I suppose it makes sense to put together a list of folks who have been vindicated and the people one might argue have been implicated as a result of the conviction of former North Dakota Workforce Safety and Insurance CEO Charles "Sandy" Blunt last week. The list of vindicated people first:
- The staff at the North Dakota State Auditor's Office. The hard-working civil servants working in the State Auditor's Office have been attacked, viciously, by the right-wing-nut-o-sphere of North Dakota, while -- as it turns out -- they were right; Blunt was abusing public dollars. Twelve citizens heard all the evidence and so now it is indisputable. Even if Blunt appeals and prevails on some "technicality," (I love that word) it'd be hard to suggest he didn't do anything against the law. The Auditor's said he did, the prosecutors said he did, and 12 citizens say he did. The people on staff in the Auditor's office have been called names and been mocked (by WSI's former board chairman) and been accused of being part of some mysteriously vast left-wing conspiracy. Gordy Smith, Jason Wahl and company have all been vindicated.
- The Burleigh County States Attorney's Office. Dick Riha and his team have been accused of bringing trumped-up charges against an innocent man, with claims there was no evidence supporting the charges. From internal WSI documents, it appeared as though a plot was being formulated by WSI insiders -- one of whom is a Burleigh County Commissioner -- and others to run Dick Riha out of his job. In the face of crazy right-wingers who insisted the case against Sandy Blunt was completely unsupported by fact or law, TWELVE (or thirteen? if the thirteenth juror happened to agree) jurors found Sandy Blunt guilty. Riha, Cynthia Feland and Lloyd Suhr have been vindicated.
- The Whistle-blowers. Remember that there are four people who sought protection from Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem because they were trying to stop criminal conduct at WSI and feared they would be retaliated against? Remember that!?! Well, they were all retaliated against. They were all fired. Of course WSI came up with "pretextual" excuses for firing all of them -- using a high-priced, out-of-state non-expert "expert" to help them cover their asses -- but anyone with half a brain will recognize that they were all retaliated against. Kay Grinsteinner, Jim Long, Billi Peltz and Todd Flannagan have all been vindicated.
- About 70 Former WSI Employees. If you get your news from the mainstream North Dakota media-ocrity, you don't know that about 70 solid state employees have left WSI during and/or because of the Blunt administration, the Indvik/Gjovik Board, and WSI's other "leadership." Some of those former employees -- believe it or not -- stay in touch with each other, much like other groups of people who survive hostage crises, wars and other traumatic events. Some of the vindicated former WSI employees testified in the Blunt trial. Don't feel too sorry for Blunt and company; they have made many of those former WSI employees out to be "disgruntled" and have done all they can to smear many of their good names. Many of those people left WSI because they couldn't or wouldn't continue doing what they were being asked to do to injured workers and/or state dollars with a clear conscience. Those people have been vindicated.
- Some Democratic legislators. Some (though certainly not all) Democratic legislators have been beating the "fix WSI" drum for about 10 years. They have effectively thrown up roadblocks to Republican proposals for WSI "slush funds" and other irresponsible spending and further oppression of injured workers. Some of them called for Sandy Blunt's dismissal back in December of 2006. If they had had their way, Blunt would have been gone from WSI nearly a year earlier, and the state of North Dakota would have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in salary and severance paid to Sandy Blunt. They have been doing all they can in the face of a right-wing media-ocrity and a GOP super-majority in the legislature and our ineffective Governor and Attorney General, and they have been vindicated.
- Joel Heitkamp --Radio talk-show host Joel Heitkamp, who also happens to fall under the category of "Democratic Legislators" -- has been maligned by the right-wing nutjobs for questioning Blunt's conduct -- and the conduct of others -- at WSI. Sandy Blunt and his posse at WSI obviously spent way " target="_blank" title="YouTube">too much time criticizing Heitkamp and not enough time looking at what Sandy Blunt was doing. Joel has been vindicated.
- Me -- I have been vindicated. Trust me on this.
Besides Sandy Blunt, there are plenty of folks who have been implicated. Not necessarily (though some, possibly) as criminals or co-conspirators, but as apologists, enablers and/or loud-mouths, at least:
- Governor John Hoeven. Somebody tell me, please, one thing John Hoeven has done to support either the investigation or the prosecution of Sandy Blunt or anybody else at WSI. Tell me, please, one thing. He and his staff have been nothing but obstructionists, using smoke-and-mirrors tactics to try to make it look like they've been doing their jobs. They sought Bob Indvik's resignation, but only after I told them they had to and I made the evidence indisputable. Hoeven did none of the heavy lifting. He let Bob Indvik and the WSI Board coddle the law breakers at WSI without doing anything about it. He claimed he had no power to do anything, but then ultimately claimed credit for demanding Indivik's resignation. (Which is it, John?) He appointed Bruce Furness -- who has no experience in insurance or workers compensation -- to serve as a figure-head, while allowing the Sandy Blunt Gang to continue to run the show at WSI. Hoeven officially has ultimate control over WSI, as of a couple weeks ago, but has done nothing to clean house over there. As far as I can tell, he hasn't even exercised the authority we gave him to appoint a WSI director. Hoeven is an ineffective "leader" and a cowering enabler. Hoeven has been implicated.
- Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem. Wayne Stenehjem is supposed to be North Dakota's top law enforcement officer. Whistle-blowers went to him, seeking protection from the retaliation they expected to be forthcoming from Sandy Blunt and his cronies at WSI. Stenehjem sat back and watched as all of those people were retaliated against. He did nothing to make sure a proper investigation of the allegations in the whistle-blower complaints ever happened. He played no known roll in ensuring WSI followed the law. It could be argued that he and his office participated in some of the retaliatory conduct. That's troubling. Thought he has provided occasional, marginal help in forcing WSI to comply with open records laws, he's done little to impose sanctions or otherwise deter WSI's records people from stonewalling legitimate requests for information. Stenehjem has been implicated.
