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Let Me Be Blunt: Sandy Got Screwed in North Dakota

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I did not know Kangaroos were native to North Dakota, but reading about their court system has convinced me otherwise. (Alternate opening line: Hey, I found out where GEICO goes to film those caveman commercials!)

Some may refer to it as "North Dakota justice"; but I would not use the word justice to describe what happened to Sandy Blunt.

Blunt, the former Director of North Dakota's Workforce Safety and Insurance, was accused, prosecuted and convicted of "misspending public funds". Prosecutors claimed Blunt "misspent" $26,000 of the agency’s dollars. He was convicted in December 2008. The felony conviction could have meant up to 10 years in prison. He received a deferred two year sentence, a $2,000 fine, and had to perform 1,000 hours of community service.

According to the Insurance Journal, "Blunt was accused of spending more than $11,000 on flowers, trinkets, balloons, decorations and beverages for Workforce Safety and Insurance employee meetings, and on gift certificates and cards for restaurants, stores and movie theaters that were used as worker incentives."

Balloons? The man is clearly a menace and danger to society. Glad they stopped him before he hired a clown.

He was also accused of allowing a senior WSI executive to keep almost $8,000 in moving expenses that prosecutors claimed should have been repaid, and for the same employee to use his sick leave when he was not ill, a benefit worth about $7,000. That employee, Dave Spencer, resigned under pressure from WSI. More on that in a moment.

Admittedly, I am late to this dance. Managed Care Matters blogger Joe Paduda has long been championing Blunt, and defending him throughout this process. He has numerous, well researched and highly informative posts on the subject.

Let's take a moment to look at these charges. No one is claiming Blunt stole anything. He did not enrich himself or take funds for himself in any way. He was prosecuted for the WAY he spent the money. He was prosecuted for management decisions. On the surface, he was prosecuted because some people disagreed with his operational methods. That, in North Dakota, is apparently a crime.

If that doesn't send chills down the spine of any decision making executive, they are not paying attention. I realize I am in the private sector, but under those standards I could be beaten and shot for some decisions I’ve made.

The remaining charges, those related to the funds either improperly paid to or not collected from the employee Dave Spencer, may turn out to be the reason this ridiculous charade may implode on itself. Spencer apparently was paid $7,000 in sick leave, even though he was not sick. I could find no evidence that Mr. Spencer was accused of a crime or prosecuted for this. I only found that they prosecuted the guy who ran the agency. 

And about Blunt “allowing” Spencer to keep the $8,000 in moving expenses prosecutors claim the state was owed? Turns out, Spencer apparently resigned under pressure, and an internal memo confirming that the agency was not in a position to collect those expenses backed Blunt’s position. Unfortunately that memo, along with several other key pieces of evidence, which were in the possession of the prosecutor, was never made available to the defense.

Although not establishing intent, the Disciplinary Board of the North Dakota Supreme Court last week determined that the prosecutor, Cynthia Feland, now a judge, did in fact withhold key evidence from the defense that could have seriously affected the outcome. Specifically, the court stated:

“The Panel concludes Cynthia M. Feland did not disclose to Michael Hoffman, defense attorney for Charles Blunt, the Wahl memo, and other documents which were evidence or information known to the prosecutor that tended to negate the guilt of the accused or mitigate the offense.”

"Negate the guilt of the accused or mitigate the offense". Why let the facts get in the way of an otherwise flawless prosecution? 

The panel is recommending “to the North Dakota Supreme Court that Cynthia M. Feland be SUSPENDED from the practice of law for sixty (60) days and that she be ORDERED to pay the costs of the disciplinary proceeding in the amount of $11,272.21.” The panel's full findings of fact and conclusion is attached below.

Interesting. I wonder what it cost the taxpayers to prosecute Sandy Blunt? What is that amount, tacked on to the disciplinary costs of $11,272.21? Could those costs, in light of recent developments, be considered “misspent public funds”? By the prosecutions own standards, to which they consistently held Mr. Blunt and his reputation, they might be criminally liable.

Or we could stop this nonsense, and set this right. North Dakota, clear Sandy Blunt’s name and reputation. Now.

I could not say it more bluntly than that.

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Subscribe to comments feed Comments (24 posted)

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Paduda 11/18/2011 08:07:31
Bob - love it. I wish I could have communicated the travesty as succinctly.

Sandy is a truly remarkable man. His grace and courage in the face of what can only be described as a complete travesty of justice is beyond understanding.

