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Misuse of cell phone to be looked at

FARGO -- Bottineau County commissioners called Thursday for an independent investigator to determine whether the county road superintendent misused his county cell phone.

FARGO -- Bottineau County commissioners called Thursday for an independent investigator to determine whether the county road superintendent misused his county cell phone.

The unanimous vote to ask for investigation of the use of county property, which came in a special county board meeting, is yet another examination of possible illegal conduct concerning officials with ties to Workforce Safety and Insurance, the state workers' compensation program.

The Bottineau County action came after revelations earlier this week that Bob Indvik, the Bottineau County road superintendent, appeared to have made extensive calls with his county cell phone to board members and employees of the state workers' compensation program, which he oversees as chairman of the board.

"We decided to have an independent investigation to find out if indeed there was any inappropriate use of county funds," Jeff Beyer, chairman of Bottineau County Commission, said after the meeting.

The request for an independent investigation will be sent to the Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, and includes an examination of Indvik's vacation time and the county pickup Indvik is allowed to use, Beyer said.

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"I support the decision," Indvik said from his office phone. "Other than that, no comment."

County policy "discouraged" personal or non-county use of property, including vehicles or cell phones, he said. Indvik has one of seven county cell phones, Beyer added, and all calls show up on the same billing statements.

Chad Nodland, a Bismarck lawyer and blogger, obtained Indvik's county cell phone statements under an open records request and posted findings on his Web site, NorthDecoder.com.

The postings showed numerous calls from Indvik's phone to fellow board members or officials at WSI, including Sandy Blunt, who was fired earlier this month as executive director of the embattled agency.

Records indicated extensive calls from Indvik's phone on Nov. 5 - the day WSI's internal audit manager asked for whistle-blower protection and said workers' claims might be improperly denied - and the next several days to WSI officials.

Those called included Mark Gjovig, a board member and now chairman of the board's audit committee, as well as Evan Mandigo, who at the time was chairman of the audit committee but later left the board, according to Nodland's summary.

Nodland said the calls raise the question of whether state open meetings laws were violated.

"You can't tell for sure whether there were any open meetings violations," Nodland said. "But I think it's something that should be investigated."

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The Forum and The Dickinson Press are both owned by Forum Communications Co.

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