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State v. Sandy Blunt: Developments
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.

 
Open Letter to the North Dakota Federal Delegation
Written by Dustin Gawrylow   

Dear Senators Dorgan, Conrad, and Congressman Earl Pomeroy:

The current Wall Street credit crisis revolves around the fact that banks and brokerages over-extended loans to people that were probably not credit-worthy for those loans. While the individuals who took those loans out are not blameless, the banks and lenders that gave out the loans had the power to make better decisions. Now, the market is holding those less than perfect decisions against those banks. Today, the interest rate that banks are charging each other to borrow money (referred to as the “LIBOR”) is in the high 6% range, it’s simply too expensive for banks to borrow money from other banks.

This situation was created by poor business decisions. The fact the interest rate that banks are charging each other is so high shows they do not trust each other.

If the banks do not trust each other, how can taxpayers and their representatives in Congress trust them any more?

This crisis will not be solved by giving Wall Street a wheelbarrow full of freshly printed cash. This problem requires a “trickle-up” plan to make it easier for consumers to pay their own bills.

The following are a few ways the Federal Government can inject cash into the credit market without spending taxpayer’s money:

  • Tax-Deductible Debt Payoff – Allow the average American to write off their Federal Taxable Income an amount equal to the amount of debt paid during the 2008 and 2009 tax years. (If a person pays off $20,000 worth of debt – principle and interest combined - they can write that $20,000 off their taxable income.) 

  • Restrain Credit Card Interest Rates – Americans are having difficulties paying their credit card bills and mortgages, by restraining credit card interest rates people can start paying down more of their balances, which will allow these banks to re-balance their own finances. Credit card holders can either reduce their credit card balances faster, or better afford their mortgages.

  • Mortgage Voucher Program – the Federal Government should cover the mortgage interest payments of any homeowner who wishes to continue making minimum payments to stay in their home. Once the balance of the mortgage is more in line with the real value of the home, the program can cease and people can stay in their homes.

  • Corporate Tax Deferment – Allow corporations a two-year deferment of federal corporate income tax payments. The corporate income tax rate in America is 35%, to ensure that these corporations are around to pay any tax, Congress should allow them to defer their tax payments for two years while they get their financial houses in order.

Congress and Wall Street are making this situation more complicated than it really is.

American families deal with debt every month on their own kitchen tables when the bills come in the mail. Allowing those families to better afford those bills will bring a quicker flow of cash to the struggling credit market without putting the taxpayers on the hook.

Sincerely,

Dustin Gawrylow, Private Citizen

 
USA Today: N.D. Not Sold On McCain
Written by Chet   

USA TodayThere's an interesting North Dakota-related article in the USA Today today.  Here's an excerpt:

Usually red state, N.D. not sold on McCain

MINOT, N.D. — Sen. John McCain was on TV at the student center at Minot State University, but Megan Walser barely glanced up from the information desk as she gave directions to a freshman football player.

At 19, Walser is undecided who will get her first vote for president. Rising costs of gas, food, rent and tuition are on her mind. As the daughter of a rancher in Rhame, she's thinking about farm issues, too.

Not this year. North Dakota hasn't voted for a Democrat for president since Lyndon Johnson in 1964, but observers across the political spectrum here say it's too soon to color the state red in November.

Nearly twice as many Democrats as Republicans turned out in February for party caucuses that gave wide margins of victory to Obama and McCain's then-rival, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.

"This is a surprisingly tight race. It's still leaning Republican, but what's different is it's usually a lock," says Steve Light, a political scientist at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks. "There's a tremendous sense of excitement about Obama among independents and the young. On this campus, it's easily the most I've seen."

[ ]

McCain "has some baggage," [Sen. Ray] Holmberg [(R)] says. Among the heaviest: Senate votes against the farm bill, ethanol subsidies and tax credits for wind energy.

USA Today (go read the whole thing)

To call McSame's votes on the farm bill, ethanol subsidies and tax credits for wind energy "baggage" is like calling the Titantic "a boat."   

