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Preliminary hearing set for workers compensation officials

BISMARCK - A preliminary hearing in a criminal case against workers compensation official Charles "Sandy" Blunt on charges that he misapplied entrusted funds is set to last a half day Aug. 7.

BISMARCK - A preliminary hearing in a criminal case against workers compensation official Charles "Sandy" Blunt on charges that he misapplied entrusted funds is set to last a half day Aug. 7.

And a preliminary hearing on charges that Blunt and his agency's fraud unit director illegally used state Transportation Department drivers' license photos is set for a full day Aug. 24.

Blunt is executive director of Workforce Safety and Insurance, which furnishes workers compensation insurance to all employers in the state. He and fraud unit chief Romi Leingang are on paid leave of absence while the charges are pending.

The Aug. 7 hearing is before South Central District Judge Robert Wefald, and South Central District Judge Donald Jorgensen is handling the Aug. 24 hearing.

Blunt faces up to 15 years in prison and a $15,000 fine for two charges that he misused public funds. The more serious class B felony alleges he spent WSI funds on employee gifts and parties and legislators' trips, violating a state law restricting use of public funds. State auditors say the inappropriate spending totaled $18,300.

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Felony charges

The class C felony charge accuses him of authorizing large bonuses to several employees that then were wrongly labeled as back pay. State law strictly regulates state employee bonuses, and the regulations were not followed, auditors said.

Blunt and Leingang were jointly charged with conspiracy to disclose confidential information, a class C felony that could result in a maximum $5,000 fine and five years in prison.

The charge alleges Blunt and Leingang shouldn't have used drivers' license photos to track down the identity of someone who e-mailed a document containing WSI officials and employees' salaries, information that is a matter of public record.

Auditors and prosecutors say laws on using DOT license pictures were violated when WSI printed them and showed them to librarians in Mandan, N.D., where the e-mail originated.

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