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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
[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.
(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.
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: