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'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!

Are We Talking About the Same Trial?

November 20, 2010

Yesterday, the Bismarck Tribune finally ran a story about the verdict in the Long v North Dakota WSI trial.   The Jenny Michael article says, in part:
Long filed a lawsuit in September 2008 against the state of North Dakota, WSI and several officials involved in the agency, alleging he was terminated in violation of the state’s whistleblower protection law. The list of defendants eventually was whittled down to just the state and WSI.
Um... here is the list of the plaintiff, defendants, and their attorneys, as taken from court documents, and as posted on the courthouse bulletin board every day of the trial:
Chad Nodland over at tells me that this list of people were dismissed out of the case, but for some reason, the clerk has not removed their names.  (UPDATE: The Clerk of the Court just called and said ,"those individuals were dismissed out in January 2009 because they were acting in the scope of their employment."  So the Tribune was correct, and I regret the confusion.

Michael then writes: 
“The Risk Management Division and WSI are certainly satisfied with the jury verdict,” said Tag Anderson, director of the Risk Management Division, which deals with financial claims against the state.
It still is interesting to note that Tag Anderson was originally one of the defendants in the case.  And to note that WSI still has not responded to my request for a statement about the verdict.

Interesting, too, that reporter Michael dates Long's request for whistleblower protection as Friday, October 19, 2007.  That is actually the date that the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) executed a search warrant for WSI Communications Director Mark Armstrong's office, the same day Jim Long escorted BCI's Mike Quinn to conduct the search. (Long had, while answering questions to BCI on another matter, provided Quinn with Armstrong's diary, which referenced getting "the secret documents out." That is what triggered the search.)  Long filed his request for whistleblower protection the next day.  WSI's Sandy Blunt returned as CEO the following Monday, as his felony charges had been (temporarily) dropped; Blunt immediately created (he said recreated) a handwritten document of all the reasons he wanted Jim Long terminated.

Michael also writes,
Long, Kay Grinsteinner, the agency’s former internal auditor, Todd Flanagan, a former fraud investigator, Billi Peltz, former human resources director, and Jodi Bjornson, legal counsel for the agency, filed for whistleblower protection during the investigations at the agency.
Close, but not quite correct.  Bjornson filed a document that said she might want to file for whistleblower protection, but she didn't quite cross that line.    But when Michael writes this, she got it right:
Long, Grinsteinner, Flanagan and Peltz were fired from the agency, and Long, Grinsteinner and Flanagan sued for damages.
Grinsteinner and Flanagan settled their lawsuits for $10,000 each. Peltz did not file a lawsuit, and Bjornson still works at WSI.
I think the Tribune could provide a bit more clarity, don't you?  On Monday, please call the Bismarck Tribune and let them know you're paying attention. 

          Bismarck Tribune:  (701) 250-8247

If you value factual reporting, don't just sit there, get busy and complain!  (That's the only way we the people can demand the truth.) But wait until Monday for the regular staff and editors to be available.

More testimony still to input for your reading pleasure, check back next week.

PS  It is snowing today in Northern California, just in case you thought I went to the beach or something!

Let's Restore Real Reporting Back to News .......... (The Non-reporting of Long v WSI is Just the Tip of the Iceberg)

November 18, 2010

I spent the past two and one half weeks covering the whistleblower trial of James Long v State of North Dakota.  The reason I came to Bismarck (where I graduated from high school) to do this was because I became aware of intense local interest in this story.  Indeed, my website has gotten thousands of people reading it since I began this coverage. 
Yesterday, the jury rendered its verdict, and decided Mr. Long had not engaged in whistleblowing activities. (Please scroll below for full coverage.)  

As of this morning, I cannot find a single North Dakota "news" organization which is even mentioning the trial.  That, to me, is the single most disturbing aspect of this entire ordeal.  

For the record, I am a news person.  For more than twenty years, I have worked for CBS, PBS, and FOX television networks, and I've worked for NPR.  I write oped pieces on occasion for McClatchy News, and I frequently post opeds on the national blog, Huffington Post.   I have awards for news reporting from Associated Press, the Radio and Television News Directors Association, the Public Radio News Directors, and I have two Emmys to my credit.  Remember a few weeks back when there was a PR blitz about not flushing your prescription drugs down the john?  That advice came as a result of an EPA study that was conducted over a ten year period starting in 1999.  That study was conducted as a result of a national news story I did in 1998.   

I didn't have a horse in the Long v WSI race.  I don't know Mr. Long, and I don't know the defendants at WSI.  I tried to provide the most complete and unbiased coverage about this trial to the state of North Dakota that I could.  That's what reporters are supposed to do:  report the facts and let the chips fall where they may.

