Right Wing Hijacks Radio: GOP Wins!

Think radio doesn't matter?  Think again!

Compare these maps representing numbers and sizes of  "Conservative"
"Right Wing" radio stations and "Liberal" radio stations across the USA:


Then look at a map of the 2010 Midterm Election Results:

About 50 million Americans listen to Right Wing Talk Radio.

Now here's the SCARY part:
Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity have far more reach on Radio than Fox News.
You won't believe it until you
See These Charts!  

Radio is still the country's number one source of news and information,
but fewer than 10% of the country is able to hear any progressive talk radio.
Those who do tend to vote for more Democrats than those who do not.

How did this happen?
See the story from Broadcast Blues:

Hey, Talkers, Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Fairness Doctrine?

Originally published December 14, 2008 in the Sacramento Bee

     What scares Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and now George Will even more than a Democratic-run government?    The prospect of restoring fairness to the public airwaves.
  
     They have good reason to be afraid.

     It's been well documented that 90 percent of radio talkers are conservative, and 22 percent of Americans cite talk radio as their primary source of news. What's less known is that for more than two years, right-wing hosts have been lambasting the Fairness Doctrine on thousands of radio stations nationwide, convincing unwitting listeners that fairness is unfair, and that localism in broadcasting is bad for communities.

     Pre-Ronald Reagan, that FCC rule said broadcasters had to provide a reasonable opportunity for contrasting viewpoints on issues of public importance. Reagan's Federal Communications Commission threw out the Fairness Doctrine, paving the way for conservatives and Republicans to dominate political speech.   No question it's made an impact on elections: In 1994, when Republicans took the House of Representatives for the first time in 50 years, they made Rush Limbaugh an honorary member of Congress.

     Only 10 percent of radio talkers are liberal, and most liberal shows can only be found on small stations.  But independent research reveals that areas of the country that are exposed to progressive talk radio are now starting to vote blue.  "Air America Radio" and the "Ed Schultz Show" have been on the air for four years and are gradually increasing their number of stations.  Is it a coincidence that states which now hear a liberal viewpoint – states like Colorado, New Mexico, Iowa, Florida and Virginia – all went for Obama?  Or that the surprise swing states of North Dakota, Montana and even Arizona now hear liberal talk?

Citizens United - a Media Reform Issue

December 4, 2010

Because of the widely unpopular Citizens United decision by the Roberts' Supreme Court, which held that corporate funding of campaign ads cannot be limited under the First Amendment, this 2010 midterm election cycle is seeing five times more outside spending than occurred in the last midterm.  As noted in Bill Mann's Huffington Post piece, the real beneficiaries of all that spending are broadcasters  (broadcasters who have a legal obligation to serve the public interest.)

"The people who are making most -- over 90%, by most estimates -- of the money from all the obnoxious and ubiquitous ads this fall have names unfamiliar to most people: Belo, Young Broadcasting, Cox, Fisher Broadcasting, Media General. And big names, of course, like ABC, Tribune, Gannett, NBC Universal."

But there are a lot of other names which are unfamiliar to most people, names like "American Crossroads." "America's Families First Action Fund."  "American Action Network." "Commonsense Ten." (These, according to the Washington Post, are among the biggest special interest group midterm spenders.)

That leads me to question the value of the current idea in Washington that by merely "disclosing" who is funding campaign ads, voters will somehow be able to separate fact from fiction.  As Meredith McGeeHee notes on the Campaign Legal Center blog,
"Congress should take heed of the Supreme Court’s 8-to-1 ruling in Citizens United in favor of disclosure, stating that such disclosure is not only constitutional, but is the expected and indeed necessary counter-balance to the new corporate right to expend unlimited funds in US elections.

"Justice Kennedy’s 8-1 majority Opinion stated on this point: 'The First Amendment protects political speech; and disclosure permits citizens and shareholders to react to the speech of corporate entities in a proper way.

"This transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages.'”
The problem is that outside the Beltway, a majority of people who are watching local TV news peppered with campaign ads don’t even know who George Soros is.  Lindsay Lohan, yes, Dick Armey? Doubtful.  Really, just disclosing who paid for ads is no match for the magic of Madison Avenue Mad Men. 

Hard Stats on Talk Radio

 November 24, 2010

What would happen if one political party could control the message sent to 50 million Americans?  Answer:  We'd get more election results like the one we just had.

See the stats here:     Prepare to be frightened.
"Talk Radio Listeners Liberal v Conservative"

Mobilizing for Real Media Reform!

 November 23, 2010
     There's been a shift in energy since the election, can you feel it?  It's like a big bright light bulb turned on and folks are, maybe for the first time, clearly seeing the media for what it is:  a threat.
     A threat to our communities, a threat to our children, a threat to our democracy. 
     Yes, no question, people are waking up.  I'm getting calls from all over the country from folks who are ready to mobilize to make broadcasters serve the public interest again (like they're supposed to.)
       So let's go!   Watch the Broadcast Blues trailer .  Read some of the pieces I've linked below.


       Get ready to get mad.  Get ready to be inspired.  Get ready to take action.


"Why Did Donna Brazile Use the F-word in Oprah's Magazine? Hint: Rush Limbaugh"  (note: this story made quite a splash recently, it went all the way to Forbes website.  It links to many of the stories below.)
"FCC Doesn't Need No Stinkin' Rules (But Murder By Radio Must Stop")
"Communications Act Redux"
"Hate Radio and the War on Immigration"
 "Save Talk Radio! Really?"
"Radio Speech is not Free Speech!"
"Putting the Public Back Into Public Interest Broadcasting" 
"Boycotting Beck on Fox News"
"Lessons From the Right: Obama Tries to Regain the Message"
"Talk Radio Rules Blue Dog States"
"It's War.  Media War."
          "Citizens United is a  Media Reform Issue"


There's much more, just surf this site.


          We the People are Taking the Media Back!

Tuntland's Final Argument

November 17, 2010

Tuntland said the jury had been hearing Bakke talk about a whistleblower complaint and that there is no such thing as a whistleblower complaint.  He said there is activity you can engage in for which you cannot be punished, that's whistleblower activity.  He said in North Dakota an employee cannot be penalized for reporting a violation or a suspected violation of law.  He said Long reported Armstrong's journal to law enforcement, that was clearly a suspected violation of law.  He said Long also refused to participate in actions he believed to be in violation of state or federal law.  This was in regards to the Hatch Act and the alleged Chamber of Commerce letter writing campaign.  He said that the jury had been hearing that Bjornson said there was no violation, but that is not what Bjornson said at the time. 

Randy Bakke's Closing Statement

 November 17, 2010

Randy Bakke reminded the jury that it was Jim Long's burden of proof he was fired because he filed for whistleblower protection.  He reiterated Judge Goodman's instructions that Long had to prove three things:  1) that he be engaged in protected activity; 2) that WSI took adverse action against him; and 3) that a causal connection existed between his protected activity and his firing.  Bakke told the jury there was a lot of evidence that Jim Long filed for whistleblower protection because he was trying to save his job. 

Hard Stats About Talk Radio

 November 24, 2010

What would happen if one political party could control the message sent to 50 million Americans?  Answer:  We'd get more election results like the one we just had.

See the stats here:     Prepare to be frightened.
"Talk Radio Listeners Liberal v Conservative"

Mobilizing Now for Media Reform!

 November 23, 2010
 
     There's been a shift in energy since the election, can you feel it?  It's like a big bright light bulb turned on and folks are, maybe for the first time, clearly seeing the media for what it is:  a threat.
     A threat to our communities, a threat to our children, a threat to our democracy. 
     Yes, no question, people are waking up.  I'm getting calls from all over the country from folks who are ready to mobilize to make broadcasters serve the public interest again (like they're supposed to.)
       So let's go!   Watch the Broadcast Blues trailer .  Read some of the pieces I've linked below.

       Get ready to get mad.  Get ready to be inspired.  Get ready to take action.

"Why Did Donna Brazile Use the F-word in Oprah's Magazine? Hint: Rush Limbaugh"  (note: this story made quite a splash recently, it went all the way to Forbes website.  It links to many of the stories below.)
"FCC Doesn't Need No Stinkin' Rules (But Murder By Radio Must Stop")
"Communications Act Redux"
"Hate Radio and the War on Immigration"
 "Save Talk Radio! Really?"
"Radio Speech is not Free Speech!"
"Putting the Public Back Into Public Interest Broadcasting" 
"Boycotting Beck on Fox News"
"Lessons From the Right: Obama Tries to Regain the Message"
"Talk Radio Rules Blue Dog States"
"It's War.  Media War."

Here's an Action Item that we're working on for next year.   There's much more, just surf this site.

          We the People are Taking the Media Back!

Thomas Tuntland's Closing Statement

November 17, 2010

Thomas Tuntland's Closing Statement

Tuntland talked about the raft of documents in this case, and told the jury they need to print out and discuss the most important documents.

As to the jury instructions, he said the jury needed to find, by 51%, what was more likely:  had or had not Long been fired for engaging in retaliation for whistelblower activity.  He advised the jury that Long had not been fired as an isolated event.

He brought up the impeachment of Long's testimony that he'd told Bureau of Criminal Investigations' Mike Quinn that he had taken Mark Armstrong's journal from his office, despite telling the jury that Kay Grinsteinner had taken it.  Tuntland intimated that Long had been trying to protect Grinsteinner, and that her testimony, which was that she had taken the journal, had not been impeached.

He told the jury to pay close attention to Long's personnel file, to note there is not one bit of info in the file to support his firing. He noted that State Law requires that an employee has an opportunity to challenge any adverse information, which had not happened in this case.

He noted Long was an at will employee, and reminded the jury he could have been fired for wearing red socks.  But he could not be fired for reasons of race, religion, or filing a whistleblower action.

He said that Long had reported suspected law violations to law enforcement, and cited Long's turning over Mark Armstrong's journal to BCI's Quinn, believing in good faith that it contained evidence of criminal activity.  That subsequently turned into a search warrant for Armstrong's office.

He cited Long's refusal to participate in the Chamber of Commerce letter writing action, and said that although Long was not fired for that, nothing happens in a vacuum, that turning over the journal was the straw that broke the camel's back.

He referred to exhibit 17, a letter from Halvorson to WSI employees, saying that the Highway Patrol was conducting a criminal investigation.  Tuntland said the purpose of the letter was to induce employees not to participate in the investigation unless one of WSI's own attorneys were present.  He said Halvorson was trying to prevent employees from talking with police.

He also asked the jury to read the Armstrong journal and the State Auditor's report in detail, that they would show the culture of retaliation at WSI.

He pointed to Long's standing up to Blunt over the Chamber of Commerce letter writing incident as the turning point in Long's career at WSI, that marked the point at which Long was no longer in the club.  He said to consider that Long called WSI General Counsel Jodi Bjornson and got advice that the letter writing campaign was illegal.  Therefore, something made Long call Bjornson to inquire, while Blunt and Halvorson maintain no such conversation existed.
He asked what Long's motivation could have been in placing such a call;  he had a lot to lose. and little to gain.

Tuntland went through several details of the State Auditor's Reports, which showed a pattern of retaliation by WSI management against employees.  He noted that all the whistleblower actions filed, from Long, Flanagan, Peltz, Grinsteinner and Bjornson, noted fear of retaliation, and that Peltz had specifically noted that "executive management will go to any lengths to keep employees from speaking out."

He noted Sandy Blunt's anger over someone having published the public information of WSI salaries, and how he took immediate action to find out the sender.  He said the purpose was to retaliate.

He said that the jury had been told by Halvorson that he was looking at firing Long, but noted that Long never had an opportunity to challenge adverse information in his file.  Tuntland reminded the jury that the AG's Tim Wahlin said Long had received a copy of the reasons for his firing, but Tuntland noted that had not occurred until after Long filed for Whistleblower protection.

He asked the jury to look at the date Halvorson met with AG's Tag Anderson about Long's firing:  it was the same date as Long's meeting with BCI's Mike Quinn, which Long had publicly posted on his calendar.

