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State comp executive faces felony charges

State comp executive faces felony charges

BISMARCK, N.D.—Prosecutors said they filed felony charges last week against the chief executive officer of North Dakota's Workforce Safety and Insurance, the state's monopoly provider of workers compensation coverage.

The Burleigh County State's Attorney office in Bismarck on Wednesday also filed charges against Romi Leingang, manager of WSI's special investigation unit.

Sandy Blunt, WSI's CEO, is charged with two counts of misapplication of entrusted property and conspiracy to commit disclosure of confidential information, said Assistant State's Attorney Cynthia M. Feland.

The charges stem from allegations that Mr. Blunt used WSI money to make purchases not allowed by statute and paid bonuses to employees in amounts exceeding a statutory maximum, Ms. Feland said.

The conspiracy charge stems from an allegation that Mr. Blunt helped disclose information only available to government agencies and normally not for public distribution. Ms. Feland declined to provide further details because of the ongoing prosecution.

But she said that the charges followed an investigation by North Dakota's Highway Patrol and the state's Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

WSI's board of directors issued a statement saying its members believe Ms. Leingang and Mr. Blunt are innocent and will be exonerated.

"These charges are politically motivated against good and honest people trying to do their best for the organization," WSI board chair Robert Indvik said.

But Mr. Blunt and Ms. Leingang have been placed on paid administrative leave from their WSI roles while their cases work their way through the legal system.

Ms. Leingang is charged with conspiracy to disclose confidential information. Her attorney, however, says Ms. Leingang is innocent and that she had hoped that negotiation and cooperation with the prosecutor would have spared her from becoming a defendant in the case.

"When the facts come out they are going to show that Romi Leingang was basically just an employee who did what she was told by her superiors," said Timothy Q. Purdon, an attorney in Vogel Law Firm in Bismarck.

An attorney for Mr. Blunt did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Mr. Blunt and Ms. Leingang are scheduled to appear in state court May 2, Ms. Feland said.

A spokesman for North Dakota's Gov. John Hoeven said the situation underscored a call by the governor to return control of WSI to his office. WSI had operated under the direction of the governor until 1997, when legislators created an independent board of directors which appoints WSI's director, the spokesman said.