Another DFL Senate candidate was caught in a workers' compensation bind Thursday, as the campaign manager for Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer acknowledged that the campaign has failed to insure its employed staff members since late last year.
The news came as Al Franken's corporation agreed Thursday to pay a $25,000 penalty to New York state for failing to carry workers' comp insurance from 2002 to 2005.
The campaign said the accountant for Alan Franken Inc. will continue to investigate why the lapse occurred.
"We decided to make the payment and the accountant can deal with the files," which promises to be a complicated and detailed process, said Jess McIntosh, a spokeswoman for the Franken campaign.
Chris McNellis, Nelson-Pallmeyer's campaign manager, said she wrongly assumed their payroll vendor was covering workers' comp insurance when she took charge of the campaign last month.
"We are moving forward with providing workers' comp," she said.
State officials will seek more information from the Nelson-Pallmeyer campaign and determine whether a fine should be levied, said James Honerman, spokesman for the state Labor and Industry Department.
Paid staff members on the campaigns of both Franken and attorney Mike Ciresi, the other major DFL candidate, are covered for workers' compensation, according to state records. Employees of all three candidates are offered health insurance.
Other officials tripped up
The failure to buy workers' compensation insurance, which is mandatory for employers of full- and part-time workers, has tripped up a number of Minnesota public officials in the past few years.
After Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone was killed in a plane crash during his 2002 campaign, it was discovered that his staff lacked workers' comp coverage. State Labor Commissioner Jane Volz was forced to resign in 2003 for failing to obtain coverage for her law firm.
Other campaigns have been cited and fined for failing to provide workers' comp coverage, including that of Third District Rep. Jim Ramstad, Second District Rep. John Kline, and Sixth District Rep. Mark Kennedy, all Republicans, and gubernatorial candidates Roger Moe, a DFLer, and Tim Penny of the Independence Party.
Records show that Nelson-Pallmeyer's congressional campaign in 2006 carried workers' comp insurance.
Campaign, state disagree
Franken's campaign officials say the corporation, Alan Franken Inc., had one or two paid workers from 2002 to 2005, while New York state contends it employed as many as 17 at one point.
If Franken can show that the New York Workers' Compensation Board was in error, the board will rescind the penalty and return the money, board spokesman Brian Keegan said.
Franken, a comedian and author, and his wife, Franni, set up Alan Franken Inc. in New York in 1991 to handle fees and residuals for his services. The Frankens moved from Manhattan to Minneapolis in late 2005.
Minnesota records show that the corporation has paid workers' compensation insurance since it moved to the state, with the Frankens, more than two years ago.
McIntosh said the Frankens never received the nearly one dozen notices that New York officials had sent them since April 2005.
"Had they gotten the notices, you know they would have paid them," McIntosh said. "The Republicans were going to jump on this eventually, so it wouldn't have been politically expedient [for the Frankens] to wait for that to happen."
Franken, Nelson-Pallmeyer and Ciresi are vying for the DFL Party endorsement to challenge Republican Sen. Norm Coleman. The insurance dispute was first reported Tuesday on the Minnesota Democrats Exposed website, run by Republican blogger Michael Brodkorb.
Kevin Duchschere • 612-673-4455