Thanks for bringing more attention to the disaster that is NoDak "justice".
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Miggie Warms 11/18/2011 13:27:43
The plural of "Kangaroo" is NOT
"Kangaroo's," which is either the possessive or a contraction for "Kangaroo is." It's a pretty horrendous mistake to put in the lead sentence of an otherwise well written piece. Instead of building up to a cringe at the treatment received by Mr. Blunt, the sensitive reader is already cringing at your first sentence.
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WorkersCompensation.com 11/18/2011 16:35:51
Duly noted, Ms. Warms, and the offending apostrophe has been removed. Thank you for bringing this to our attention. Bob started writing this article at 6:00 AM, and clearly he is not very aware before his coffee. Obviously he was not very aware when he posted it several hours later, either.

For the record, Bob blames it completely on his iPad, which he feels just should have known better.
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Michael 11/19/2011 03:46:05
I think you might want to research a little closer on Blunt, maybe even look into him illegally using driver’s license information on WSI employees for a personal vendetta. But great post for being a late comer to the party, and taking the minimal facts to base your article upon.
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WorkersCompensation.com 11/19/2011 11:02:23
I am sorry, Michael, I based my story on research of news publications and specific court documents. Was Mr. Blunt convicted of the actions you allege? It was not in any court records I reviewed.

I like to keep my articles based in fact. However, should I decide to write an article based on smears, innuendos and unsubstantiated allegations, I will let you know.

Reviewing the panel's documentation, there appears to be quite a variance in the information the prosecutor had possession of (and failed to disclose), and testimony at the trial. It could be possible that someone is lying somewhere, and it does not appear to be Mr. Blunt. Perhaps you can contain your comments to the subject of the article, and not make allegations that are unsubstantiated.

Thanks,
Bob
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Michael 11/20/2011 19:54:20
You are fatuous, lazy, and not credible since you only do half the research. Might I suggest you contact the Editor at the northdcoder.com for proof of my statements, and other WSI issues pertaining to Blunt.
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Bob 11/21/2011 02:10:41
Ok, we are going with "not convicted". In fact, never prosecuted for those allegations. Thank you for your professional response. Your words are more damaging to your credibility than mine. Name calling is the last refuge for those without an argument.
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Michael 11/21/2011 03:50:08
“Last refuge” is far from the truth, the only thing I can even fathom is that you are good friends with Steve Cates, and are actually blind to what is the fact. Blunt was convicted, tried to overturn his conviction, and failed more than once at his attempt. He is a felon end of story! If you really want to have an in-depth discussion on this substantial subject you have my email. Name calling did not fall into it fatuous means foolish, lazy is just what it is if you have failed to actually read all the information, and credibility is just a substance you do not have.
I never suggested that he had been convicted of such items I listed in an earlier post; it was more of a statement to Bunt’s character, nothing more and nothing less.
I am sure you will not even entertain the thought of investigating more in-depth so I have no clue as to why I would have posted a website that actually contains court documents on Blunt. You have my email, and my IP so if you have any clue how to use ether you know where to find me!
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Bob 11/21/2011 05:02:52
Michael, a few comments and then I hope we can agree to disagree. I don't want to clutter the thread with our constant bickering.

1) Never met Steve Cates, and have no earthly clue who he is other than coming across some of his work while researching this piece.

2) I have met Sandy Blunt. Twice. We recently both sat on a panel at the National WC Conference in Las Vegas. It was not an unpleasant experience. However, this case was never discussed, and at the time I had not made the connection between him and the story of his trial a few years back. I was (as you think I still am) clueless.

3) I have been to and read articles on the site you referenced, again when researching this article (even saw your email on a post there).

4) I do indeed have your email and your IP. Know how to use both, but do not need to.

What you, and apparently some others I have heard from, are not accepting or pleased about, is I am strictly addressing the actual charges he was convicted of (my opinion - ludicrous) and the now too apparent flaws in the prosecution. The fact that Blunt allegedly tortures kittens and eats small children for lunch was not, and is not, the point.

I think the guy got screwed. I think I've been pretty honest and open about that. We don't agree. That's fine. We both have the right to our respective opinions.

At least that is the way it works in the other 49 states.
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Kevin Wright 04/05/2012 12:22:30
Excellent post. Agree completely.
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bob 11/21/2011 05:49:40
If you don't have the authority to take the $11,000 in the first place, it doesn't matter how you spend it. You are still guilty for taking it. Blunt was unlucky enough to have gone from working with Tom Noe in Ohio to straight laced ND. Wonder who'll get out of jail first?
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RJ Thompson 11/21/2011 06:18:29
From what I read he didn't take anything. This was all on the books, I presume. I watched this during the trial, and that always bugged me. He didn't steal anything he just spent it on items for there employees and there office. Fire the guy if he wasn't supposed to do that, but make him a felon?
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Larry 11/21/2011 07:07:53
From what I can tell...Mr. Blunt overspent $$ to motivate his staff. Also, mismanaged a moving expense. Reading between the lines (and commentary), ND wanted him out, but chose a courtroom linching. As a WC Claim Advocate, I too go on "treasure Hunts". Not to prosecute or punish, but to accelerate pokey and expensive medical treatment. Motivating adjusters to "push" on unnecessary medical spending and unmotivated employees who use work comp as a road map to retire. Gentleman, the sin about this issue is that North Dakota is monopolistic and state run....with criminal recognition. Obviously, no room for motivation. Shoot first, ask questions later.
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Jennie 11/21/2011 09:28:58
Definition of opinion: a personal view, attitude, or appraisal.

Just thought this might help some people. The key word being personal. An opinion can be neither right nor wrong, only agreed or disagreed upon.
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Christine Williams 11/21/2011 10:25:12
At last, someone writes the truth regarding Sandy! I was fortunate to work with him in Ohio for several years. He always behaved with the utmost integrity and I know that everyone that worked with him has something good to say about him. He was a superior motivator, and if he spent $ 11,000 on his staff it's hardly theft, rather, knowing Sandy, an honest effort to reward superior effort. As always the wrong person is being attacked. The prosecutor turned judge failed to provide information repeatedly asked for in discovery. Instead of punishing the prosecutor and disbarring her, they have a public lynching of Sandy Blunt. Nice, I'm glad I don't live in ND.
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fkbugaboo 11/21/2011 12:04:44
I don't think lower case bob even read the article. Says right near the beginning his sentence was deferred. No jail time. And he did not "take" anything.
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bob 11/22/2011 06:39:18
http://www.kxnet.com/custom404.asp?404;http://www.kxnet.com/t/sandy-blunt/310935.asp
Sandy Blunt was found guilty of the first of two charged felonies. Giving $8000 of taxpayers' money, “sick pay” to someone that was not sick, that Sandy reportedly wanted to get rid of and forced out of a job.
The conviction carries a maximum 10-year prison term. It involves illegal sick leave paid to an administrator who was not ill, and illegal gifts and trinkets. That he apparently thought he had the right to give the money may have gone to the 2 years deferred sentencing.
Sandy was found not guilty of the second – giving illegal bonuses (i.e. taking govt funds and giving them to other govt employees). The docs that the prosecutor is alleged to have withheld don't relate to any of the criminal elements that needed to be proven.
This conviction is why there are whistle blower rules in government.
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Holy Crap These People Are Obsessed 11/22/2011 08:58:46
Fkbugaboo was right. "Lower case bob" clearly isn't reading, or won't read, what Wilson wrote. The docs withheld (no longer alleged, it is a finding of fact by the court) did specifically relate to "the criminal elements that needed to be proven".

Lower case bob, what part of the panels language, about negating or mitigating the guilt of the accused, don't you understand? This is a finding of fact. Just because you don't like it, don't make it otherwise.

Why was the employee who claimed sick pay but not sick never prosecuted? THAT seems like theft to me. Amazing that all these detractors will give him such a willing pass, but have an anal obsession about getting Sandy blunt.
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Maybe "Lower case bob" Should Read What the Panel Actually Said at the Hearing 11/22/2011 12:28:43
MR. ULMER to MS. FELAND: I guess where I get confused in this particular -- not confused -- where I struggle is I think of a prosecutor's obligation to prosecute, but more importantly, I think of the prosecutor's obligation to also do justice. I think that's a tough thing to balance. So I wrestle with how do we drag in -- knowing that the moving expenses have been declared a moot point and that the C99 was apparent in your lap, as well as Mr. Hoffman's lap, as to how this charge came about in the first place. I guess you've given me an explanation of how we've gotten there, but I still am struggling internally with where is the sense of justice here? This is one of the issues or why most folks walk around and go -- they demean the process. I mean they look at it and they go, How did I get over here, because I'm coming in from some extraneous point that has already been said this doesn't count … So we're coming in with some sort of entrapment process rather than a straightforward where are we, and I think that's frankly what's wrong with the judicial system at this juncture.
---------------

