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Official placed on paid leave

An official of the North Dakota workers' compensation bureau has been placed on paid administrative leave and temporarily banned from the building and computer systems of Workforce Safety and Insurance.

An official of the North Dakota workers' compensation bureau has been placed on paid administrative leave and temporarily banned from the building and computer systems of Workforce Safety and Insurance.

James Long, WSI's chief of support services, was notified of his leave, effective immediately, by an agency lawyer.

"We will begin a process of re-evaluating your role in an effort to reinstate your services, in the most effective manner possible," Tim Wahlin, WSI staff counsel, wrote Long in a letter dated Thursday.

In another development Friday, Wayne Stenehjem, North Dakota attorney general, denied a request by WSI's board chairman to appoint a special assistant attorney general to advise the agency on personnel and employment matters.

In a letter to the agency's board chairman, Stenehjem wrote that WSI already has four staff lawyers and Stenehjem's office must represent the state in "all legal matters, civil and criminal, where the state is named as a party" in legal disputes.

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WSI officials said they could not comment on Long's leave because it concerns personnel and a document they regard as confidential by law.

Long, one of several WSI employees seeking whistleblower protection for reporting suspected wrongdoing, was identified in documents released Thursday as the conduit for a copy of a journal kept by WSI spokesman Mark Armstrong that later was seized by criminal investigators.

Long said he gave over a copy of the journal because he had a responsibility to report information he thought pointed to a possible crime. Now he believes he eventually will be fired.

"I'm a little frustrated," Long said. "The whistleblower protection has been a little meaningless."

The original source of the copy of the journal was Kay Grinsteinner, WSI's internal audit manager, who told an internal investigator that she was exploring her concerns about Armstrong's mishandling of open records requests, as well as concerns that someone was "leaking back" audit information to WSI employees.

Grinsteinner, who also wants whistleblower protection, has warned agency board members that injured workers' claims might have been improperly denied.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522 Official placed on paid leave Patrick Springer 20071117

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