It's a cold, bitter winter in this barren land. Resources are scarce, “man camps” spring up to shelter the workers who can find no homes. The government, considered one of the most corrupt in the region, seems incapable of addressing the challenges. North Korea? Nope. Welcome to the Peoples Republic of North Dakota, the PRND.
When I originally wrote a column concerning the legal (mis)treatment of Sandy Blunt, former Director of the PRND's Workplace Safety and Insurance, the reaction was, to say the least, vitriolic from the anti-Blunt crowd (hereafter referred to as the “Angry Mob”, or simply AM). As you may recall, Blunt was tried and convicted of misspending government funds, most notably, about $11,000 in employee incentive items such as 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. Additionally, Blunt was prosecuted because WSI paid an employee for sick pay when he was not apparently sick, and for not collecting moving expenses when that employee departed the agency prior to the expiration of his employment agreement. The total for those "transgressions" amounted to another $15,000. No one has ever alleged that Blunt personally benefited from these expenditures.
The subject of my original article was a PRND Supreme Court Disciplinary Board's finding that the prosecutor in the Blunt case, Cynthia Feland, withheld evidence from the defense that, and I quote, “tended to negate the guilt of the accused or mitigate the offense.” Feland, now a judge, was recommended for a 60 day suspension. It was also recommended she be ordered to pay the $11,272 cost of her disciplinary proceeding. Much of the evidence found to be withheld from the defense was supportive of Blunt's actions regarding the employee in question.
The reaction from those who opposed Blunt, was swift and consistent. It went something like this:
ME: I think the original charges are ludicrous, and in most states could never even rise to the level of being considered a crime. Additionally, the panel's conclusion that “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”, seems to be sufficient in my view to question his entire prosecution.
AM: But he's a convicted felon!
ME: Yes, but perhaps unfairly so.
AM: But he's a convicted felon!
ME: But what of the findings that evidence withheld potentially negates his guilt?
AM: But he's a convicted felon!
ME: But the panel found…
AM: But he's a convicted felon! And there is nothing you can do about it!
On this odyssey I was called fatuous and lazy, and was told I had no credibility; charges I did not take seriously, and would have protested – but I didn't feel like expending the energy and no one would've believed me anyway (To those of you residing within the PRND, that was a joke). I encountered a former WSI employee in a LinkedIn group who did not appreciate my input. Previously this member had indicated she got her “jollies” on the job at WSI by having an employer cited on Christmas Day. Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy about government dealings in the PRND, doesn't it?
And speaking of government dealings, some of the AM's assertions included comments about how squeaky clean their state actually is, and that a scoundrel such as one who would approve employee incentives could never survive the light of truth and justice in the PRND. Never mind that the federal government declared North Dakota to be, on a per capita basis, the most corrupt state in the nation in 2008. Oops. Of course on that note, the AM also gets it wrong. They claimed that this status is only because they are soooo good at ferreting out ner' do wells – completely ignoring that this status is based on FEDERAL prosecutions, not those brought about by state authorities.
But what can you expect in a state where authorities used a $150 Million military Predator Drone to track and arrest an entire family for “failing to report stray livestock” when 6 cows wandered onto their property? (Admittedly this family seems to have a few paranoia based issues – but hey, I might too if I lived in the PRND)
And speaking of misspent government funds; how much has the PRND spent prosecuting Sandy Blunt for the $26,000 in dispute? Unfortunately PRND States Attorney's Offices apparently do not track the cost of individual trials, but I speculate it has to be easily beyond $1,000,000. That is in tax payer provided government funds, folks. This, for a trial, where it has been determined that not only evidence was withheld from the defense, but that same evidence contradicted testimony the prosecutors allowed to be entered at trial. If all this is proven true, where is the criminal standard regarding misspent government funds? Why is the guy who bought trinkets, balloons and gift cards as employee incentives the only one holding the bag?
The PRND Supreme Court is only now beginning the painfully slow process of considering the panel's decision. We must wait to see what they will actually do. There is some belief in the PRND that the Supreme Court will not follow their own Disciplinary Panel's recommendation, since they are “too heavily invested” in their previous decisions regarding the Blunt case. If that turns out to be true, if Ms. Feland is not held accountable for the errors the panel found, it will, in my opinion, be an egregious violation of Mr. Blunt's civil rights, and a shame upon all the residents of the PRND.
No matter what they decide, it will likely be months before we know what direction they will take. This has been going on for over 5 years now. We know the wheels of justice turn slowly. But in the Peoples Republic of North Dakota they apparently still need to knock the corners off their wheels.
There have been 2 comments made!
You must Login or Register in order to read and make comments!
Robert Wilson is President & CEO of WorkersCompensation.com, and "From Bob's Cluttered Desk" comes his (often incoherent) thoughts, ramblings, observations and rants - often on workers' comp or employment issues, but occasionally not.
Bob has a couple unique personality characteristics. He firmly believes that everyone has the right to his (Bob's) opinion, and while he may not always be right, he is never in doubt. Enter at your own risk, and like all of our blog areas, we encourage you to read the disclaimer at the bottom of the page.
We're not responsible for this guy.....
Bob is an accomplished speaker for the workers' compensation industry. He is available for conferences, corporate events, children's birthday parties and Bar Mitzvahs. You may access his Speakers Brief here.