Notes on Mark Armstrong testimony
(Note: Because of time constraints, some testimony is more abbreviated than others, I will try to complete the record over the next week.)
Former Radio Talk Show Host : PMS in the morning
Communications guy at WSI, handled media
On Tuesday, was elected 2nd term Burleigh Co Commissioner
Duties include dealing with open records requests.
Primarily done through computer searches, with aid of various departments. Redacts info like soc sec #s that can't be disclosed.
Agrees his emails in state email system can be monitored
Says he desk could be looked at , but says a process exists, Internal Auditor , if has cause, can go to Board Audit committee or chair for permission. Says process not followed.
Is aware of ethical standards for lawyers, unaware of ethical standards for Internal auditors Internal Audit Charter
Knew something was afoot, that's why he wrote down recollections in journal.
Romi Leingang left building in tears, told Jodi her career was over.
Heard there'd be a news conference re Blunt 's charges.
Had been getting lots of media calls re Performance Audit, 6 months between performance audit and Blunt charges
At news conference, Blunt charged with one class B felony, 2 Class C , Romi 1 class C
Said only Board Chair Bob Indvig authorized to make comment.
Sandy threw charges on Jodi's desk, upset. Everyone was, they were not expecting charges.
Blunt thinks he can still run day to day if board backs him, but board says no. Nallie and Hutchings can't do it because of Ohio connections, that left Halvorson or Long. Jodi was busy with legal.
Met with Long and Indvig, said do the right thing and stick by Sandy. Says Blunt was charged with a birthday cake, gift cards, things that had been at the organization for years before Blunt arrived says there's been a change in law, Blunt could not face such charges today.
Says wasn't close friends with Blunt.
Says Long wants an interim CEO. Armstrong disgrees, if this is a politcal prosecution. "I might use the term political persecution." Says it was part of a political movement to put WSI under governor's control. Says workers comp is political org. Asked if Burleigh Co States Atty is political, its part of our process. Said wasn't sure if "Initiated Measure" was in place at the time.
"Wasn't Blunt charged with Bonuses given to you and Jodi? " No
Agreed that Long said keeping Blunt around puts org in bad situation, must put agency first. Agreed, it was a political reality.
After news conf, Board passed 3 motions: Put Blunt on pd admin leave, Name HAL as acting CEO, draft support statement for Blunt and Leingang that charges are political in nature. Didn't know if Board had investigated to see whether charges true. All thought charges bogus.
Leingang's charges dropped, Blunt convicted, but is appealing to ND and US Supreme Court.
Mad that Terry Krill blabbed to media. Board according to Carver priniciple to speak with one voice. Agreed that of board of 11, (check) 6 represented employer groups, 5 represented employee groups, so only the majority had their voice heard.
Board appoints CEO under Carver model of governance.
Media covers story as "Corruption in agency, board stands by their man."
Said they sent card to Romi and Blunt, execs had to pay, couldn't use office pens to sign, that's what Blunt was charged with. Didn't think it indicated who would or would not sign as show of support.
Indvig said Long told him he supported Blunt staying on; said either Indvig or Long was lying, thought he knew which one.
Charges also stemmed from J Runnings email re drivers licenses.
Agreed info about staff salaries was open record.
Question surfaced re nepotism. Hal's wife and brother in law worked there. Said they were grandfathered in, and this was emergency.
Said visited Blunt at home out of compassion. Only one not contacting Blunt was Long. Said Long already trying to undermine Hal.
Said Blunt not managing WSI from home, everybody thought he'd be back.
Re journal, said it was not an office doc. Somebody stole it.
List of pros and cons left in Blunts office says Longs writing. Not signed, not authored by,
Said he was not given bonus, not aware if Hal given bonus by blunt.
Republican Governor looking at whether he could suspend Blunt , AG said no. Scott Hennen – talk show host - told him Heitkamp tipped off Hoeven potential law to suspend Sandy.
Bob thinks Jim could be CEO over portions of agency. I say I don’t think necessary. Uses nepotism statute. Jim devastated.
Jim told John the board made mistake in not hiring him.
Repeatedly said this is just a journal , not everything is important.
Retroactive back pay to Armstrong, HAL, Jodi part of prosecution? Didn't know about the others.
