Former WSI employee appeals firingBISMARCK — One of the Workforce Safety and Insurance employees fired after seeking whistle-blower protection has appealed to the agency’s board for reinstatement.
By: Janell Cole, N.D. Capitol Bureau
BISMARCK — One of the Workforce Safety and Insurance employees fired after seeking whistle-blower protection has appealed to the agency’s board for reinstatement.
James Long, who had been chief of support services, was suspended in November and terminated March 12.
“I hereby request that the Board of Directors review and reverse my employment discharge as executed by Interim CEO John Halvorson,” Long wrote to the board on Tuesday.
Long was among several WSI employees who last fall invoked a law ostensibly protecting state employees who seek to expose wrongdoing in state government.
All but one have since been fired.
Long alleges he sought protection for cooperating with Bureau of Criminal Investigation agents who asked him to answer questions related to an ongoing criminal investigation. “As a result of my conversation with BCI, WSI was served with a search warrant in which state property was seized,” Long wrote.
Long alleges BCI contacted him “at the insistence of Jodi Bjornson,” WSI’s general counsel.
Long and another now-fired WSI employee, Internal Audit Manager Kay Grinsteinner, knew of a journal that WSI’s communications executive, Mark Armstrong, had kept in the weeks following criminal charges filed against then WSI CEO Sandy Blunt in the spring of 2007. Armstrong and other Blunt allies held meetings about how to support Blunt.
Grinsteinner went into the WSI offices after hours and searched through Armstrong’s desk drawer to find the journal, and Long discovered her doing so.
Among other tactics revealed in the journal, Armstrong and others discussed the possibility of forcing Burleigh County State’s Attorney Richard Riha out of office for having charged Blunt with crimes. Armstrong is a Burleigh County commissioner. The plan never materialized. Eventually, all charges against Blunt were dismissed.
Long told BCI about the journal and BCI got a search warrant to seize the original from Armstrong’s office. But no criminal charges or any other official actions have ever resulted from the warrant.
Halvorson’s letter terminating Long last week says senior management at WSI believed Long can’t return to the agency and “effectively lead” because instead of communicating in recent letters to the agency “how your employment could possibly be salvaged,” Long had instead show only a “defiant tone” and lack of “responsive and meaningful answers to our inquiries.”
Janell Cole works for Forum Communications Co., which owns The Dickinson Press.