It's interesting the story was written so recently yet doesn't mention the massive volunteer push that has taken over for the paid OBama staff in at least four cities in North Dakota.  

 
Obama Yard Signs: Where To Get Them In North Dakota
Written by Chet   

NDGO Buffalo[UPDATED X 1]When the North Dakota Obama campaign transitioned from a paid Obama staff effort to a grassroots volunteer effort, any plans the paid staffers might have had to distribute official campaign yard signs, buttons and bumper stickers en masse in North Dakota evaporated. 

FORTUNATELY, there are some individuals around the area who have ponied up and bought some signs that they're apparently willing to share.  I have some Obama yard signs in my car that I'm hoping to place in prime, busy street yards.  If you want one, I'm someone you can talk to.  When I run out, I might be able to get more.  If you want one, shoot an e-mail to me at northdecoder (at) gmail (daught) com.  Give me your name, address, preferred e-mail address and a phone number where it's easiest to reach you; preferably a cell phone number.  Tell me, also, if you live on a corner and let me know how many signs you think you need.  I'll either give you one of my signs, or try to connect you with someone else who has (or is getting) some.

Remember to take them down the night before election day.

Or, if you prefer, you can always order them online by clicking here. They're $8 apiece.  They're cheaper if you buy them in bulk.  [UPDATE #1:  There's a different online store where you can get them cheaper.  Click here for that store.]Feel free to buy a truckload of them and ask me to help you distribute them.  I know some people who'd be happy to help you place your signs.  And bumper stickers.  And buttons.

*******************

I just voted. 

You can take me off your calling and mailing lists.  

Feels good.

*******************

A bunch of you have asked me what the NDGOP's illegal absentee ballot application form looks like.  If you're interested, click here.   As someone else noted to me, "Not only is it illegal, it looks horrible too."

Leave it to the NDGOP.

*******************

The graphic up above is the new graphic being used by the brand-new ND Grassroots for Obama group.  What do you think?

 
Stranger Than Fiction: Palin and Couric
Written by Chet   

(I like how McSame cuts off Couric in an effort to feed the "right answer" -- the talking point -- to Palin.)

 

The video clip also shows John McSame's contempt for Americans like you and me -- the pizza place customer -- who have some perfectly reasonable questions about John McSame and Sarah Palin.  As you watch McSame in this video, you can see how uncomfortable McSame is with having to sit next to a woman who clearly wasn't his first choice, and have to defend her fundamental disagreements with him on policy.

There was a smart girl in high school who sat next to me in social studies/government class who tried to cheat off my exam answers.  That was bad, but it's a whole new universe of bad that John McSame -- who needs to keep Joe Lieberman around to explain to him the difference between a Shiite and a Sunni -- is feeding Middle East policy "answers" to Palin.

Heaven help us all.

 
Where Do I Vote In Bismarck and Mandan, North Dakota?
Written by Chad   

We're going to have a lot of new voters this year.  Even people who have voted before frequently ask where they vote this year.  Like most people, I don't even know what precinct number I live in.  I have to pull out a map.  I thought I'd put together a page with some basic voting information on it for you folks in Bismarck and Mandan. I'll start with this, and then move in to some more details:

Search All North Dakota Polling Places

To locate your polling place enter your house number and your 5 digit zip code, then press the Search button. This will take you to the Secretary of State's website, where you will have to click "Search" again.

Enter Search Criteria


*Required

Now, for some more details...

EARLY AND ABSENTEE VOTING 

Absentee voting has started in Bismarck, North Dakota, and people are wondering "If I want to vote early, where do I get my ballot?" Well, until election day, there are a few different ways you can vote:

(1) You can go to the City-County Building (the old Q&R Clinic building) at 221 N. 5th Street, Bismarck. Go through the doors, turn right, take a quick left and you'll be in the right place. The counter where you fill out your application form and pick up your ballot will be on your right. Voting booths to your left (usually).  Vote today.

