What’s the latest from North Dakota?

Gosh, since the judge in Sandy Blunt’s case rejected his request for a new trial, a lot has happened. As winter settles in on the plains, allow me, dear reader, to separate the wheat from the chaff (a bit of a NoDak metaphor, doncha know…).
First, Blunt’s attorney appealed his case to the US Supreme Court. It was highly unlikely those worthies will consider the case, but in a case as unfair as Sandy’s, one can always hope. Unfortunately, his case will not be heard.
Second, one of the prosecution’s chief witnesses against Blunt, James Long, lost in his effort to gain whistleblower status. Long had filed a civil suit against WSI (the ND State WC fund) seeking to get back pay, (Long was fired by the agency Blunt led) but lost; the jury found he did not qualify for whistleblower status and thus was not protected from dismissal
Even more telling, during the course of the discovery process for his trial, it became clear that Long and his attorney both communicated with Cynthia Feland, (the prosecutor in the Blunt case) yet not one of these statements/communications was ever acknowledged or provided to Blunt during discovery.
This withholding goes to the heart of the issue I (and others) have been pounding on for over a year; Long in his email was requesting some type of special assistance or consideration from Feland due to his part in presenting allegations against Blunt, yet Feland withheld exculpatory evidence from Blunt, evidence that would have proved the main charge against him was without merit.
Sources indicate Cynthia Feland’s ethics trial is on schedule and word is things are not looking good for her. The ethics trial relates to her purposely withholding evidence from Blunt.
Meanwhile, back over at WSI, things are progressing about as well as one would expect in an organization led by a person with absolutely no qualifications for the job. That’s not to say there aren’t a number of quite competent and highly effective people at WSI, but they are a bit…hamstrung by the current leadership.
To wit – the ongoing effort to implement a new IT platform at the ND state work comp fund continues to proceed – over time and over budget, despite Executive Director Bryan Klipfel’s strenuous efforts. (note Klipfel’s still listed as the Superintendent of the North Dakota State Police). In fairness, Klipfel had zero experience in workers comp, and less in managing complex IT projects before he was appointed ED at WSI.
Then again, Klipfel has been in the job for a couple years; the outside consultants working the project are, by all accounts, extremely capable; and there was a clear workplan and timeline in place – and in progress – when Klipfel walked into the executive suite.
It is interesting to note that in Klipfel’s recent report to the ND Legislature on WSI’s 2010 performance, many of the ‘positives’ listed by Klipfel were the result of efforts initiated, or significantly enhanced, by Blunt – Klipfel’s predecessor.
Some may think I’m being too harsh on Mr Klipfel. As I’ve said before, Klipfel may, or may not, be a highly motivated, diligent, and hard-working guy. He walked into a tough situation – but he did so of his own volition. No one forced him into the job – a job for which he was completely unqualified. Now, the taxpayer and employers of ND are suffering the consequences.
One has to wonder what Klipfel would have thought if roles were reversed, and the former Executive Director of the ND state WC fund had been installed as Superintendent of the ND State Police.