WILLISTON, N.D. – A new petition will be circulated in Dunn County to seek a grand jury investigation of Gov. Jack Dalrymple after a judge dismissed a petition last week in part due to a lack of qualified signatures.
Meanwhile, Grand Forks attorney David Thompson said he will file an appeal to the North Dakota Supreme Court this week regarding Southwest Judicial District Judge William Herauf’s ruling that Dunn County is not the appropriate venue for the petition.
Thompson said a new petition seeking a citizen-initiated grand jury process has been prepared and will be filed at the same time as he pursues an appeal.
“We’re going to start from scratch,” Thompson said. “A number of the people will certainly be the same.”
Paul Sorum, the independent candidate for governor who asked Thompson to draft the petition, said Monday the effort to collect signatures will begin soon.
The petition alleges that oil industry campaign contributions accepted by Dalrymple’s campaign could be considered bribery.
Dalrymple serves as chairman of the North Dakota Industrial Commission, which was considering a controversial “mega-unit” for drilling oil in Dunn County about the same time he received some of the contributions.
For the petition that was filed Nov. 2, organizers needed at least 167 signatures based on the number of Dunn County residents who voted in the most recent governor’s race.
A total of 2,017 people voted for governor in Dunn County on Nov. 6, according to the Dunn County Auditor’s Office. Sixty percent voted for Dalrymple.
Even though the number of signatures will be greater this time at 201 or 202, Sorum said he doesn’t expect that to be a problem.
“It’s going to be relatively easy to get the number of signatures,” he said, adding that the last effort took three days.
The appeal will focus on Herauf’s ruling that Dunn County is not the appropriate venue for a grand jury investigation because there are no allegations that any Dalrymple received any of the campaign contributions in question in Dunn County.
Thompson said he will argue that Dunn County is the appropriate venue because that is where the consequences of the alleged actions occurred. He said North Dakota Century Code supports his argument.
Thompson also plans to argue that the court erred by not holding a hearing regarding the signatures.
Herauf identified seven petitioners who indicated that their addresses are outside of Dunn County. Absent those seven signatures, the total falls to 166.
Herauf also questioned 55 signatures that list post office boxes, which is a mailing address, not a residential address. In addition, Herauf noted that 16 signatures were absent addresses and also subject to exclusion.
Thompson said he believes the judge erred by drawing conclusions about those signatures without holding an evidentiary hearing.
“We feel that it’s important to have the Supreme Court adjudicate these issues where we believe the district court committed directly identifiable error,” Thompson said.
Dalrymple’s campaign has said the allegations in the petition are baseless and the effort was politically motivated.