Jim Long Takes the Stand, Part Six


November 2, 2010

The day after Long escorted law enforcement into Mark Armstrong's office, Long filed a formal request for whistleblower protection with State's Attorney Cynthia Feland.  Long said he knew Blunt would be reinstated the following Monday, and had to protect himself.  Long had his attorney, Tom Tuntland, send a packet to Burleigh County State's Attorney regarding wrongdoing at WSI in a letter to Attorney General Stenehjem.  He said there is more information, but he was so stressed, he would document that at a later time.  A list of issues meant to supplement the request for whistleblower protection with possible violations was sent to Feland.  Long said it was his intent, on his attorney's advice, to give a copy to Mike Quinn.  A copy was delivered to Quinn and a meeting was scheduled.  An article from Northdecoder is in the complete record.

Long and his attorney talked with Quinn.  In the meantime, Long said he was contacted by Tim Wahlin regarding an investigation into allegations regarding Dave Spencer and Mark Armstrong's journal. 

Wahlin scheduled a meeting with Long.  Long's attorney asked to be present at all meetings.  Wahlin insisted on a particular meeting date despite the fact that Long's attorney had to be in Fargo on that day.  Long did attend that meeting.  Long said he was concerned about the Wahlin interview because he felt Wahlin was hand selected by Halvorson to begin proceedings against him.  In the performance audit report, Long said state auditors raised concern about investigators being assigned to investigate direct supervisors.  He said it was important to ensure investigations were free of conflict of interest.  Long said he questioned who had assigned the investigator to investigate Blunt and Halvorson.  Halvorson?  That concerned him.

Long said regarding the letter to the Attorney General Stenehjem sent by Wahlin, it was Long's impression that Wahlin was investigating Long for whistleblowing, not his allegations. 

Long said he sat down with Wahlin and gave Wahlin ideas of how to confirm what data had been taken off Spencer's computer.  He said it is impossible to get rid of MATA data on a computer and suggested the computer be quaranteened and examined by someone outside of WSI, like a crime lab.  Long said Wahlin had no special knowledge how to retrieve computer data. 

Wahlin's report was eventually issued regarding Long's whistleblower complaint; it was sent to Halvorson and Blunt.  Tuntland asked "So Wahlin was sending the report to the suspects?"  "You put it that way, I guess so, yeah" Long replied. 

The findings of the report:  there was no tangible evidence that computer data containing sensitive information was forwarded by Blunt or Halvorson.  There was no report of any investigation as to whether computer data was removed.  Long said Wahlin merely called Spencer to ask if he had stolen the information.  Interviews with organization employees said that Spencer had access to sensitive, protected employer information. 

Tuntland asked Long questions to establish his expertise in the workings of computers and whether it is possible to determine if and when information is downloaded from the computer.  Long replied it was simple physics, that any magnetic head could be scraped and that optical discs which were used as well at WSI also could be accessed.  Long testified that WSI computer expert Schenfisch had the expertise but did not have the equipment to determine when data had been transferred.  Long further said there were ways for WSI to have checked the optical disc which is WSI's back up.  It easily could have been checked.  "It would not have been cheap, but neither is fraud."

Tuntland next brought up allegations of an improper relationship between Long and HR director Billie Peltz.  Long said the allegations were investigated.  "They had to look into it."  Long thinks Rob Forward conducted the investigation.  Long said both he and Billie were interviewed.  Long said he had a meeting with Halvorson.  Forward was there and they asked whether anything inappropriate had happened.  Long replied, no.  Halvorson said perception is important, especially with the lighthearted nature Billie has.  Long said both he and Billie were told to be careful about how others were perceiving their work place relationship and that Halvorson said he would monitor the situation and if there were any evidence of inappropriate relationship, he would have to step in and may have to remove HR from under Long's control. 

Between that time and the time he was suspended, Halvorson never spoke about an inappropriate relationship again and Long's supervision of Billie Peltz did not end.  Long said until he received a letter from Halvorson as to why he was suspended, he had no reason to believe this was an issue. 

Tuntland next brought up something called the ITTP project.  A man named Doug Hintz was lobbying to be part of ITTP executive team.  Justin Data did not want Hintz on the team as he said he thought adding another person would be outside of standard operating procedure and could cost millions.  He gave an analogy of a canoe going to Paris; if you add one more person, it would veer off course and could end up in Africa.  Long sent emails to higher ups urging Hintz not be placed on the executive team. 

Long said that Halvorson decided Hintz would be on the team.  He followed Halvorson's directions, but he did inform the board members about the issue.  This had a direct impact on the ITT project as team member Foggland left the team and the organization. 

Tuntland brought the examination back to Mark Armstrong's journal.  Long testified he had given the journal to Mike Quinn and that document became available online in various locations. 

Tuntland established that Long filed for whistleblower protection right before Blunt was reinstated as WSI's CEO.  He asked whether anyone else from WSI had filed for whistleblower protection at the same time.  Long replied that Billie Peltz, Kay Grinsteinner, and Todd Flanagan all filed for protection. 

Long said WSI General Counsel Bjornson had sent a letter to the AG regarding whistleblower protection.  Tuntland said this was not actually a request for whistleblower protection?  Long replied, he wasn't a lawyer, he couldn't say, it seemed she was looking for help too. 

Blunt was reinstated October 22, 2007 by board action.  Long said he worked that full day, went home at 8:00 p.m., and received an email from Tim Wahlin that he had been suspended.  He further said the suspension email had been sent to his rasmussen.edu address and he thought it horrible that one employer would send that to another employer where they could look at it and see that he was being suspended.

Long said he tried to find cause for the suspension in the email.  Effective immediately, WSI decided his "continued effectiveness has been compromised to the point that we must step back and regroup."

Tuntland asked whether on that last day of work had Blunt or Wahlin talked with him about being suspended.  Long replied they had not and said no reason existed to suspend him.

No comments: