled by the retaliation against public employee whistleblowers who truthfully report criminal or fraudulent conduct by their boss(es), one state legislator has tried to re-write North Dakota's whistleblower protection laws to put some teeth into the law where now there are barely even gums.  Unfortunately, the last thing Republicans want is for state employees who become aware of their bosses' crimes and fraud to be protected when they report the misconduct:

The North Dakota Senate has rejected legislation sponsored by Sen. Tracy Potter, D-Bismarck, to give the state auditor authority to investigate whistleblower claims by state agency workers. The bill also would have allowed North Dakota's labor commissioner to order the reinstatement of wronged employees with up to two years' back pay and benefits.

North Dakota laws now prohibit public and private employers from retaliating against workers who report possible illegal activities. For public employees, the protection extends to reports of misuse of public resources. But officials say employees who believe they have been wronged have few options other than hiring attorneys to enforce their rights.

The dismissals of Long, Grinsteinner, Flanagan and Billi Peltz, WSI's former human resources director have exposed North Dakota's whistleblower protection law as worthless, said Long's attorney, Tom Tuntland, of Mandan.

Tuntland said the existing state law would be better described as a "whistleblower persecution act."

"The law is worse than a sham. It's a trap," Tuntland said. "It leads employees to believe they have protection when they have absolutely no protection .... Any public employee who blows the whistle on public wrongdoing is a fool."

Bismarck Tribune (not paraphrased)

Well I'm not sure I fully agree with Mr. Tuntland.  One would have to assume that intelligent people with integrity are "fools."  I'm not ready to go there.  I think it'd be more accurate to say that "Any public employee who blows the whistle on public wrongdoing and expects any help from a Republican or any governmental protection from retaliation is a fool."   

It's kind of a sad sign for North Dakota's public employees.  How many other public employees do you suppose were out there sitting on information about their boss's corruption and crimes but were waiting to see how the WSI cases played out?  I promise you there are some public employees with information of crimes and fraud that will never come forward because they have their careers and their families to think about.  In these tough economic times, the last thing an honest state employee needs is to be out of a job, forced to scrounge for a way to support their family.

But that's exactly how North Dakota's Republican leaders like things.  

"Keep 'em hungry," they say.

Our state employees deserve better.


Comments (3)add comment

Big Jake said:

...
Tuntland is right on. Potter was right on. Where are his colleague's? Where is the outcry for justice from the legislature? Is any one speaking for the average family? GET A BACKBONE OR GET THE HELL OUT OF THE WAY!!!!!
 
March 02, 2009 | url
Votes: +2

Go West said:

Tough Luck
I just love the crass headline "Tough luck for dismissed WSI employees." What the hell is that supposed to mean? If everyone in this state really knew the truth about what went on at WSI and what that leadership put people through, some people would sing a different tune. This crap is just the latest in the ongoing story of an agency that had corrupt leaders, mismanagement, an internal structure very broken and laced with ridiculous salary bumps and unfairness. So now, the whistleblowers look like their situations were insignificant and that they are dismissed as being part of the cause of the WSI problems. Ha! All the while there are some jokers still on board at WSI who REALLY ARE THE TROUBLEMAKERS and they still have their cushy WSI jobs, big offices, and even bigger and ridiculous salaries. Yup, just the ending we all need to this WSI crap. Employees were mistreated at WSI by those in corrupt positions, the whistleblowers now are also the bad guys, the real problem employees are still on board at WSI and everyone has turned a blind eye to them (just what the hell does that one employee do anyway?), and the wonderful State of North Dakota government body and our legislative body have told all employees across the state (especailly in State government where they are sending the strong message), that when you go to work in North Dakota, you just do your job and do what you are told, and don't question anything you may see that raises concern because guess what there will be no one, and I mean no one, standing by you to back you. How pathetic. Thank you officials of North Dakota for telling us how you really feel and what you value and what your morals really are. You should be ashamed of yourselves.
 
March 03, 2009
Votes: +3

What the Heck said:

Trib article title is troubling
Since when did 'luck' have anything to do with anything related to WSI and the state's pathetic lack of accountability? And what exactly was the catalyst for this story? Timing is everything. I suppose by minimizing the issue, it makes a whole lot of politicians feel better about shooting down a real whistleblower law. The Tribune is once again being played like a fiddle.

What's really troubling though, is the complete and utter thumbing of noses going on right in public view, and yet the public doesn't get it (or want to). The state must be really proud, they spent just shy of 1/2 a million $ in consulting and legal fees to skewer 3 or 4 individuals. If they were so confident none of the whistleblower claims were valid and they were lousy employees, seems like a collossal waste of resources to have spent that kind of money to make their case. Too bad they didn't use that money to help injured workers.
 
March 03, 2009
Votes: +4

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