Tuesday, December 09, 2008


This commentary appeared in the Grand Forks Herald on December 12, 2008.

Sandy Blunt, former CEO of WSI (Workforce Safety and Insurance), goes on trial on December 15 in Bismarck.

What are the alleged crimes of this notorious outlaw from Ohio?

In April 2007, based mostly on findings of an enfeebling state auditor’s performance audit of WSI, Blunt was charged with a felony for rewarding employees with gift certificates, buying lunches for legislators, giving employees a party with costumes, flowers and other such normal and nominal corporate activities. I’m told that the charges against the audacious Blunt included the purchase of forks, plates, coffee and a cake to welcome him to WSI.

A second count alleged he had authorized bonuses for three employees—an illegal act in North Dakota. Blunt said he gave deserving employees a pay raise based on the recommendation of a nationally respected compensation consultant.

Do the citizens of North Dakota believe that these administrative actions are worthy of criminal charges, an appeal to the state Supreme Court after the charges were initially thrown out by a district judge with common sense, and a jury trial?

Do the people of the state really believe that destroying Blunt’s career and reputation and forcing him to put his life on hold in Bismarck for the past year are the right things to do to a man brought to a historically troubled WSI to bring about change for the betterment of the workers and taxpayers of North Dakota?

I think the people of North Dakota are better than this.

Blunt didn’t benefit from his acts. He didn’t intend to break the law; he was trying to run a better WSI.

Blunt’s “crimes” were administrative in nature. If anyone had an issue with them, they were more appropriately handled in the governance of WSI—between the CEO and the WSI Board and between the Board and the North Dakota legislature.

Blunt’s decisions were easily within the authority of a CEO in even the smallest for-profit company. Similar decisions are made daily by mid-level managers in thousands of organizations across the state and nation. Criminalizing such actions will make agency heads paranoid and fearful of making good management decisions.

Independent consultant Neal Conolly, hired at the urging of Governor Hoeven, concluded that WSI under Blunt was doing an excellent job. He was puzzled to come to Bismarck and, after hearing everything being said about Blunt and WSI, to then see an organization that he “would stack up with any organization that does this kind of work in the United States.” Blunt did a good job for North Dakota.

What of the judgment of the provincial Burleigh County State Attorney’s Office? Does Burleigh County have too many attorneys—too little work and no serious crimes to solve? Why prosecute these “gotcha administrative issues?” Do they really believe that Blunt’s “crimes” rise to the level of being worthy of prosecution?

On April 1, 1940, Attorney General Robert H. Jackson addressed United States Attorneys:

What every prosecutor is practically required to do is to select the cases for prosecution and to select those in which the offense is the most flagrant, the public harm the greatest, and the proof the most certain.

Do the charges against Blunt meet this standard?

Based on media accounts and the report of credible independent consultants, the nose of this former Secret Service agent smells a politically motivated witch hunt from the day an unsuspecting Blunt crossed the state line into sleepy North Dakota. The message is: don’t come to North Dakota and try to change the way we do things.

Justice in this case will be “not guilty” for Sandy Blunt followed by accountability for those responsible for the charges against him.

(Heuerman, Ph.D. is a former Secret Service agent, Star Tribune newspaper executive, and organizational consultant. His web site is http://www.amorenaturalway.com/. He lives in Moorhead and can be contacted at tomheu@cableone.net)


At 10:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well you have just proven to me that with your higher education you know as much as a penut. I am sure glad there are idiots like you out there for us to have a laugh at in life.

At 11:02 PM, Anonymous ZingersMom said...

Well, "anonymous" can't spell. Sort of limits my view of his or her intelligence.

I believe the Sandy Blunt situation is a travesty, for his family, for North Dakota, for public servants, and for the public. The man was trying to fix something that was, apparently, quite broken.

I know how hard that is. I have taken on similar challenges in the corporate world. Change is hard. People who study change know that it creates "heartbreak," and that "heartbroken" people can make a LOT of noise. I can't speak to whether Mr. Blunt approached it well, but I believe he approached it with the proper intent.

My prayers are with Sandy and his family. Perhaps you should read up on Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich if you really feel the need to persecute people who are paid with our tax dollars.

Thanks, Mr. Heuerman, for your thoughtful commentary.


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