WILLISTON, N.D. – A second petition seeking a grand jury investigation of Gov. Jack Dalrymple related to oil industry campaign contributions was filed Monday in Dunn County District Court, signed by more than 250 people.
The case is assigned to Southwest Judicial District Court Judge William Herauf, the same judge who dismissed a similar petition because it failed to have enough signatures. Herauf also ruled that the appropriate venue for such a petition would be Burleigh County.
In this second attempt, organizers needed signatures of 202 residents and they gathered 267 signatures, said Ellen Chaffee, who submitted the petition Monday. Most of the people who signed were not the same individuals who signed the original petition, she said.
The petition alleges that contributions to Dalrymple’s campaign accepted 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 from individuals or groups tied to some of the oil companies involved. The unit received unanimous approval from the commission.
Dalrymple’s campaign called the allegations “baseless” and politically motivated.
Chaffee, a recent candidate for lieutenant governor with Democrat Ryan Taylor, did not sign the petition herself because she doesn’t live in Dunn County. But Chaffee’s husband is a Dunn County native and his family is affected by the decision, which is why she assisted with the petition, Chaffee said.
“This has nothing to do with politics. It has to do with what’s right.” Chaffee said Monday. “Law enforcement is supposed to prosecute crimes. All we’re asking is that law enforcement investigate and, if appropriate, prosecute what we believe is a crime.”
Herauf’s ruling said the petition should be filed in Burleigh County because that is where the Industrial Commission meets and there is no indication that contributions were received in Dunn County.
Grand Forks attorney David Thompson who drafted the petition said North Dakota Century Code indicates that Dunn County is the appropriate venue for the grand jury investigation because the consequences of the actions occurred there.
After Herauf dismissed the case, the North Dakota Supreme Court dismissed an appeal.
Meanwhile, a Williams County petition for a grand jury investigation against two officials has been dismissed. A petition using the same statute alleged that Williams County Auditor Beth Innis and state Sen. John Andrist, R-Crosby, violated the state’s “corrupt practices act” by making statements about a measure to abolish property taxes. Northwest Judicial
District Judge Richard Hagar ruled that 23 people who signed the petition didn’t live in Williams County and the number of signatures fell two short of the necessary 935 qualified signatures.