Judge Delays Trial Order for N. D. Workers’ Comp Director

August 9, 2007

A judge has delayed his ruling on whether the director of North Dakota’s workers’ compensation agency should face trial on charges that he misspent more than $18,000 in public money.

Sandy Blunt, director of the Workforce Safety and Insurance agency, faces two felony charges of misapplication of entrusted property. If convicted on both, Blunt could face up to 15 years in prison.

Blunt is accused of spending more than $11,000 for restaurant vouchers, trinkets and other gifts for employees, including at least one massage.

Some of the money was spent on refreshments and gifts that were presented at employee meetings, said Mike Quinn, a Bureau of Criminal Investigation agent who testified at Tuesday’s preliminary hearing.

Blunt also is accused of giving more than $7,000 in illegal bonuses to three top employees at the agency. Each bonus exceeded state law’s maximum for such payments, which is $1,000 over two years, said Cynthia Feland, an assistant Burleigh County state’s attorney.

After presiding over a hearing that lasted more than two hours, South Central District Judge Robert Wefald delayed a decision on whether to order that Blunt stand trial on the allegations.

Wefald requested written arguments from Feland and Blunt’s attorney, Michael Hoffman, of Bismarck, before he makes a decision on whether Blunt should stand trial. Wefald said he expected to make his ruling by month’s end.

Blunt declined comment afterward.

In a separate case, Blunt and Romi Leingang, director of the Workforce Safety and Insurance agency’s fraud division, both face preliminary hearings Aug. 24 on a charge of conspiracy to disclose confidential information.

The charge, which is a felony that carries a maximum five-year prison term, involves what state auditors say were the agency’s improper use of driver’s license photos. The photos are confidential records under state law.

Attorneys for Blunt and Leingang have said their clients are not guilty of the charges. Both have been put on paid leave until the charges are resolved.

Workforce Safety and Insurance provides medical, wage and rehabilitation benefits for employees who are injured on the job. North Dakota employers are required to buy coverage.

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