- The WSI Board. (All but two of them.) Remember what happened when Sandy Blunt was charged criminally? The WSI Board (minus 2) rallied around Blunt, insisting he had done nothing wrong. They actively demonized and blamed everybody but Sandy Blunt and his clan at WSI. First they blamed the civil servants in the State Auditor's Office. Then they blamed the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party. Then they blamed overzealous Democratic (ha!) prosecutors at the Burleigh County States Attorney's Office. They blamed Joel Heitkamp. They blamed disgruntled former WSI employees. They blamed the whistlblowers. They blamed the left-wing media. They blamed me. They blamed injured workers. They were enablers to criminal conduct. They adopted their "Carver Model" of governance that allowed them to say, "We have no idea what Blunt is doing at WSI, but we approve of all of it, because it's profitable." That -- Blunt thought -- gave Blunt cover and gave the Board cover and created a situation where there was no accountability. For anybody. Then they gave Blunt over a hundred thousand dollars in (what I'll call) "vacation pay" while Blunt was on paid leave most of last year. Then they gave him another $140,000 (plus) in severance money. They (or some of them) deserved to be charged along with Blunt. They have been implicated.
- Some Executives and Managers at WSI and One Doctor at MedCenter One -- They know who they are. So do we. They're the people who have engaged in illegal, unethical, irresponsible and/or criminal conduct on behalf of WSI (a state agency) along with Sandy Blunt. They've covered up for him and his cronies. They've attacked critics of WSI. They (or some of them) had one of the organizers of the Initiated Measure followed by WSI investigators. They (or some of them) were involved in organizing secret drops of materials in the offices of the media. They were obstructionists when I (and others) requested records, but handed them out freely (literally freely) and with reckless abandon when Blunt and various WSI apologists asked for them. They had secret meetings during business hours with legislators and chamber of corruption leaders. They've engaged in letter-to-the-editor (type) writing campaigns. They've done it in a calculated, systematic, organized way. Some of them also snuck provisions into Sandy Blunt's separation agreement that allowed Blunt to seek MORE public money, and did so behind the backs of the WSI Board. They have been implicated.
- Republican Legislators. Google this phrase: "The ultimate responsibilty for what goes on at WSI rests squarely on the Legislature." GOP legislators joined in on the fun with the WSI Board, blaming, excusing and enabling. Accusing and denying. Meeting in smoke-filled rooms and strategerizing. They know who they are and they have been implicated.
- North Dakota's Right-Wing Media. The Fargo Forum (and other Forum Comm newspapers) had one writer who wrote critically about WSI and Blunt. When he did so, the right-wing Forum Comm owners shut him down (or at least it looked like they did for a while). The Bismarck Tribune has been incurious and ineffective when it comes to writing about Blunt and WSI. Tribune writers have done little or nothing to expose problems in the criminally-operated agency. The Minot Daily and Williston Herald reprint AP stories, and that's about all. Stories about the corruption at WSI have nearly universally started right here on NorthDecoder.com and been copied by North Dakota's media-ocrity only after it became clear the stories were legitimate and everybody "in the know" in (and sometimes out of) the state was talking about the stories. North Dakota's media has been lazy, incurious and -- at times -- has played defense for WSI and state government leaders who have dropped the ball. The media has been implicated.
- Right Wing Know-It-All Bloggers like Tom Heuerman and Rob Port. These tools joined in and served -- knowingly or otherwise -- as shout-box operators and apologists for Blunt, his WSI Board, the Republican legislators and other WSI crime-defenders. Without ever bothering to look into the facts or evidence, these clowns have called the Blunt case things like a "politically motivated witch hunt" and argued the indictments were "ridiculous" and that the people who pursued them were "embarassed when the charges" were dismissed (erroneously). Those of you who've been reading this blog and its predecessor for a long time know Rob Port had a personal financial stake in WSI's operations and has little or no credibility when talking about WSI or much else. After all, Port's the kind of tool who would argue Blunt "deserved" his $140,000 severence package because he "didn't do anything wrong." Port's problem -- or his problem regarding WSI -- is that his primary source of information seems to have been discredited right-wing news rag publisher Steve Cates. These people all claim anyone who criticized Blunt's huge jack-pot severance package were engaging in "political grandstanding." You have to wonder whether they're now going to blame the 12 citizen jurors for being a part of the grandstanding, partisan, witch-hunting persecution of Sandy Blunt. These guys -- Heuerman and Port -- are tools and don't even see it. They've been implicated.
- Dakota Beacon Excreter Steve Cates. This character, you'll recall, snuck his way onto the agenda for the Burleigh County Commission -- which included his beloved, dear friend WSI executive Mark Armstrong -- with the intention of coming across as " target="_blank" title="Cates">some kind of expert on what was going on at WSI. He thought he was going to put on some kind of dog-and-pony show, to argue that Burleigh County States Attorney Dick Riha was somehow abusing the trust of the county by pursuing the charges against Blunt. I watched the video of this. Cates got the smack-down and bad. When Blunt was found guilty by 12 Burleigh County citizens, Cates lost any credibility he had (assuming he had any credibility after renegging on the promise he made on the TV news that he would pay anybody $100,000 if they could prove he had written anything that was erroneous, or a misrepresentation or a lie in his Dakota Beacon right-wing news rag. [click here, here, and here to see how this turned out for Cates.])
This is a partial list. I'm sure there are more. Help me think of who they are.
I'd like to talk to some of the jurors. I suspect their stories might be interesting. If any of the jurors happen to stumble upon this website, I'd ask them to please send me a note at editor at northdecoder daught com. I'd like to visit with you.