Judge Orders Trial for N.D. Workers’ Comp Director, Agency Investigator

August 31, 2007

Prosecutors have enough evidence to put North Dakota’s workers’ compensation director and the agency’s top investigator on trial for conspiracy, a judge has ruled.

Sandy Blunt, the chief executive officer of Workforce Safety and Insurance, and Romi Leingang, the director of its special investigations unit, are charged with conspiring to commit disclosure of confidential information. It is a felony that carries a maximum punishment of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Blunt and Leingang are accused of obtaining at least two Department of Transportation driver’s license photos as part of an effort to track down a person who was e-mailing WSI employee pay information to agency workers. Normally, the photos are confidential records under state law.

“There is probable cause to believe that each of the defendants … did knowingly engage in a conspiracy to secure confidential information for public disclosure,” South Central District Judge Donald Jorgensen wrote in a four-page ruling Wednesday.

Jorgensen’s decision clears the way for a trial for Blunt and Leingang. They should be arraigned at “the first available opportunity,” the judge’s order says.

At an arraignment, a defendant enters a formal plea. Attorneys for both Blunt and Leingang have said their clients are not guilty.

Blunt’s lawyer, Michael Hoffman, of Bismarck, could not be reached late Wednesday at his office for comment. He did not respond to an electronic mail message requesting comment.

Leingang’s attorney, Tim Purdon, said he would review the decision, which was issued late Wednesday.

“We’re going to carefully review the ruling … and we’ll look at our options, and decide what the next step is from there,” Purdon said.

Richard Riha, the Burleigh County state’s attorney, and Cynthia Feland, an assistant prosecutor who is handling the case, could not be reached for comment.

Two separate felony charges against Blunt were dismissed by another judge, Robert Wefald, although prosecutors said they would appeal the decision. Those charges accused Blunt of misspending agency funds on employee gifts, refreshments and trinkets.

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