But the fact that local media ignored this story completely is telling.  It tells me they either have so few resources that they can no longer assign reporters to report on real local news, or it tells me they had their own bias, and chose to hush this story up. 

Either way, it's a sad day for We the People who depend on the press to shine a light on government affairs.

So, today, people of North Dakota, I am asking for your help in restoring real accountability to the news and to the government.  I am asking for your help in restoring facts to reporting, and to defining a clear line between news and opinion.  

There are two things I'm asking you to do.  First, take a bit of time to understand what's happened to our news over the past thirty years.  Let me please refer you to a story I did a few weeks back called 
"Why Did Donna Brazile Use the F-Word in Oprah's Magazine?  Hint: Rush Limbaugh"I've provided a ling to the Huffington Post version of the story, but you can find it on my blog, and this one became so popular it even hit Forbes.  It links to much of the writing I've done on this topic over the past year.

You'll also notice a link in the upper left corner of this website, which invites people to host screenings of Broadcast Blues.  Broadcast Blues is a film I made which connects the dots as to why our media has gone awry, and what We the People can do to take our media back.   The film has not been available for public screenings until just this week - a happy coincidence, I think!    

Will you please host a screening of this film?  Maybe in your local church or library, or maybe just in your living room.  There are many North Dakota stories in this film, but please understand that the implications are national.  Why is the country so divided?  Why do we shout at each other rather than listen to each other?  Why are facts being trivialized?  Why are news organizations ignoring real news - like the Long V ND trial?

I spent the past two and a half weeks on the WSI trial; I spent the past thirteen years on the larger issue of the media.  So how about it, North Dakota, will you work with me to really make a difference in this great country?

Thanks, North Dakota, I've enjoyed my time being back in my home state.   Special thanks to Chad Nodland over at for his help in these past weeks and his commitment to bringing sunshine to North Dakota fifty two weeks a year.


Verdict is in in the Whistleblower Case

November 17, 2010

The verdict in the case of Long v WSI and the State of North Dakota came in just over two hours after the case went to the jury.  

The nine person,. six woman three man jury had to come to a unanimous decision.  The jury leader, a 50-ish man, handed the verdict to the bailiff, who in turn handed it to Judge Ronald Goodman.  The jury affirmed it was their verdict, and the judge handed it to the Clerk of the Court to read.  It found that, by the greater weight of the evidence, that Jim Long did not engage in protected whistleblower activity.

Jim Long slumped over the attorney's table as the verdict was read.  The jury looked resolute, the WSI team somber.

Judge Ronald Goodman thanked the jury for their service, saying, "You are the reason we hold our democracy in good stead."

Afterward, none of the jurors were willing to comment.  

Plaintiff Jim Long, with his hand over his heart, said "I'm disappointed.  I'm shocked but I'm not.  No words.  I don't know what any state worker can do.  I had a spotless personnel record, spotless.  How can anybody be so infallible that they can't get back pay, that's all we were asking.  It's a bad day."

Long's attorney Tom Tuntland said, "The North Dakota legislature was asked to give public employees the right to sue their employers, and they refused.  People call me about it, and I tell them, don't sue, you will destroy yourself.   There is no room for honesty and integrity in state government, no room for the truth."

Attorneys for WSI would not comment, preferring that WSI Communications Director Mark Armstrong issue a statement.  Armstrong had no comment when I reached him earlier, but said he would reach me later.

Jim Long vs State of North Dakota - Full Trial Coverage

 November 17, 2010

for crossposting this coverage, and for all he does in North Dakota!
Chet reports that Sandy Blunt's 

Here is the entire coverage of the Long v North Dakota WSI trial.

Look soon for my analysis. I have had time to reflect on the trial, and come away much disturbed, so I'll have a few interesting things to say.  I need to do a bit of research first. 