(2) Starting on October 22nd, Burleigh County (and some other counties) will have what's called an "early voting precinct."  Here's what that is, according to the Secretary of State's website...

Some counties, during the 15 days prior to an election, open an early voting precinct so that voters of the county can stop by and vote whenever they happen to be near the voting location. During the hours of operation, election workers are present in the same manner as they would at to polls on Election Day. The big difference from voting early or absentee voting is in the fact that the voter will actually deposit their ballot into the tabulator, which will read the votes on the ballot. If the machine discovers an error that would prevent the vote for an office to be counted, the voter is notified and given a second chance to vote their ballot so that all votes can be counted. Second chance voting was one of the major tenants of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), which was signed by President Bush in 2002.

NDSOS

That seems convenient. The difference between voting in the "early voting precinct" on or after Oct 22nd and voting by absentee ballot right now is that at the early voting precinct, your ballot will actually be run through the vote counting machine.  If it has any errors on it (over-votes, etc.), you'll probably be given a chance to fix those.  If you vote before the early voting precinct opens, you won't get a chance to fix any mistakes.  

or

(3) You can get an absentee ballot application form, fill it out, mail it to the address on the form, wait a few days and then vote in your kitchen, at home.  You can get an absentee ballot application by clicking right here.  Though this ballot application form has "Burleigh" inserted as the county of default (and as the mailing address on the bottom), you can plug in your own county if you aren't in Burleigh.  Mail it to your county election official and they should send you a ballot.  For a complete list of county election officials in North Dakota (as of Apr. 30, 2008), click here.  The list has phone numbers and e-mail addresses for all of them, so you should be able to contact them and ask where you need to go to vote.  (All of them should be working late on election day, so you should be able to call and reach them on election day, even if it's after 5:00 p.m., local time.)

VOTER IDENTIFICATION REQUIREMENTS

Keep in mind that there is no voter registration in North Dakota.  You'll likely need to show some form of identification to the election workers.  All you have to do is bring proper identification when you go to vote or to get your ballot.  Here's a list of the forms of identification that will work:

■ Valid Drivers License
■ Valid State Identification Card
■ Valid Federally Issued Identification Card:  (1) Passport (2) Agency Identification Card
■ Valid Tribal Government Issued Identification Card
■ Valid Student Identification Card
■ Valid United States Military Identification Card
■ Utility bill dated 30 days prior to election day with name and residential address
■ Change of address verification letter from the US Postal Service

If you do not have one of the forms of identification listed above, you still have the right to vote if

■ An election poll worker is able to vouch for your identity and residence.
■ You complete a Voter’s Affidavit on which you certify, under oath, your identity and that you are a resident within this precinct.

NDSOS

VOTING IN THE BISMARCK AREA

If you just want to vote the old fashed way on election day, here's a list of our local precinct voting locations in Bismarck:

List

If you don't know your district and precinct, you'll need a map that'll show you where you vote.  You can get to the Bismarck map by clicking here.   The rest of Burleigh County is on this map (click here).  I'm not sure whether the list above contains all of the voting places in these districts.  If you live in the parts of District 14 or 8 that are not in Burleigh County, you'll need to get your voting info elsewhere.  (Maybe I'll do another post about that.)

VOTING IN THE MANDAN AREA

Morton County (Mandan) voting places are on this map (click here) [Link fixed] There's a map key that'll tell you where each of the colored areas voting place is.  You have to zoom in on the key to read it.  If you have any questions about where to vote, call the Democratic-NPL headquarters and tell them you don't know where to vote.  Give them your address and they'll likely call you back and tell you where you vote.  The number there is 701-255-0460.

I think the NDGrassroots4Obama office is looking for volunteer drivers to help get people to the polls on election day or to early voting locations.  Stop in at their office to volunteer.  (3333 E Broadway, Suite 1206, Bismarck).  I'll update this page as I learn more about that effort. 

