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Dunn County residents submit petition to put governor before grand jury

WILLISTON - Residents of Dunn County want a grand jury to decide if campaign contributions Gov. Jack Dalrymple accepted from the oil industry may be considered bribery.

More than 170 residents signed a petition submitted today that could force the Dunn County District Court to convene a grand jury and consider whether Dalrymple should be prosecuted under Class C felony bribery statutes.

The petition, which uses a state statute that may not have been used in decades, stems from money Dalrymple's campaign accepted while he was also serving as the head of the North Dakota Industrial Commission.

The petition effort has ties to the campaigns of two Dalrymple challengers in the Nov. 6 election.

Lisa Guenther, clerk of court for Dunn County, said she received documents Wednesday, but they were not yet filed as an official record. Because the documents involve criminal allegations, Guenther said Dunn County State's Attorney Ross Sundeen will review the documents before they are filed.

Sundeen did not return a call seeking comment late Wednesday.

A report written by two Grand Forks attorneys raises questions about $81,600 in campaign contributions that were accepted in late 2011 through May 2012, the same time Dalrymple and other Industrial Commission members were considering a controversial Dunn County case that involved a large area designated for oil development that included Little Missouri State Park.

The commission gave oil developers a favorable ruling.

Attorney David Thompson, who wrote the report with recent law school graduate Erik Escarraman, equates the campaign contributions to bribing a judge. The contributions came from people who had an interest in a pending administrative case that Dalrymple presides over, Thompson said.

"We're deeply concerned about the influence of oil in corrupting our political process and extreme amounts of money that are now in play," said Thompson, who said he and Escarraman are not affiliated with any campaign.

Dalrymple was unavailable for comment late Wednesday after the petition was submitted.

Amanda Godfread, communications director for Dalrymple's campaign, said Wednesday she could not comment on the petition because she hadn't seen it. But she said there was no connection between campaign contributions and the Industrial Commission's decision.

"The governor has a record of transparency and integrity and a record of what's doing best for North Dakota," Godfread said. "To suggest otherwise is simply untrue."

Former Dunn County resident Nikki McAlpin said she submitted the petition to the clerk of court in Dunn County with more than 170 signatures. McAlpin, a former volunteer for Dalrymple challenger Paul Sorum's campaign, said she delivered the petition because she also has concerns about the campaign contributions.

"We're tired of the corruption," McAlpin said.

See Thursday's Dickinson Press for more on the story.