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N.D. Labor Commissioner appointed chief deputy attorney general

BISMARCK – State Labor Commissioner Troy Seibel is leaving the appointed position to become chief deputy attorney general when Tom Trenbeath retires at the end of this month after 10 years in the job.

Seibel said by phone Wednesday, Nov. 9, that Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem approached him with the job offer.

“I definitely was not looking for a new job by any stretch of the imagination. It kind of came along unexpected and was a great opportunity,” he said.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple appointed Seibel in September 2014 to oversee the Department of Labor and Human Rights, which enforces the state’s labor, human rights and housing laws.

Seibel’s appointment as chief deputy attorney general is effective Dec. 1.

Seibel said Dalrymple and governor-elect Doug Burgum, who will take office Dec. 15 after winning Tuesday’s election, are actively looking for a new labor commissioner. He said the tentative plan is for the department’s human rights director, Kathy Kulesa, to oversee the office until a new commissioner is appointed. Dalrymple did not seek re-election this year.

Before being appointed labor commissioner, Seibel worked in private practice for 11 years and was an assistant attorney general from April 2013 to September 2014.

Stenehjem said in a statement that Seibel has “a great combination of practical expertise, managerial skills and a historical knowledge,” and his familiarity with the operations of the office and state government will allow for a smooth transition before the upcoming legislative session in January.

The labor department has struggled with a backlog of complaints in recent years, driven by large increases in workers and employers due to the state’s oil boom. Wage and hour complaints more than doubled between fiscal years 2010 and 2014, while discrimination complaints jumped 50 percent from 2010 to 2015.

Seibel said the department has made progress in reducing the backlog, with slightly less than 500 cases currently pending, down from a peak of around 680 cases in August and September of last year. The 2015 Legislature gave the department two additional investigators, and the wait time for investigating discrimination complaints is now about eight months, down from just over a year, he said.

Seibel’s job as chief deputy will pay $10,000 a month, attorney general’s spokeswoman Liz Brocker said. He currently earns $8,522 a month as labor commissioner.

Seibel is a Minot native with a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of North Dakota and a law degree from the University of Denver.

Mike Nowatzki

Mike Nowatzki reports for Forum News Service. He can be reached at (701) 255-5607.