He noted that Long had only talked with Quinn because Bjornson had suggested his name to Quinn.  he noted that Halvorson had advised employees they could refuse to talk with law enforcement, and that Long knew if he played along, if he'd refused to talk with Quinn, he'd be sitting pretty.  But he chose to talk, and was retaliated against for so doing.

He noted that Quinn's search warrant of Armstrong's office was the same day that Blunt's charges were dropped (although one was reinstated later.)  The Board had always maintained Blunt's innocence, and was going to reinstate him the following Monday.  He said Blunt was fully aware it was Long who let law enforcement into Armstrong's office.

Long and Peltz file for Whistelblower protection that weekend.

Monday, Blunt shows up with a hand written "side file," documenting earlier problems with Long and Peltz.  Blunt says he'd kept a similar file in his candy drawer, but it had disappeared.  That file went immediately to Tim Wahlin, who somehow knew there would be an open records request for the previously unknown document.

Tuntland said that Blunt had been working with media person Steve Cates to sully peoples' reputations by making public personnel information which could not be challenged by the employee. he said it was a great message to other WSI employees to shut up or else this is what happens.

He said Long knew that weekend he would be retaliated against, and that he had little choice.  He said Long laid a lot on the line: his name, reputation, saleability in his profession, job and income.

He asked the jury whether they thought Long really wanted to go through a three year lawsuit and a three week trial.

He noted that WSI's case was based on WSI's saying thet had intended to fire Long all along.  He asked then to judge WSI's credibility based on the State Auditors' report, which said, "there a number of areas where information provided by WSI is misleading and inaccurate, not only information provided to us during our audit, but information to legislators and other entities."

"That's WSI's credibility: Believe us, we were going to fire Jim Long," Tuntland said.

He noted that when Long was put on paid administrative leave, his notification letter was released to the press, and made Long look like a criminal: he was not allowed in the WSI building, he couldn't talk with WSI employees.  It didn't say why, Tuntland said, but the reason was that Long had ratted out Blunt, had ratted out Armstrong, and could not come back.  he said it was a broader message to WSI employees to watch out.

He noted that the only four people interviewed in WSI's investigation of allegations were the four who filed whistleblower complaints.

He said it took seventy five days for Long to get notice why he'd been dismissed, and that he kept asking a peer, not a superior, for reasons he's been put on leave, and asked how the stated plan for his reinstatement was going.  He said Long finally received an insulting letter from Halvorson saying he was working on a reinstatement plan.  Tuntland noted the only way Long could have gotten his job back was to apologize for tattling on Blunt and Armstrong.

He asked the jury to look at exhibit 17, which showed that the investigation of Long's allegations had not talked to a single witness, not one.

He said that two Board Members complained they did not have enough time to review Long's appeal packet, and he asked the jury to review the State Auditor's report as well, and note that one of it's issues was of board members being poorly informed.  He said there had been no change at WSI, including regarding retalation.

He noted that not a single investigation had found Long was at fault for anything, but that he was fired anyway.

He reminded the jury that just prior to Blunt's going on leave, he had written a glowing report of Long, saying his integrity was beyond question.  He noted Halvorson had also written a glowing report about Long not long before his being put on leave.

He said Long got fired because he'd testified against Sandy Blunt, and that Blunt got convicted.  He said Long's firing was a message to other WSI employees.

Regarding allegations of a relationship between Long and Peltz, Tuntland asked, "where's the beef?"  He pointed to innocuous emails ... closed but unlocked door meetings ... Billie giggled ... Jim wore a fairy outfit to Halloween and made Billie's kids feel good ... "Where's the beef?"

He reminded the jury the Long had obtained permission from legal to tape record Hutchings and others... and that after an investigation, it had been determined Long had done nothing wrong.

He said allegations that Long had gone out of bounds by going to the board over problems with the $14 million ITTP project was justified by the state's Justin Data raising red flags over recent management changes.

He said WSI tried to manufacture reasons for Long's dismissal.

Tuntland reiterated to the jury that the only damages being sought were for back pay of $135,235.00 .

He concluded that the atmosphere at WSI was retaliatory:  that even WSI's Board Chair had targeted the State's attorney when WSI went under its microscope.

He asked the jury to consider what kind of integrity WSI has.

Judge Goodman's Instructions to the Jury

November 17, 2010

Judge Ronald Goodman gave detailed instructions to the jury in how to decide the case of Jim Long v WSI. 

The overarching question:  Was James Long fired for engaging in whistleblower activity?

Judge Goodman said the burden of proof was on Long to show that 1) he had engaged in protected activity, 2) that WSI took adverse action against him, and 3) that there was a casual connection between Long's activity and WSI's adverse action.  Long must prove all three to prevail.

Protected activity was defined as reporting suspected violations of the rules, regulations, or the law to authorities.

He told the jury they could consider credibility of witnesses, and said that depositions carried the same weight as witness testimony in court. 

Goodman instructed the jury that Long had not asserted the First Amendment in this case; he said that government employees do retain the First Amendment right, but that a government employer does have broad authority to restrict speech.  he said the First Amendment does not allow someone to Constitutionalize an employer grievance.

The judge also said the jury may consider whether WSI acted in good faith on advice of counsel.

Mobilize Now for Media Reform!

 November 23, 2010
     There's been a shift in energy since the election, can you feel it?  It's like a big bright light bulb turned on and folks are, maybe for the first time, clearly seeing the media for what it is:  a threat.
     A threat to our communities, a threat to our children, a threat to our democracy. 
     Yes, no question, people are waking up.  I'm getting calls from all over the country from folks who are ready to mobilize to make broadcasters serve the public interest again (like they're supposed to.)
       So let's go!   Watch the Broadcast Blues trailer .  Read some of the pieces I've linked below.

       Get ready to get mad.  Get ready to be inspired.  Get ready to take action.

"Why Did Donna Brazile Use the F-word in Oprah's Magazine? Hint: Rush Limbaugh"  (note: this story made quite a splash recently, it went all the way to Forbes website.  It links to many of the stories below.)
"FCC Doesn't Need No Stinkin' Rules (But Murder By Radio Must Stop")
"Communications Act Redux"
"Hate Radio and the War on Immigration"
 "Save Talk Radio! Really?"
"Radio Speech is not Free Speech!"
"Putting the Public Back Into Public Interest Broadcasting" 
"Boycotting Beck on Fox News"
"Lessons From the Right: Obama Tries to Regain the Message"
"Talk Radio Rules Blue Dog States"
"It's War.  Media War."

Here's an Action Item that we're working on for next year.   There's much more, just surf this site.

          We the People are Taking the Media Back!

Bakke ReCross of Grinsteinner

November 16, 2010

Bakke asked why she was concerned of retaliation by Blunt when she didn't report to Blunt.  She said she did report to him administratively, but that he had enormous influence over the board.  Bakke established Blunt left WSI in December of 2007, but that she was fired in March of 2008. 

Bakke asked about whether she had documents that Blunt had given out the safety grant.  She replied that there was a commitment letter committing funds, that she did not have a copy but she assumed that WSI does. 

Bakke then introduced an audit work plan from 2007 and asked whether it specifically said she should get into issues of claims payments and denials.  She said it did not but those issues arose and this was a plan designed to be flexible. 

Bakke said that trying to extrapolate that 12 of 84 claims had not been paid to say that 14% of claims were not paid for the whole organization was not possible.  Grinsteinner replied that that should have been a statistical sample and that auditors sample that way all the time. 

Tuntland ReDirects Grinsteinner

November 16, 2010

Grinsteinner testified that when Sandy Blunt returned to WSI, she believed she would be fired because she had taken an issue regarding Blunt to the audit chair in early 2007 and thought she might face retaliation.  It was a question of a firefighter's grant that Sandy Blunt had approved $100,000 even though there was no program in place for that grant at that time. 

Tuntland turned to the issue of the ITTP project and introduced a document that showed the internal auditor would be involved because of the size of the program and the risk involved. 

Tuntland then asked about the contact information allegedly given to Dave Spencer.  She said people were complaining about Spencer approaching them for grant writing, that employers were contacting her with complaints.  She asked if management could write a letter to Spencer telling him his actions were inappropriate. 

Tuntland then turned to an email Grinsteinner had sent to the state auditors called the dirty little secret email where she alleged improprieties in claim handling.  There was a discussion as to the exact date of a Brady Martz study and when it had been released. 

Tuntland established that the Marsh report referred to a rejection rate of 12 of 84 claims studied, which meant a 14% rejection rate. 

Grinsteinner testified she had made a report to the board and stated that she was writing as a concerned citizen of North Dakota.  She said she had done so because that term was used by WSI under their Carver model of governance and she was trying to frame it in context of this being a governance issue. 

She also said that Connolly was not credentialed to review internal audit functions, that he was an attorney, but not a CPA and that she was surprised about his questions.  She said that he immediately told her that her letter to the board, which had outlined specific concerns about WSI, was insubordinate and that she had no right to have written that as a citizen of North Dakota.  Grinsteinner said she felt that he was not trying to fact find, but rather push an agenda. 

As to the issue of personnel records, she said she was concerned that many employees were telling her their personnel files were being released but they were not being informed of that. 

Tuntland asked about a meeting she'd had at Famous Dave's with Long after the Armstrong search when NorthDecoder.com's Chad Nodland came in.  She said she could recall the meeting but she'd never met Nodland, that she thought discussions centered around the journal as that was the topic of the day, but that she was in shock over the whole matter and could not recall specifics.

Bakke Cross Examines Grinsteinner

November 16, 2010

Bakke established that Grinsteinner was accountable to the CEO for administrative functions like paychecks and to the Board audit committee for audit reports.  She said the reason for board oversight is to ensure the CEO and management cannot have undue influence over the auditor function.  She said that she would take information that would relate to certain departments back to those departments, that, for example, if there were an issue she had discovered that was related to the HR department, she could take it there.  Bakke noted that the internal audit charter did not say she could go back to the department but rather to the CEO or audit committee board chair. 

Bakke asked if she went into Armstrong's office suspecting fraud.  She said not fraud like taking money out of a cash drawer, but rather misuse of resources, and that after her search she did have concerns about fraud.  She said that because she had been on a business trip the day after the searach, she did not have a chance to take her concerns to the board audit chair or the CEO.  Bakke pointed out that she was in the office for 3 days and had an opportunity to reveal that information, but she said she was still contemplating what steps she should take as she was questioning whether she was working for an organization where the internal audit function was broken and whether she should resign.  She said that by the time she returned from Las Vegas she no longer thought it necessary to report the journal to the internal audit chair as it had already been given to law enforcement.  She said she had given the journal to Long because it seemed to be an HR issue and that he supervised records retention.  She said it was her judgment as an auditor that it was appropriate to give the journal to Long. 

Bakke asked whether it was part of Armstrong's duties to route media information to the employees.  Grinsteinner said the issue was that Armstrong was providing information to Steve Cates and that the finance department was complaining to her that he wasn't billing Cates for those requests.  She said it was her responsibility to make sure Armstrong was following the State Auditor recommendations.  Bakke asked whether she knew that legal would be involved in open records requests, couldn't she have informed them.  She said she could have gone to the legal department, but she didn't trust them.  Bakke asked whether she was aware of violations of open records requests.  She said you don't know if there are violations until you look, and that she never got a chance to finish that audit.

As to whether she had ever received permission from the board audit chair to do the audit, she said no, that she was charged with following up on the State Auditor recommendations and that her boss Evan Mandigo was comfortable with her looking through whatever she needed to.  Bakke asked whether Mandigo told her it was ok to go through Armstrong's office in the dead of night with a flashlight.  She disagreed with that characterization.  She also said that an independent third party had investigated her search to see whether she had committed ethics violations, and had concluded Grinsteinner had done nothing wrong.

She said that she did want her search to be secret because she was concerned that records could disappear or be altered.  She said she could find something, or she could find nothing, but she had to look.  If she found nothing, it was better to keep it secret, as there could be no aspersions falsely cast.  She said she could have gone directly to Armstrong, but then she would have been at his mercy of him giving her only what he wanted her to see. 

