State making more of a case against BluntBISMARCK — Burleigh County prosecutors upped the ante this morning at the start of the criminal trial for the former Workforce Safety and Insurance executive director.
By: Janell Cole, N.D. Capitol Bureau
BISMARCK — Burleigh County prosecutors upped the ante this morning at the start of the criminal trial for the former Workforce Safety and Insurance executive director.
Assistant State’s Attorney Lloyd Suhr characterized Charles “Sandy” Blunt of Bismarck as one who made his own rules regardless of state law and proper policies, treating the state agency as if it were a private organization.
“There’s the proper way and Mr. Blunt’s way,” he said during opening arguments in the Burleigh County Courthouse.
WSI is the state agency that provides coverage for workers’ compensation claims.
Blunt is charged with two felony counts of misapplication of entrusted property, one charge, a class B felony, carries a possible maximum 10 years in prison and the other a class C felony that has a possible five-year sentence.
The more severe charge had earlier alleged that Blunt had illegally authorized spending of more than $11,000 on employee parties, trinkets, staff meeting refreshments, and employee gift certificates.
But in recent weeks, prosecutors added another $30,000 to the total with more allegations. The charge now also alleges Blunt approved improper expenditures for sick leave for an executive who was not sick ($7,000) and that Blunt failed to collect reimbursement for moving expenses ($8,000) for the same executive, Dave Spencer.
The charge also now alleges Blunt authorized for the North Dakota Firefighters Association some $15,000 in grant funds that were never properly applied for.
Blunt’s attorney, Michael Hoffman, told jurors he’ll present evidence that the WSI Board of Directors authorized their CEO to do all the things that he is now charged for “to better the organization.”
Said Hoffman, “There’s a difference between expenses and criminal wrongdoing.”
The first witness was a state auditor, Jason Wahl, who was still under direct questioning when the trial was recessed for lunch.
The trial is expected to last all week.
Cole works for Forum Communications Co., which owns The Jamestown Sun