Something is Rotten in the Town of Bismarck: Alleged Record Tampering at the North Dakota WSI

28 Feb, 2012 Bob Wilson


It's hard to believe, I know. In the pure and pristine land of the People's Republic of North Dakota (PRND), where deer and antelope play, and nary a negative thought is uttered, allegations of corruption have once again reared their ugly head.

Two whistleblowers at the offices of Workforce Safety and Insurance claim that they were asked to alter claimant's records, allegedly to deny those claimants proper payments. Dr. Luis Vilella, the medical director for Workforce Safety and Insurance, said he refused to change his medical opinions when asked to do so on two occasions in February or March of 2010. Vilella is the chief doctor who reviews injured North Dakota workers' compensation claims. In a letter to medical examiners he claims to have twice resisted efforts by agency managers to alter his medical opinion.

In a second case, Barbara Frohlich, a WSI employee, contends a claims supervisor ordered the deletion of a worker's electronic medical record. Frohlich, who acts as a liaison between Workforce Safety and Insurance and medical providers, reported the Aug. 18 incident with the agency's online fraud reporting system. Frohlich has indicated the deleted record was a nurse case manager's computer notepad entry. The entry would have been favorable to the acceptance of the worker's claim for benefits.

Now, this is where it gets interesting. WSI does not deny the deletion of information that Frohlich alleges. Instead, they say the deletion was to “eliminate unnecessary information”. Bryan Klipfel, director of WSI, wrote Frohlich in a Jan. 25 letter, saying the deletion was “not unlawful or contrary to WSI policy.” He further expressed his disappointment “to read the attacks you level against your fellow employees at WSI.” Frohlich then took the issue to two prosecutors, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and Richard Riha, the Burleigh County state's attorney.

The prosecutors take on all this? Frohlich had failed to provide evidence of a crime. They further indicated they did not have jurisdiction over this – she needed to call the State Patrol.

WTF? Really?

These are the same people who went after Sandy Blunt like pit bulls on a toy poodle. And Blunts crime? He bought incentive items to motivate employees. As well documented here and elsewhere, Blunt, the former Director of WSI, was prosecuted and convicted of misspending government funds, most notably $11,000 worth of gift cards and other small incentive items for the agency's employees. It has since been revealed that the prosecutor in the case, Cynthia Feland, withheld critical evidence from the defense, and has herself been recommended for fines and suspension over the matter.

Blunt recently filed a federal appeal  asking the court to review his conviction.

And in case my sarcasm isn't evident enough, in the interest of full disclosure I, and many of my compatriots in the industry, consider the Blunt prosecution to be a sham, a travesty and an embarrassment for any decent person remaining in the PRND.

So now we have allegations of real crimes, of true wrongdoing, and the same people who pursued Sandy Blunt with ridiculous charges say they have no jurisdiction in the matter. Maybe that means they have no jurisdiction when real crimes are alleged. I have no idea. What a joke.

Someone call Canada. Maybe we could interest them in an 11th province.

And as for State's Attorney Riha's advice for Frohlich to take the matter to the North Dakota State Highway Patrol? I'll give you one guess as to what Bryan Klipfel, director of WSI did prior to joining the agency. Klipfel ran the Highway Patrol.

Nice. I'd be starting my car by remote control if I were her.

Of course, Riha said if the patrol had a conflict of interest, it could refer the investigation to another law enforcement agency. Maybe Barney Fife is available.

It is time for the federal government to intervene in this cesspool. The feds, who have already concluded that the PRND is, per capita, the most corrupt state in the nation, need to step in and help stop the insanity there.

But wait a minute – The North Dakota US Attorney, Tim Purdon, a man labeled “Dodo Prosecutor of the Year” by the Wall Street Journal, apparently filed a brief supporting Prosecutor Cynthia Feland in her case regarding withheld evidence in the Blunt trial. After all, what's a little missing evidence amongst friends?

Cancel that call to Canada. Those people never did anything to us to deserve this.

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