What Was I Doing in North Dakota?
Trial Reporting Groundrules
Opening Statement - Plaintiff Long
Opening Statement - Defendant State of North Dakota
Long v North Dakota - Outside the Jury's Presence
North Dakota Press Ignores Whistleblower Trial
Jim Long Takes the Stand - Part One
Jim Long Takes the Stand - Part Two
Jim Long Takes the Stand - Part Three
Only in North Dakota
Jim Long Takes the Stand - Part Four
Jim Long Takes the Stand - Part Five
Jim Long Takes the Stand - Part Six
Jim Long Takes the Stand - Part Seven
Bakke Cross Examines Long - Part One
Bakke Cross Examines Long - Part Two
Bakke Cross Examines Long - Part Three
Bakke Cross Examines Long - Part Four
Bakke Cross Examines Long - Part Five
Bakke Cross Examines Long - Part Six
Notes on Mark Armstrong Testimony
Bakke Calls Defendant Sandy Blunt
Tuntland Calls Defendant Gjovig
Tuntland Calls Defendant Wahlin
Tuntland Calls Quinn
Tuntland Calls Justin Data
Tuntland Calls HP Officer Shannon Henke
Tuntland Calls General Counsel Jodi Bjornson
Tuntland Calls Defendant Rob Forward
Bakke Calls Bobbi Ripplinger
Tuntland Calls Billi Peltz - Part One
Tuntland Calls Billi Peltz - Part Two
Bakke Calls Defendant Indvik
Armstrong Calls Brad Ballweber
Armstrong Calls Cindy Ternes
Armstrong Calls Jessica Schmitke
Armstrong Calls Denise Bachler
Armstrong Calls Defendant Tag Anderson
Armstrong Calls John Halvorson
Tuntland Cross Examines Halvorson
Armstrong ReDirects Halvorson
Tuntland Calls Kay Grinsteinner
Bakke Cross Examines Grinsteinner
Tuntland ReDirects Grinsteinner
Bakke ReCross of Grinsteinner
Judge Ronald Goodman's Jury Instructions
Thomas Tuntland's Closing Statement
Randy Bakke's Closing Statement
Tuntland's Final Argument

The Jury's Verdict

Tuntland Calls Defendant Rob Forward

November 10, 2010

Forward is a staff attorney with WSI and director of the special investigation unit.  Tuntland established that Forward's formal training to be an investigator was limited to legal education seminars. 

Forward was aware Long had been assigned the pre-investigation notification assignment on an alleged sexual harassment situation and there had been more than one such situation with Hutchings.  Forward confirmed that Long asked him to come along to interview Hutchings because he didn't get along with Hutchings and that Bjornson delegated the task to him.   Long had a second conversation with he and Bjornson where he asked if either had them had problems with him tape recording the interview.  Forward indicated that he did not and also that he did not attend the pre-investigation notification interview. 

Later, Forward was assigned by Halvorson to do a report regarding the Armstrong complaint of things missing from his desk.  There were three missing items:  an expense receipt with his employee number; a list of his family members' social security numbers; and a folder with a Risk Management report on Brent Edison's termination in 2003.  The other thing that was removed and returned was his journal. 

Forward said Halvorson told him to make a compliance review and make findings as to who had invaded Armstrong's privacy by going into his desk and taking his journal.  Tuntland asked whether an employee in a government office has an expectation of privacy.  Forward said there's no expectation of privacy regarding his employer, but there was regarding other employees. 

Forward said Long's name came up because he had written in his Attorney General whistleblower complaint that he had seen the journal.  He said he started the investigation around the end of October, November 2007.  That it was a separate investigation from Wahlin's, but they worked together. 

Tuntland asked what was so pressing that Wahlin and Forward could not delay their meeting an extra day so Tuntland could be present while they interviewed Long.  Forward replied it wasn't a fair question as Tuntland had been dragging his feet in allowing them to interview Long. 

In Long's allegations of wrongdoing by Blunt and Halvorson, one of the wrongdoers assigned you to investigate the wrongdoer.  Forward, no, I was focusing on the situation with Armstrong's desk. 

Tuntland established that he had asked Long to tape record that interview and Long did put a tape recorder on the desk. 

Tuntland:  How was Armstrong's journal obtained?
Forward:  He said Kay Grinsteinner took it, made copies, and put it back.
Tuntland:  Who made copies?
Forward:  I'm not sure.
Tuntland:  Why copies?
Forward:  Jim indicated he was bothered about negative comments regarding Jim and also open records concerns.
Tuntland:  Was that the secret documents reference?
Forward:  He didn't use the "secret documents" line with me. 

Tuntland established that Forward did not have the journal with him when he interviewed Jim because Forward said it went to someone else, but Tuntland established the journal had been made public by Armstrong.

Forward said Grinsteinner told him she had been looking for an open records violation in the journal and gave him some vague explanation about audit information being leaked from the building and she was looking for the possible source of the leak.  He said Grinsteinner's explanation was that Armstrong talked loudly.  She thought she'd uncovered something at WSI and based on that, she went through his desk with a flashlight. 

Tuntland:  She thought Mark Armstrong was disclosing internal audit information, correct?
Forward:  That's fair.
Tuntland:  Regarding the whistleblower complaint and Long's allegations that "were too numerous to mention", did you attempt to get that document from Cynthia Feland?
Forward:  There was no reason to, there was nothing there regarding Armstrong's allegations.
Tuntland:  You weren't assigned to investigate Jim's allegations of wrongdoing at WSI, right?
Forward:  No.
Tuntland:  Were you ever assigned to investigate allegations of wrongdoing Jim made within WSI?
Forward:  No.

Armstrong cross-examines Rob Forward.  Armstrong established that Grinsteinner and Long told Forward that they Kay had taken the journal from Mark Armstrong's desk.  Forward said Kay would not give him specifics other than it was a violation of open records law and some leak.  The defense attorney then presented Forward's report of 11-07-07, which Long had signed stating that Grinsteinner has "unfettered access to all documents and files".

Armstrong:  He told you Kay Grinsteinner found the journal in Mark Armstrong's office?
Forward:  Yes.
Armstrong:  Quinn testified that Long told him he had taken it out of the drawer.  Does that surprise you?
Forward:  No.  I think the two were trying to justify why they were in that office.  If Jim had been the one, he wouldn't have the audit charter argument.  It was a weak argument versus no argument.

Attorney Armstrong presented an email sent from Forward to BCI's Quinn 11-06-07 wanting to know why Tuntland would not allow them to interview Long and confirming that WSI was handling the investigation.  Quinn had no problem with that and Quinn was invited to sit in on the interview but was not interested. 

Forward testified that he had witnessed interactions between Long and Peltz, that they were sophmoric, and that he had witnessed a May 7th meeting between Halvorson and Long indicating that their interaction had to be cleaned up.  He said Long was interested in who had complained, that Long thought Denise Bachler had, but Halvorson didn't say. 

Forward said when he gave permission for Long to record Hutchings, he didn't understand it would be Nallie and Hutchings, the only two African-Americans in the building. 

Regarding the news conference announcing Blunt's charges from States Attorney Richard Riha, he noted Joel Heitkamp and two other democratic legislators were present. 

After Long was put on paid leave, Forward took over the supervision of Billie Peltz and HR.  He said his relationship with Billie was good, but her relationship with management was not good.  He'd received complaints of lack of customer service, that she was not returning phone calls, and also had problems because of the perceived inappropriate relationship. 

Long's attorney Tom Tuntland again questioned Rob Forward.  Tuntland asked whether Human Resources was understaffed.  Forward didn't know and Tuntland asked if Forward had asked Billie if she needed help to return calls.  He said no, he talked with her about making herself more accessible, to get off the 4th floor and talk with various departments.  He said he'd also received a complaint from a claims director who repeatedly had called Peltz and went to see her in her office.  She was on the cell phone, supposedly with Jim Long. 

Forward talked about what he called "The Ohio Bunch" and how he avoided the executives while they were in place.  The Ohio Bunch was Blunt and anyone he hired at that time, be they from Ohio or not.  

Tuntland:  Dick Riha is a republican, isn't he?
Forward:  I don't know.
Tuntland:  Cynthia Feland is a republican?
Forward:  I thought she was a democrat.

Tuntland:  You said Kay concocted a reason for being in Armstrong's office?
Forward:  No, I said she concocted an idea about the leak of information.

Tuntland established that Forward is an attorney and has a canon of ethics for lawyers, but that Forward was not aware until this trial of a canon of ethics for auditors.  Tuntland showed Forward the language in the internal audit charter that said an internal auditor shall remain independent of any influence inside the organization and also that an internal audit manager would have full access to all property and personnel.  Tuntland established that as an attorney, Forward has a job description at WSI, but WSI was not free to tell him to disregard his canon of ethics.  Forward seemed surprised at reading those guidelines. 

When asked if Forward had called Cynthia Feland to determine whether she had instituted an investigation of allegations inside Long's manifesto, Forward said he wasn't sure but said they had played phone tag.  Tuntland established that after Forward and Wahlin's interview of Long, he asked Long to shut off his tape recorder, then proceeded to cut down Feland and that Forward didn't like Feland. 

Mitch Armstrong then took over questioning.  He asked whether the language in the internal audit charter changed Forward's opinion of her after-hours search.  Forward said, not at all, that paragraph was pretty broad, and taken to logical ends she could do alot.  "If it's so appropriate, why not go into the office in broad daylight in front of Armstrong?"

Armstrong:  Here's the part Tuntland didn't show to the jury.  "If an IAM suspects fraudulent activity, they are to notify board management and the audit committee."  Did Grinsteinner or Long say they notified management before they did it?
Forward:  Kay said the internal auditor is unique and special and she didn't have to do that.

Tom Tuntland then took over questioning. 

Tuntland:  It says there upon discovery of potential fraud issues, so she must discover it first, right?
Forward:  Yes.

Mitch Armstrong had the last word. 

Armstrong:  Did Kay say she took the journal to the board or the CEO?
Forward:  No.  She said she copied it and put it back in the desk and she gave a copy to Jim Long. 
Armstrong:  Regarding the internal audit charter language, Long is inside the organization, isn't he?
Forward:  Correct.