MR. ULMER to MR. WAHL: You obviously came to the conclusion that the termination was involuntary. … So you're not disappointed that that was not shared with the jury?
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MR. TRAYNOR to MS. FELAND: Don't you as a prosecutor, though, Ms. Feland, have an obligation to present the full picture to the jury and the Wahl memo states that the Attorney General's Office or the state auditor in consultation with the attorney general had concluded that the amount was not collectible? … You had the memo. Why didn't you offer -- why didn't you get that testimony? … But the jury didn't have all of the information because they didn't have Mr. Wahl's and the -- and the state auditor's ultimate conclusion that it was not voluntary; isn't that correct?
---------------

MR. TRAYNOR: I disagree, Mr. Fischer, because the Supreme Court opinion does not address Rule 3.8. That's for this committee to decide, and it –
MR. FISCHER: Absolutely agreed.
MR. TRAYNOR: -- and it deals with information that tends to negate the offense. And -- and I don't see how you can look at the Wahl memo and say this does not negate the offense.
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11/22/2011 16:25:13
A little history, Sandy and Tom Noe worked together at Ohio WC when Tom came up with the idea of investing public workers comp funds in antique coins.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coingate
Tom eventually found that keeping the money, himself, instead of buying coins left him more to spend.
http://www.sconet.state.oh.us/rod/docs/pdf/6/2009/2009-ohio-6978.pdf

Surprise.
Sandy was confused when the state audits began looking more closely his use of money in Ohio.
http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/midwest/2006/09/05/72017.htm
So he loaded up the truck and moved to North Dakota. The state that has the lowest crime rate in the nation. (Did you ever wonder why?)

Soon after he left, the Ohio govt discovered malfeasance in the WC dept.
http://www.kxnet.com/custom404.asp?404;http://www.kxnet.com/Voices/Blogs/72063.asp

Although he was the head of the department, Sandy argues he only committed misfeasance by not being involved in the investments where his direct reports took bribes in exchange for investment preferences that cost the state huge amounts of money.

Then he stole ND state money. He was arrested and convicted for it. He is sitting on a two year delayed imposition of sentence with a felony record and facing up to 10 years in prison if he messes up between now and then.

http://www.ndcourts.gov/court/opinions/20090110.htm

He misapplied entrusted funds. This is a theft offense. He committed a felony and was convicted. This is not an “alleged” crime. It is a proven fact.
As the ND Supremes said:
“Although thefts may be random and unrelated, or part of an ongoing course of conduct, misapplication of entrusted property is predicated on a normally ongoing relationship of trust that relates to property entrusted to the person "as a fiduciary, or in the person's capacity as a public servant or an officer, director, agent, employee of, or a person controlling a financial institution." Section 12.1-23-07, N.D.C.C., provides:
1. A person is guilty of misapplication of entrusted property if the person disposes of, uses, or transfers any interest in property that has been entrusted to the person as a fiduciary, or in the person's capacity as a public servant or an officer, director, agent, employee of, or a person controlling a financial institution, in a manner that the person knows is not authorized and that the person knows to involve a risk of loss or detriment to the owner of the property or to the government or other person for whose benefit the property was entrusted.”

The delayed imposition gives him a chance to walk without a prison sentence. That means that even though he is a convicted felon who has used up all his appeals, the court is attempting to be as compassionate as possible.

Apparently the trial court judge believes that Sandy is so incredibly stupid that he somehow thought he had a claim of right to take state money and give it away.

A non-government version of this would be if a bank cashier took the money from her till and went out onto the street and gave it to the poor. Even if she felt she had a Christian duty to do this, the crime is complete when she STOLE the money. She had the intent to take the money. She had the intent to permanently deprive the party that entrusted it to her of the money. Guilty.

A bank memorandum that says they can’t recover the money from the poor because the poor were not criminally involved in the theft and have no assets has nothing to do with the crime the teller committed and won’t impact the conviction.

http://www.ndcourts.gov/_court/opinions/20100308.htm

The ND court is much more liberal and actually examines all the disclosed information and finds that all the information was given to Sandy in other documents and there was no prejudice.

Moreover a ND court looks at whether the failure creates an appearance of unfairness even as to documents that have no relevance to the underlying conviction.

Hardly a kangaroo court! Three times to the state supreme court. Show me another state court system that took so much time assessing a felon's guilt seeking a way to let him off given the juries' verdict.

Note to Bob Wilson, your friend is a criminal and got caught in the most crime-free state in the country. He is locally very, very famous. He is one of the worst criminal masterminds the state has faced in many years.
For a little more history on Blunt’s odyssey take a look at the three supreme court decisions:
State v. Blunt , 2008 ND 135, 751 N.W.2d 692
State v. Blunt , 2010 ND 144, 785 N.W.2d 909
State v. Blunt , 2011 ND 127, 799 N.W.2d 363

You guys need to get out more. This guy might learn something from prison. He'll learn nothing if he's let off.

bob
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Bob 11/23/2011 05:33:39
lower case bob, lower case bob, lower case bob,
Where do I begin? My article was not about Tom Noe. It was not about Ohio. Your allegations are not central or relevant to what I wrote.

We agree, Blunt was convicted of misspending public funds, a felony. That is not news, and no one is arguing otherwise.

However, what you, and other faultfinders continue to ignore, is that a panel from the same court system you so competently defend has said that the prosecutor withheld from defense and jurors, "the Wahl memo, and other documents which were evidence or information known to the prosecutor that tended to negate the guilt of the accused or mitigate the offense."

Negate the guilt of the accused or mitigate the offense.

Negate the guilt of the accused or mitigate the offense.

Negate the guilt of the accused or mitigate the offense.

In plain English, that means the conviction likely would not have occurred if that evidence had been made available AS REQUIRED BY LAW. I really do not understand what is so difficult to comprehend about this. People so offended by Blunts apparent wrongs so willingly turning a blind eye to anothers injustice when it suits their cause.

Now, I must say that your bank teller analogy is absolutely, without a doubt, the dumbest thing I've heard in this argument. Let me fix it for you.

A bank teller does not have authority to do anything with the "cash in her drawer", and giving the cash to "people on the street" has no bearing to incentives and rewards for employees, which presumably would benefit the bank in some way. So, let’s make her the bank CEO, with complete fiduciary responsibility to the organization. It is discovered, that over the course of 4 years, she has spent about $2,250 a year on "flowers, trinkets, balloons, decorations and beverages for bank employee meetings, and on gift certificates and cards for restaurants, stores and movie theaters that were used as worker incentives." The purchases were clearly defined, on the books, and approved, in most cases, by managers within the CEO's organization. Some of the purchases she personally approved.

Now, let's assume that the bank’s board thinks these incentives are a complete waste of time, and are not in accordance with company policy. Who out there believes that they would press charges, have the CEO arrested, pursue persecution - I mean prosecution - and actually get a conviction? Anyone? Anyone?

If a man who, over 4 years, spent $11,000 on "flowers, trinkets, balloons, decorations and beverages for employee meetings, and on gift certificates and cards for restaurants, stores and movie theaters that were used as worker incentives" is the "worst criminal mastermind the state has faced in many years", then I would suggest your state is not looking in the right places.

I think the comments here are becoming somewhat repetitive, and we are going to close them from this point forward. Unless someone actually wishes to address the panel’s decision, which was really the point in the first place.
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Michael 11/26/2011 09:02:50
Good Idea to close comments on an argument you are losing at!

By the way the courts did conclude that the withheld information was already information contained in previous Blunt attorney files, thus irrelevant.
On another note thank you for the story hour of the “Bank Teller” how amusing and pointless.

I have too many files on this case, and WSI to even begin discussing with a “blind horse with horse blinds on” to aid him.

Time to head back to my different websites, and blog sites and abandon trying to explain any further the truth in whole, rather than parts of a truth.

Lots of luck.
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WorkersCompensation.com 11/27/2011 15:47:03
Michael, Happy to let your "final" comment through, particularly since you did not add anything special, and once again failed to address the panels language declaring the withheld documents as possibly negating the guilt of the accused.

So typical, and now predictable. Sorry you did not enjoy my bank teller revision, but it was not originally mine, and of course you offered nothing to counter it, either.

Yawn.

Bob
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Christine Williams 12/09/2011 04:09:49
Had to laugh when Tom Noe's name came up and the reference was for Wikipedia. If I couldn't come up with a better source than that, I think I'd keep my feelings to myself. I know Sandy, believe in his character and integrity and wish that people would stop trying to turn him into some kind of vampire living of the people of ND. I guess I wonder why, if he was going to steal from their WC fund, why it was only $ 26,000...if you are going to become a convicted felon, wouldn't it stand to reason that you'd want to take a lot more AND personally benefit from it?
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