Mark released journal to media 2 days after discovered – Steve Cates – Dakota Beacon – transcribed by Forum. Was it personal, public? AG said if he wrote it on state time with state pen, had to release it, coverup worse.
Were comments insubordinate? Not meant to be public.
Journal entry re: looking at taking action agasint states attorney for prosectuing Blunt, couldn't remember what action
He's been making long answers. Tuntland declares him an adverse witness who must answer yes or no when appropriate.
Journal entry: We got first positive letter to editor : we is WSI. said WSI did not prepare letters to be signed by others
Knows reporter Dave Thompson.
"Got the secret documents out. Lengenfelder did the deed but ran into Dave Thompson in the press room.
Agreed it looked like reasonable suspicion, but all they had to do was ask him.
Armstrong explains: Sandy Blunt had been charged with three felony counts. He had a narrative, a document he had prepared that he wanted to get out to the press, but I told him I couldn't do it for him. He asked me whether there was anyone else who could. I asked my friend Lengenfelder if he could deliver it to the media. So Lengenfelder was trying to secretly distribute Sandy's document. He and I and reporter Dave Thompson all are members of the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit. Lengenfelder happened to run into Dave at church and handed him the document. That's all there is; there were no secret documents.
Indvig wsants to be aggrssive against media and prosecutor Rhea
Flanagan got immunity for testifying against Blunt and Romi
Journal entry : meeting with Keiser head of bus labor and industry re ways to deal with crisis.
WSI paid for retreat at Medora resort, says it wasn't a party
Journal entry : Meeting with Steve Cates and hoping thta getting h9im to be not only the lead on not only the story but the info to charge other with the crime and also to beging to gather 50 signatures to force Rhia out as State's Attorney
to gather 50 signatures to oust Rhea. Says not to retaliate agasint Rhea, but to follow board directive
Journal entry: Wahlin decides to return computer and docs to Blunt.
Cates blanketing Reha with open records requests.
Says doesn't recall if he ever turned down an open request from Blunt
Journal entry: "Sandy and Steve have been working closely and there are several smoking guns that if played right should blow this caase out of the water. We meet for five hours at Steve's house to plot strategy and pour throguh documents. I think we have a chance. The plan is to publish or persish. Publish - confront a County Comish meetings then drop 50 signatures. This should put enough pressure on Riah or Feland to realize there is no crime."
Armstrong says this never happended, it was just an idea.
This in front of County commission - where Armstrong is a commissioner? Armstrong says it never happened.
Long was mad, thought as PhD he was better qualified than HAL.
says gave list of his qualifications to the board .
Board decided HAL acting CEO. Said Long manuevering to get share of power. Says weird manager meeting where Jim went on about his feelings re appt.
Billi Peltz said she had Long wrapped around little finger.
Long dressed as fairy at Halloween, took her kids office to office trick or treating – weird
Lots of time in her office, giggling, goofy stuff, getting nails done together.
Exec meeting: Nallie said they having affair. Long denied. Nallie said that's the perception of organization.
open records request said it can be lots of work, can charge for seaarch time and paper costs. takes redactions, says Long's request Voluminous . Says Long was treated like everybody else
Blunt didn’t need open record req coz he had access to computer. Board decided that. No info Blunt was taking info to press. Had concersn about Long putting info out to press.
Kept Journal in drawer. Thought Long trying to get someone in trouble by taking journal to Law Enforcement
Said news conference showed political prosecution: Joel Heitkamp there, sister Heidi, both Democrats.
Re: retroactive back pay to Armstrong: said Blunt would wait until pay changes occurred through agency, then would do back pay.
When HAL appointed, ceo tension started, Long started carrying around tape recorder.
Said HAL had sense of calm. Been in org long time.
After the Chamber of commerce meeting, said Long was giddy about writing letters and getting positive word out re WSI. Said this was not unusual request, did for groups did for democrats. said they just wanted FAQs. Long thought nothing improper.
When read Long's manifesto thought sinister, it was not what he remembered.
Said Long not treated differently after chamber mtg.
Learned of office search after execution of search warrant. said neither Long nor Kay told him they'd taken it
Says there were three stories about who'd taken it, 2 filed with law enforcement. A list of his kids soc sec #s was taken , Risk Management report missing.
Said taking his journal had a bad effect on morale.