Bakke asked whether Mandigo as audit chair wasn't just talking to Armstrong just in case the media got involved.  She said that Mandigo took the information to Board Chair Indvik and that it was Indvik that brought the information back to Armstrong.  Bakke asked whether it was improper for the board chair to go to the communications director regarding something that might hit the media.  She said that did not think that was what was happening. 

Bakke asked about the chain of command and how Grinsteinner had told Long and Peltz she'd be going into Armstrong's office.  She replied, "Say management is involved in fraud, do I take it through the chain of command? If you believe the board itself is not following it's charter, there's a different situation in play.  The independent audit department has to be independent.  If you have information on fraud, am I supposed to take that to the board chair when I know that the board chair is willing to call the CEO and say, 'oh we got a bad report regarding you, here it is.'"

Bakke turned to the Institute of Internal Auditors code of ethics.  Under the heading of objectivity, Bakke said she was not objective because she found it distasteful that a Republican right wing newspaper was disseminated to WSI employees.  She said that she was objective, but felt that was not proper conduct within a state agency. 

Bakke asked whether she thought going into Armstrong's desk and taking his personal items was correct.  She replied that what she took was a business record, and it was her job to do so.

Grinsteinner testified that BCI's Quinn called her with questions and she did not tell him about suspicions of illegality even though there was a comment that bothered her.  She was contemplating asking a private attorney if there were violations of law, but never got a chance because law enforcement had already been given the journal, and so she felt why bother at that point.

Bakke then turned to the code of ethics issue of confidentiality, which meant she was not to give information to people not authorized to see it.  Bakke established she did not get authorization from the internal audit chair to give the journal to Long, but she said it was not relevant because she believed it was an HR issue.  Bakke established that Grinsteinner had not read the journal when she handed it to Long and so she had no idea whether it did involve HR issues.  She replied that Bakke was splitting hairs and that she saw no reason not to give the journal to Long because she trusted him. 

Tuntland calls Kay Grinsteinner

November 16, 2010

Tuntland established that Grinsteinner is a certified public accountant currently working as a controller for a Wind Power company and she had 2 and 1/2 years experience working as an internal auditor before working at WSI.  Grinsteinner reported to the CEO for administrative activities but reported to the internal audit chair at WSI's board with her actual audit reports.  She said over time she reported to several different people. 

She said typically internal auditors looked for problems with compliance but they can be consultants within an organization.  She said that the position of internal auditor is very common within large organizations and that the role is to do independent risk analysis where an independent auditor will consult with the board or management but does not abdicate to them. 

She said specifically at WSI she was tasked to follow recommendations made in two previous audit reports.  When the first audit report exploded in the media, she wondered what she'd gotten into as she was a new employee and so she read through years of old reports.  She said there was no limit to the areas she could look at.  For example in human resources were proper protocols followed for hiring, were background checks being done.  With regard to specific performance, were taxpayer dollars at risk.  She said that the function of an internal auditor is to help management assess and mitigate their risks appropriately.

Attorney Tuntland handed her a copy of the internal audit charter revisions dated June 18, 2007.  He stated that the document had been started before she was hired and that the former internal auditor had been frustrated that it took so long.  The document noted "adherence to highest professional standards and code of ethics".  She said that the code of ethics comes from the Institute of Internal Auditors and that there is a body of work of professional standards for internal auditors. 

She said that the core expectation of her job was to get the audit recommendations addressed as the legislature was monitoring WSI.  That meant that she followed up with the State Auditor's office to make sure they were in compliance.  She said she typically would work with various people throughout WSI starting with executives at the highest level who then would send her to departments or certain staff for specific records.

Tuntland then asked about the search of Mark Armstrong's office.  Grinsteinner said to put it into context that the State Auditor's report had issues as to how open records requests were being handled and that that spilled over into HR because of how personnel files were being handled. 

Grinsteinner said information was being routed to all employees as media with links to the Dakota Beacon.  She knew Armstrong was a friend of the Beacon's editor, Steve Cates, and she was concerned about the nature of articles which had negative comments about current and former WSI employees and the state auditor.  She found this distasteful and questioned its appropriateness as she wondered why WSI was being pointed to a republican right wing newsletter. 

Her internal auditor subordinate said that she had taken something into Armstrong's office and saw things on his desk that she questioned.  It looked like information related to other research.  She was not sure why Armstrong had that information as she had privately taken it to the audit chair.  She then worried that the internal audit function was compromised and broken. 

She later learned from HR that open records requests consisted of a box underneath Armstrong's desk which was haphazard and not well managed and there were other open records requests he kept in a desk drawer.  She said she had to put these open records requests on the front burner as she was getting complaints from employees. 

She testified that she and Peltz and Long were in her office when she remarked she needed to go in and search Armstrong's office. 

She went back to Armstrong's office approximately 7:00 p.m. that evening, used her key card, and was aware of camera systems so that people would know she was in the office.  The door was not locked and she did not turn the lights on but used a flashlight.  She said the office looked like someone took a dumpster and turned it upside down on his desk. 

She said she was looking for things she had been told were pertaining to the audit she was working on.  She said specifically there were law books open to specific pages she had referenced in her notes to internal audit chair Evan Mandigo and that concerned her because this information was now being routed back through the communications director.  She said since she had concerns about Armstrong and management, to take those concerns to the audit committee chair only to have the information fed back to the same management was not appropriate. 

She said the specific code that she was concerned with had to do with false payroll reports being filed and that Armstrong would have no connection with payroll reports.  She said she looked for the box of open records requests because of employees' complaints of mishandling of their personnel files, that it was very difficult to tell if he had a system of tracking his open records as paper was spilling out of boxes and his desk.

When she found Armstrong's journal, she thought it looked like a log of events and perhaps this was his log of what records he had sent to whom.  On the surface it looked like a business record in a typical steno notebook. 

She said that Long came into WSI later and startled her.  She said that she handed the notebook to Long and she was still searching for more open records requests. 

She thought that Long started reading the journal when he was in the copy room and found the passage regarding secret documents.  She said that particular passage didn't concern her, what she read later concerned her more as she thought Armstrong was trying to get things out to the media on the sly.  In particular, the discussion on Steve Cates concerned her as she wondered whether Cates was getting billed for the information.  That came to the heart of the state auditor's recommendations about how records were getting charged differently according to the requestor. 

