WSI to consider six applicants for interim CEOBISMARCK — The six people who’ve applied to be interim director of Workforce Safety and Insurance include former Fargo Mayor Bruce Furness, former House Majority Leader John Dorso, former Nodak Mutual officer Paul Traynor and three others.
By: Janell Cole, N.D. Capitol Bureau
BISMARCK — The six people who’ve applied to be interim director of Workforce Safety and Insurance include former Fargo Mayor Bruce Furness, former House Majority Leader John Dorso, former Nodak Mutual officer Paul Traynor and three others.
One is John P. Vastag, public relations manager of Fargo heating, plumbing and electrical contractor Laney’s Inc.
The others who applied were Peg Haug of Bismarck, a former nine-year employee of WSI, and Layne Kertamus of Helena, Mont., of the applicants had not previously been mentioned in public discussions.
The application deadline was Thursday at 5 p.m.
The search committee from the WSI board meets at 11 a.m. today to evaluate candidates and pick who will be interviewed.
Some who had been discussed as possible applicants who elected not to meet Thursday’s deadline included former state Insurance Commissioner Jim Poolman and Rep. Ron Carlisle, R-Bismarck, as well as Dean Haas, a former WSI attorney now serving as an assistant attorney general.
Others who had said earlier this week that they would not apply are former WSI CEO Pat Traynor and former Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp, had said earlier in the week that they would not apply.
Furness’ name was mentioned a week ago, the same day a consultant recommended the agency immediately hire an interim director. He’s got the blessings of Gov. John Hoeven. Now a senior vice president at State Bank and Trust in Fargo, Furness was mayor from 1994-2006, and also worked for the Greater North Dakota Association and nearly 30 years for IBM Corp.
Before retiring to Florida in 2001, Dorso represented a south Fargo legislative district, owned Dorso Trailer Sales, Semi Trailer Sales and Leasing Inc., Dakota Drivers Inc. He’s also owned JD Consulting. He was House majority leader from 1995-1999. He also ran for the U.S. House in 2000.
Dorso was instrumental as a legislator who worked to reform WSI, then known as the Workers Compensation Bureau, in the 1990s, when it was plagued by millions of dollars in unfunded liability and huge annual premium increases. Injured workers waited too long for decisions, there was too much litigation and service was poor due to an “overwhelming” document management problem, he says in his application letter to the WSI board.
Paul E. Traynor of Devils Lake was senior vice president, secretary and general counsel for Nodak Mutual , the largest domestic insurance company in North Dakota, from 1994-2002. He also was an associate general counsel for State Farm Insurance in Minneapolis before that. After leaving Nodak Mutual in the midst of a management shake-up, he worked for Horace Mann Cos., Springfield, Ill., and Unitrin Inc. of Chicago.
Vastag’s application touts his history of working for the late South Dakota Gov. George Mickelson (1987-93) to turn around a troubled state agency. Vastag became director of the South Dakota Office of Provider Reimbursements and Audits, which he said was in dire straits at that time and plagued by three to four years of audits that had not been concluded.
The office sets rates for and audits human service agencies in South Dakota, including hospitals, nursing homes and social service providers such as mental health centers. He said that in his first year, the office recovered millions of dollars due the state from such agencies and then oversaw a redesign of its operations.
Kertamus was vice president of insurance operations for the Montana State Fund from 2003 to last month. The fund’s recent newsletter reports he “stepped down … to pursue other career opportunities.” The fund is Montana’s competitive workers’ compensation fund. Kertamus’ letter addresses WSI current interim CEO John Halvorson as “John Hulbertson.”
Haug’s application letter reports that she was a claims analyst, program director, claims supervisor and provider relations specialist at WSI, though she does not state when. Instead of providing a resume, she invited the search committee to pull her personnel file at WSI.
Janell Cole works for Forum Communications Co., which owns The Dickinson Press.