November 4, 2010
Bakke questioned Long about an employee named Ms. Bachler and asked whether it would surprise him that she had threatened to quit because of him. Long replied that no, because she threatened to quit all of her supervisors.
Bakke then turned the conversation to the issue of whether Long had wanted to be CEO.
Bakke: You said, not really.
Bakke: That's not accurate, is it?
Long: It's accurate.
Bakke then produced a handwritten document from April 2007.
Bakke: You prepared this document about the time that Halvorson was chosen as CEO?
Long: I can't say with certainty, but yeah.
Bakke: You're writing thoughts why you weren't chosen?
Long: It's plausible.
Bakke: Then you are listing reasons why you should be CEO rather than Halvorson.
Long: I can't confirm or deny, it's plausible.
The list began saying "Why me" followed by bullet points: strong leader; WSI required leadership from inside out, not outside in; public speaking ability; can retain current board structure. It next said "Why Not". The first bullet point was nepotism. Others included: political ties, and only managed one person. Bakke asked whether Long was referring to Halvorson. Long said that may match Halvorson.
Bakke: For you to have stated you didn't want the CEO position was incorrect, wasn't it?
Bakke: You met with board chair, Bob Indvik, and told him he was mistaken in appointing Halvorson to the CEO.
Bakke: You told Indvik while Halvorson was CEO.
Long. May have.
Bakke: You were lobbying to become CEO, weren't you?
Long: That's how you're trying to paint it. I did what I could to prevent Halvorson from becoming CEO.
Bakke: You were trying to sabotage Halvorson?
Long: Not at all.
Bakke then asked questions about Long talking with outside media.
Bakke: Are you familiar with the website northdecoder?
Bakke: It's operated by Chad Nodland, an attorney, right?
Bakke: I understand he is an attorney who advocates for injured workers, correct?
Long: I think he is. He's a friend of mine.
Bakke: You were talking with Nodland so he would publicize things damaging to Halvorson, right?
Long: No. He's a friend.
Bakke then brought up board members names: Ripplinger, Ballweber, and Mandigo.
Bakke: You bypassed the chain of command and went to them, didn't you?
Long: You don't understand chain of command. If your boss is doing something wrong, you don't stop there.
Bakke: Just two days after Halvorson was appointed you went to the board.
Long: It had to be done.
Bakke: You went to Ballweber to talk about concerns with Halvorson, ITTP, and nepotism.
Long: All of these could have been on the table.
Bakke: You weren't reporting illegalities to Ballweber regarding Halvorson, were you?
Long: There was alot of concern about Halvorson's proclivity to engage in political concerns. There were violations of the Hatch Act and I knew the conduct didn't stop because Forward told me.
Bakke: You testified you reported to Ballweber that Halvorson was meeting with politicians, correct?
Long: Special interest groups would be more apt.
Bakke: Is that illegal?
Long: I don't know if I'd use the word illegal or unethical.
Bakke: You do remember telling Ballweber that Halvorson should not be appointed CEO, correct?
Bakke established that Long met with Ballweber and board member Mandigo at an office at Northern Improvement and complained to both of them that Halvorson should not be CEO, among other things and that Long never told Halvorson about the meeting. Long said there were grave issues that the board had to look at.
Bakke then turned the questioning to a conversation Long had with board member Ripplinger.
Bakke: This was a phone call you recorded, correct?
Long: Possibly, yes.
Bakke: You said you were a pretty transparent guy, right?
Bakke: That means you're up and up, you don't hide things, right?
Bakke: You didn't tell Ripplinger you were recording her conversation, did you?
Bakke: To put this in context, wasn't her husband in the hospital at the time?
Long: I don't know.
Bakke: And Billie Peltz was in the room while you recorded?
Long: I wanted someone there from WSI.
Bakke: You didn't tell Ripplinger Peltz was in the room at the time.
Long: I don't recall.
Bakke then played a tape recording of a conversation between Long and Ripplinger. It began with Ripplinger telling Long that she was at the hospital because her husband had just had surgery. Long told her that he'd received a memo from the Internal Auditor that they'd found something fishy in Hutchings' cell phone bills, that he'd been calling a claims panel extension alot. It was a claims adjuster. He said what started as a financial issue went to an issue of Title VII sexual harassment and that Hutchings had had an earlier claim of sexual harassment with another claims adjuster. In that case, they had found sexual harassment and had recommended termination, but that Blunt had put Hutchings on notice not to do that anymore. Long told Ripplinger his concern was liability.
Long told Ripplinger he'd been asked to perform the pre-investigation notifications. Forward and Bjornson told him he should have a witness. Long then asked Forward and Bjornson whether he could record the conversations. They said yes, that would be less intimidating for Hutchings as well and also for Nallie. He said that Hutchings and Nallie were colluding on information, steering the story away from romance and saying that Hutchings was offering the woman therapy. Long said that he fully revealed the recording.
He told Ripplinger Halvorson had reprimanded him and was going to start an investigation on him because he recorded. Long told Halvorson it was a common practice. He said he was being retaliated against and his career was in jeopardy because they didn't want this information to come out. Long said he told Halvorson he knew he was retaliating, that he had talked with the legal department and had gotten permission to do the recording and had done it for his own protection. Halvorson was hostile.
Long told Ripplinger he went down and filled out a form and filed under the Whistleblower Act and that he thought Halvorson's goal was to get rid of him because he was worried Long may uncover something embarrassing to executive staff.
Ripplinger then asked Long whether he was going too far in the investigation. Long replied, no.
Ripplinger (on recording): All you did was the notifications?
Ripplinger: Why did Halvorson not want you to do that?
Long: It wasn't that he didn't want me to do it, but he got a complaint from Nallie about the recording. He's doing alot of slimy stuff. He shouldn't be CEO, he's causing problems. He's actively looking at Jodi, Billie, especially Kay.
Ripplinger: I would like you to run this by Bob. It seems like you are having a one on one with Halvorson. He's calling the shots. We put him in charge. I don't know Halvorson's take on this, but your next channel is to go to Bob.
Long: I've had others place ethical issues regarding Halvorson on my shoulders, so it is beyond one on one. This is much bigger. Can I trust Bob with this?
Long expressed concerns that Bob Indvik was an advocate for Halvorson, no matter what, and that a sexual harassment case could jeopardize the organization. He said he didn't want to be personally liable for this issue, that he didn't want to have to write checks. Ripplinger told him there was a chain of command and you could always go to human resources but sometimes there were other options and he should go to Bob Indvik.
Bakke then began questioning again.
Bakke: This conversation was August 30, 2007?
Bakke: Yesterday you told me you never filed a Whistleblower Act report on 8/30/07. In this recording you said you'd complained under the Whistleblower Act, correct?
Bakke: So what you said yesterday was false testimony?
Long: I don't know that was a formal Whistleblower Act complaint until I filed with Attorney General Stenehjem.
Bakke: Was there illegality, did you use the term violation of law?
Long: I did talk about legal concerns; specifically, Title VII sexual harassment.
Bakke: Do you agree on this recording you didn't mention of concerns of retaliation from Hutchings?
Long: I did have concerns.
Bakke: Didn't you say earlier that Forward was going to accompany you to the interview but chickened out?
Long: He did chicken out. I don't blame him. It was a scary thing.
Bakke: But in the recording, you said tape recording was your idea.
Long: No, it was because of Forward chickening out.
Bakke: Ripplinger says you did not follow your chain of command.
Long: That's not accurate.
Bakke: Didn't you hear her say you're not following the chain of command and you're going to upset the apple cart?
Long: That's not how I heard it.
Bakke: You admit as an at will employee, WSI could suspend you without any reason. If they're suspending you unrelated to a Whistleblower Act claim, they don't have to give you a reason, right?