Grinsteinner testified that Long asked if he could take a copy of the journal and she had no problem with that. 

A few days later Long told her he wanted to turn the journal over to BCI's Mike Quinn.

She said that she did not enter Armstrong's office at Long's request, but she had received many complaints from Human Resources and other employees about these open records requests as well.  She said that she learned later that a search warrant had been executed to search Armstrong's office.  She knew that Long had been contemplating giving the journal to Quinn and advised him to consult with a private attorney first.  Grinsteinner left for a business trip in Las Vegas and did not return to WSI office until the following Wednesday.  She said she had a discussion with board member Mark Gjovig who was now her new boss.  Mandigo was her boss on Friday when she left work, but Gjovig was her new boss when she returned. 

She said she was interviewed by the legal department's Rob Forward about going into Armstrong's office.  She said that she materially told him what had occurred, but did not reveal that she had searched with a flashlight.  She said that she did not turn on the lights because she did not want people to know she was there.  She said it was not her intent to disclose to the public that she went into Armstrong's office and that she needed to assess whether the audit function was broken.  Either she had to figure out a way to present this to the board or she had to resign and leave the organization because it was too broken for her to work for.  She said she felt terrible when she realized that the journal went public.  She also said that she didn't worry about how the employees would react to her search because it is not unusual for internal auditors to look at things without the employees being aware of it. 

She said she was fired in March of 2008 and that 5 WSI employees were terminated on the same day.  She stated she had filed a request for whistleblower protection after she'd returned from Las Vegas.

Armstrong Redirect of Halvorson

November 16, 2010

Mitch Armstrong then began his redirect of Halvorson.

Armstrong:  Was it your belief that Long knew why he was being suspended?
Halvorson: Yes.
Armstrong: Peltz, tape recording, insubordination, bypass of chain of command, the ICF Report.
Halvorson:  Yes.

Armstrong then asked about the secret documents referenced in Mark Armstrong's journal, and asked whether there is a press room at WSI.  Halvorson said no, so that event could not have occurred at the WSI building. 

Tuntland Cross Examines John Halvorson

November 16, 2010

Long's attorney Tom Tuntland asked Halvorson about his appointment to the new WSI position of COO (Chief Operating Officer.)  He established that position had not been advertised outside of WSI.

Tuntland then turned to a section of the Connally Report which said that WSI's board should replace the Interim CEO in an effort to restore a sense of trust in management and staff.  Tuntland pointed out that Halvorson was the interim CEO the report referred to.  Halvorson said that WSI was moving forward on those reccommendations, that the report suggested a new internal audit manager, and other recommendations which they had followed.

Tuntland also pointed to sections of the Connally report which said "A History of management decisions led to low morale."  Also, "We've been told by stakeholders and two WSI Senior Executives they heard or believed there was a practice to restrict the way WSI handles claims with the intent to deny legitimate coverage."   Halvorson said he thought Long was one of the two executives cited in the report.

Tuntland established that Connally was an attorney;  Halvorson added that he'd been the CEO of NY State's Worker's Compensation Insurance Fund.

He turned to sections of the report saying the HR function at WSI was "missing in action" for the past five years, and that Billi Peltz had only been at WSI for just over two years. He established that Dave Spencer's reorganization of HR functions were to blame.  It further stated that the "former CEO's failure of judgment on senior management positions rendered HR ineffective," and pointed out the report was referring to Sandy Blunt.

Tuntland turned next to the State Auditor's report, which stated that WSI was circumventing the procurement office in making procurements, and that Long supervised the procurement department , which fell under Financial.  It cited a $26,000 procurement of books that had not gone through proper channels.

With regard to the alleged politicization of the report, Halvorson said that Democrat Joel Heitkamp, who has a Fargo based radio show, went after WSI day in and day out after the state auditor's report came out.  But Tuntland established that Mr. Peterson, who was in charge of the State Auditor's office was a Republican.

As to the Nallie and Hutchings complaints of Long's having tape recorded them, Halvorson said their investigation had found no evidence of intent of racial discrimination , but rather poor judgment on Long's part.

Halvorson said that Rob Forward had told Long to tape record Hutchings, but did not say to tape record the only two African Americans at WSI.

Next topic was the ITTP Project.  When asked about a September 24 email from Long expressing concern that a staff member was leaving the project, Halvorson said that's why he wanted Doug Hintz on the job.

Tuntland established that any project costing more than $250,000 would automatically become a State project.  Tuntland referred to the state's Justin Data email expressing concern about decision making as they were moving into the implementation phase of the project.  Halvorson said he had not been copied on that email, and thought Data was referring to the reporting structure.  Tuntland asked about Data's reference to having expressed his concerns at executive committee meetings, but Halvorson said he could not recall such discussions.

Tuntland:  Do you agree that Jim's concern was to bring the project in on time and under budget?
Halvorson:  That was all of our concern.

Tuntland asked about Halvorson's previous testimony that Kay Grinsteinner shoud have had no interest in ITTP.  He then produced a document, Grinsteinner's Internal Audit Work Schedule, which specifically said she was tasked with "ITTP Risk Assessment."

Tuntland turned to the ICF Report.  It noted that the morale problems at WSI increased after "a significant event regarding the CEO took place," which was a reference to Sandy Blunt's having been put on paid administrative leave.

Tuntland asked whether Blunt's "side file" on Long would be public record.  Halvorson thought yes, subject to redacting of sensitive information. 

He asked about Halvorson's testimony that Long had never reported anything illegal to him, and asked whether he recalled Long telling him of his concerns of violations of the Hatch Act after the Chamber of Commerce letter writing requests.  Halvorson sid he did not recall that discussion.

Tuntland established that Tim Wahlin, who was not Long's superior, sent out the letter to Long suspending him, and that Halvorson sent a letter to the entire staff notifying them of Long's suspension, and questioned the chain of command being used there. 

In the letter, it stated that WSI would go through a process of reintegration with Long.  Tuntland asked about that process, Halvorson said there was nothing formal.