WHO ARE THE DEMOCRATIC-NPLers ON THE BALLOT, AND HOW TO VOTE ON THE BALLOT MEASURES?

Once you've got your ballot sitting in front of you here in Bismarck, here's a list of progressive candidates and ways you might consider voting if you're tired of the way our government has been mucked up:

President/Vice PresidentBarack Obama and Joe Biden (Better than 4 more years of Bush policies.)

CongressEarl Pomeroy (Better than any period of time with Duane Sand)

Governor/Lt. GovernorTim Mathern/Merle Boucher (They won't hide behind the big, fancy desk in the Governor's office.)

State AuditorDaryl Splichal (He's actually an auditor.)

PSCCheryl Bergian (As best I can tell, she's running unopposed.  [If she has an opponent, I haven't seen hide nor hair of him.])

Insurance CommissionerJasper Schneider (He's had more than one original thought during his lifetime.  And he's passionate about working for the people of North Dakota in the Insurance Commissioner's office.)

State Treasurer: Mitch Vance (He'll give you transparency, and won't misuse the office of the Treasurer.  His opponent will continue to use the Treasurer's office checkbook to pay her club membership dues.)

Superintendent of Public InstructionWayne Sanstead (Experience counts.)

Measure #1: Oil Trust Fund.  Vote "NO".  (The dollar could tank in the next few months or year thanks to John McSame's deregulation and thanks to all the Republicans who are making the bail-out vote a big, political mess.  We won't know what impact that is going to have on our economy for a while now.  Regardless of what anybody tells you, this will have an impact on North Dakota's economy.  Now is not the time to unintelligently sock money away in a "lock box" and make it inaccessible if the dollar takes a dive.  Now is the time to address the gross negligence of John Hoeven and our GOP-controlled legislature and their failure to fix the milking machine.)

Measure #2:  Tax Breaks for the Wealthy and Corporations at a Time When Our Economy Could Tank.  Vote "NO".  (See comments on Measure #1, above.  And the fact that it eliminates a state tax liability entirely for a few, select income categories is really offensive.  Why should they not have to pay while the rest of us do?)

Measure #3:  Spending Tobacco Settlement Money On What It Was Meant To Be Spent On.  Vote "YES".  (The State of North Dakota recovered money in the tobacco settlement.  That money was supposed to be spent on certain things, but Republicans have redirected it to their pet projects.  This measure would direct that money back to where it was meant to go.)

Measure #4:  Cleaning Up The Mess At WSI.  Vote "YES.  (Our state's GOP leaders have allowed management of North Dakota's Workforce Safety and Insurance to be taken over by a bunch of corrupt, self-interested, greedy, uncaring, dishonest and/or secretive bullies (some of whom have been forced out, thank you very little.).  This measure will do several things, including neutralizing some of the remaining thugs.  The measure is not the "end all, be all" but it will send a message to our leaders and hopefully get them thinking about other meaningful reforms.)

Legislative Races in and around Bismarck/Mandan:

District 8 (Bismarck):  Wes Weible (Senate), Audrey Boe Olsen and Ken Baker (House)

District 14 (Lincoln, Steele, Driscoll, Wing):  Jim Long (Senate),  Karen Volk and Bob Stringer (House)

District 30 (Bismarck):  Chris Ebertz (Senate), Carol Christianson and Casey Skovran (House)

District 32 (Bismarck):  Tom Asbridge (Senate), Cheryl Long Feather and Jim Unkenholz (House)

District 34 (Mandan):  Arnold Zins (Senate), Brent Veil and Rob Tausend (House)

Feel free to print this out, give copies to your friends, put a copy on your fridge and take a copy to the polling place with you.

 
Your weekly dose of Joe Biden 09-28-2008
Written by Adam   

On the McSame/Palin tax increase

 



McSame/Palin respone?

Crickets...

Tumbleweed...

 
Sunday Diversion: Lyle Lovett
Written by Chet   

North Dakota

By request...

 
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