Halvorson said he's been made aware that Long wrote Wahlin wanting his job back, and that he told Wahlin to reply, but said they didn’t want to bring Long back, and when asked if he told Long why, he said, "No.  He knew."

Tuntland established that WSI had conducted internal investigations of two of Long's six whistleblower allegations.  He said WSI had asked HRMS and the Village for outside help in the investigations, but they could not assist.  The other claims went uninvestigated.

Tuntland then questioned why, after Long had been put on leave, Billi Peltz in HR was put under a peer for supervision, instead of the executive team. 

Next to the 4% pay raise issue.  Tuntland asked whether Long had told Halvorson his formula for doing the pay raises would not pass muster.  Halvorson said he didn't recall that.  Tuntland asked whether the AG had laid down the law regarding implementing the pay raise;  Halvorson said no, that they'd been told to piece the puzzle together to make it happen.

Tuntland moved into the search of Armstrong's office, and established that Grinsteinner reported to the Board, not the CEO.  When asked if he were concerned that private audit information had been leaked to Armstrong, Halvorson said he'd heard that somewhere but couldn't say where.

Tuntland then turned to the journal itself.  It read, "Spent several hours on the phone with Sandy at his house with Tim, Sonja, and Halvorson."  Halvorson said he could have been there.  The journal went on talking about a flood of information WSI, and Tuntland established that Armstrong was talking about using his position as a Burleigh County Supervisor to derail the investigation.  He specifically asked Halvorson whether this passage in Armstrong's journal concerned him:  "Got the secret documents out.  Lengenfelder did the deed.  But ran into Dave Thompson in the press room."  Halvorson said it talked about persons who were not employees of WSI, so he had little to add.

Tuntland further established that the journal noted that Board chair Indvik and Communications Director Mark Armstrong wanted to take an aggressive stance against the media to support Blunt.

Tuntland then turned to Long's suspension and established that first time Long was given reasons for his suspension was 75 days after being suspended.

He asked Halvorson whether his Jan 30 2008 letter to Long was drafted to get a hostile response.  Halvorson said no, he'd been advised by the AG's Tag Anderson to write it.  He said he was looking for an apology from Long.

Tuntland:  Say, I am sorry, boss.
Halvorson:  Yes.
Tuntland:  I was wrong to tape record?
Halvorson: Poor judgment, yes.
Tuntland: Even though no wrong conduct was found.  I never hit on Billi, but I apologize?
Halvorson: There were lots of issues with Billi, morale…
Tuntland: I tried to keep WSI from spending millions of dollars, I apologize?
Halvorson: Yes, that's a reasonable response.  If he didn't like Hintz…
Tuntland:  There's nothing to show he didn’t like Hintz.
Halvorson: There was a lot of politics.
Tuntland: You wanted him to apologize because you indicate he had hostility to Hintz?
Halvorson:  Your words, not mine.
Tuntland:  Even though I think it's WSI's policy to deny claims, I apologize?
Halvorson: that didn’t come up until Jim was out of the building.
Tuntland: If a WSI employee finds evidence that an employer is getting an illegal preference, what course of action is he to take?
Halvorson: Bring it to the CEO, the board chair to the extent he's not involved, then to the Board audit committee.
Tuntland: You haven't mentioned law enforcement.
Halvorson:  No.

Tuntland established that Halvorson knew his letter detailing reasons Long was suspended would be made public in the media.

Tuntland asked whether there were any investigations of Long's allegations other than the narrow ones conducted by Forward and Wahlin.  Halvorson siad their attorneys were also in contact with BCI's Mike Quinn.  He asked specifically about Communications Director Mark Armstrong's official statement, which read, "Our focus is to move forward.  We are confident that the remaining outside investigations and reviews will sort out the fact from the fiction." 

Tuntland:  What outside investigations?
Halvorson: We were waiting for the Connally and Marsh Reports.


Armstrong calls John Halvorson


November 15, 2010

John Halvorson has worked for WSI since 1994, and haas held a variety of postions including Research Analyst, Chief of Employee Services, Interim Director (twice) and is currently the COO.

Defense attorney Mitch Armstrong asked about the 4% pay raise issue,  Halvorson said that WSI had its own pay system and that when the legislature passed a 4% pay raise for all ND employees, it was an oversight that WSI was not included.  He said that WSI had an opinion from the AG about the pay raises, and they worked with the AG to implement them.  He said that many WSI employees got double pay raises as a result.

When asked about the issue of Dave Spencer getting contact information from his computer which aided him in a new grant writing business, Halvorson said that he took over Spencer's position and forwarded his emails to him.  He testified that beyond the 11 or twelve names supplied to Spencer by Bunt and Long, there was no other issue.  he said it was illegal for employer informmation to be given, and that he did, on Blunt's request call Spencer to ask whether he had employer information. Spencer said he did not.

Halvorson acknowledged that after Blunt was charged with felonies, he was named interim CEO.  He said he was not paid extra for the position, as he advised the chair he did not want to bring more scrutiny to the agency.

As to the issue of nepotism, Halvorson said that legal vetted the issue and the Board determined it to be a non-issue.

He said as interim CEO, he had daily discussions with Board Chair Indvik to keep him in the loop as to day to day and stories which could hit the media.

As to the issue of Long and Peltz, he had notes dated May 4 2007 that there was a wdiespread perception of an innappropriate relationship between them.  He took advice of General Counsel Jodi Bjornson and advised Indvikof his plan of action.  He met with Long, with Forward as a witness, advised Long of the perception, and told him if it continued, he would have to move HR out of Long's supervision.  He saw some immediate corrective action, but said there was slippage over a few months.  This he said casued concerns, especially given the State Audit's report of perceptions of favoritism. 

He said he made notes of this and put them into a Critical Incident File, which did not go into Long's personnel file.  He said when he conducted Long's mid year review, he cited there was more time spent with some "direct reports" than others, and this referred to Peltz.

In June 2007 an ICF report was issued on the agency.  It said there were perceptions of favoritism in Support Services, the area Long oversaw.  It said 3/5 of support services employees do not think management understands employee issues and do not think unprofessional behavior was disciplined.

Halvorson talked at length about Long's tape recording of Nallie and Hutchings, both of whom lodged complaints of being the only two people who were recorded and the only two African Americans at WSI.  He said he talked with Denise ?Hallson? at the Village about her take on it. He said she said she was appalled.  Halvorson says he talked to Long, who sid he was intimidated and had recorded on the advice of Rob Forward, but Halvorson still told him it was poor judgement and said there would be no more tape recording allowed at WSI.  He said Nallie withdrew her complaint, but Hutchings did not.  He said he told Long he was trying to break down barriers at WSI, not build them.

Regarding the tape recording Long made of his conversation with Peltz, Halvorson said Long's remarks made him angry and that he felt Long's name calling was insubordinate conduct.

Halvorson talked about the ITTP project, saying he thought Doug Hintz would be a good member of the team.  He said he did not feel Long kept him in the loop on the project, and said he was the executive sponsor of the project, so the buck stopped with him.   He wrote Long a letter responding to his request for more autonomy, saying that Long's "judgment and decisions have been in question in recent months," and he was not inclined to give Long more authority.

He then said that Long sent an email to the board, attaching the Justin Data email which had expressed concerns about management of the ITTP project.  He was not copied on that email, and Long had not sent the Data email to him personally.

Halvorson then talked about Long's personnel file, saying that his annual and mid year reviews were included, but that the "critical Incident" file Halvorson had created was not.

With regard to the Chamber of Commerce meeting, Halvorson said it was to get positive things out to the press about WSI.  He denied that George Keiser had said "WSI is the Crown Jewel of the Republican Party."

He said he had the ICF report, the issue with Peltz, the ITTP project problem, and the tape recording issue, a series of events which led him to write a critical incident report, which he shared with general Counsel Jodi Bjornson.  He decided to contact an outside Human Resources specialist Hunter Lott about terminating Long.  Armstrong established the Halvorson emailed Lott October 3, 2007, and had a phone consultation with him October 4.

Armstrong established that Halvorson had a meeting with AG's employment expert Tag Anderson on October 11, 2007 to discuss terminating Long.  Anderson advised him to put down on paper an outline of Halvorson's reasons for firing Long.  He did so, and delivered the document to Anderson on October 17.  (Long filed his whistleblower protection request October 20.)

The Critical Incident document included reports of innappropriate touching, the inability to accept direction, that Long was undermining Halvorson's authority, and other items. Halvorson concluded that "for the good of the organization, the working relationship has to end."

Halvorson said after charges against Blunt had been dropped, Long filed his whistleblower protection request, and Blunt returned to WSI, he was forced to take a step back and put Long on paid administrative leave.

When asked whether the agency had investigated Long's allegations, Halvorson said that to the extent they knew law enforcement was investigating, they stayed away.

Armstrong went through Long's specific allegations.  The first was on the Spencer sick leave issue; it was established that issue had been dealt with prior to Long's complaint.  The second was about the 4% pay increases; that issue also had been resolved.  The third was the nepotism issue, which Halvorson said had been resolved. 

The fourth and fifth were a conspiracy to oust prosecutor Richard Riha, and circumvention of open records laws.  These two dealt with the Armstrong journal, and Halvorson testified that neither Long nor Grinsteinner asked his permission to conduct a search.

Halvorson talked about the Connaly and Marsh reports, saying WSI's board selected those groups in conjunction with Governor Hoeven's office.  He said they were announced before Long was put on paid leave.

He said three weeks after being put on leave, Long began contacting the media, and that WSI received Long's 30 page manifesto through Dave Wetzel of Associated Press, which he had been provided by Long's attorney Tuntland.  He said it ignited a media firestorm.

Halvorson referred to a letter sent to Long , as advised by counsel, to try to provide a way for Long to return to WSI, but at that point, he said it would have taken a lot of convincing to bring him back.  he said Long wrote back an 18 page defiant response where he mentioned injured workers claims; Halvorson said Long never worked with claims.  The document also said that, as far as Long knew, he had a good relationship with management until he went to law enforcement.  This letter was copied to legislators, including Senators Dorgan and Conrad, and the media.

Halvorson said he wrote another letter to Long, detailing several problems he'd had with Long. 

He said that he then met with his executive team to determine whether Long could return.  He said the team unanimously said no.

Armstrong then presented the Connally report, which said to restore leadership and trust to the HR function.  Long supervised HR.  It also called out CEO Blunt for failure of judgment in senior management selections.  The report was dated March 5, 2008.  

Long was terminated March 12, 2008.  Halvorson said Long's position was eliminated after that.

Talk Radio Listeners Liberal v Conservative

What would happen if one political party could control the message sent to 50 million Americans?  Answer:  We'd get more election results like the one we just had.

See the stats here:     Prepare to be frightened.
"Talk Radio Listeners Liberal v Conservative"

Mobilizing for Media Reform!

     There's been a shift in energy since the election, can you feel it?  It's like a big bright light bulb turned on and folks are, maybe for the first time, clearly seeing the media for what it is:  a threat.
     A threat to our communities, a threat to our children, a threat to our democracy. 
     Yes, no question, people are waking up.  I'm getting calls from all over the country from folks who are ready to mobilize to make broadcasters serve the public interest again (like they're supposed to.)
       So let's go!   Watch the Broadcast Blues trailer .  Read some of the pieces I've linked below.

       Get ready to get mad.  Get ready to be inspired.  Get ready to take action.

"Why Did Donna Brazile Use the F-word in Oprah's Magazine? Hint: Rush Limbaugh"  (note: this story made quite a splash recently, it went all the way to Forbes website.  It links to many of the stories below.)
"FCC Doesn't Need No Stinkin' Rules (But Murder By Radio Must Stop")
"Communications Act Redux"
"Hate Radio and the War on Immigration"
 "Save Talk Radio! Really?"
"Radio Speech is not Free Speech!"
"Putting the Public Back Into Public Interest Broadcasting" 
"Boycotting Beck on Fox News"
"Lessons From the Right: Obama Tries to Regain the Message"
"Talk Radio Rules Blue Dog States"
"It's War.  Media War."

Here's an Action Item that we're working on for next year.   There's much more, just surf this site.

          We the People are Taking the Media Back!