The Whistleblower blog was started in 2008. Look for posts by these contributors: James Eli Shiffer, Jane Friedmann, Brandon Stahl, Eric Roper and Alejandra Matos. | Check out the Whistleblower archive.

Find us on Facebook and Twitter. Find our watchdog and investigative work at The Investigators.

The Star Tribune's journalists need your help blowing the whistle in Minnesota. Contact us here.

Posts about Public records

State agency disqualifies nurses found working in care settings

Posted by: Brandon Stahl Updated: January 27, 2014 - 2:32 PM

Seventy-two nurses working in state-licensed facilities have been banned from working with patients after the state learned the nurses had criminal records.

The findings come after the Star Tribune presented records to the Department of Human Services last year that 294 actively licensed nurses had criminal convictions ranging from fraud, assault and criminal sexual conduct that by law requires the agency to ban them from working directly with patients.

DHS didn't previously know about the backgrounds of 107 of those nurses, and worked to see if they were working in facilities licensed by the agency, such as group homes, nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

DHS Spokeswoman Karen Smigielski said that 35 of the 107 nurses were not in positions that would require a background study and disqualification. All of the 107 nurses who were disqualified will be able to appeal that decision and show how they do not pose a risk to patients, Smigielski said. 

Battle over records goes to appeals court

Posted by: Brandon Stahl Updated: January 7, 2014 - 9:31 AM

A legal battle over the Star Tribune’s effort to obtain records from a state-created insurance fund has moved to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

Last month, the Star Tribune argued that records of the Minnesota Joint Underwriting Association are public because the insurer serves a public benefit. 

The insurer refused to comply with a records request to provide data on specific providers and sued the paper. Ramsey County District Judge Margaret Marrinan ordered the insurer to provide the requested data, but the MJUA it has appealed that decision.

Last year, the Star Tribune reported that the insurer spent $32 million over the past decade to settle claims, including $12 million to resolve 169 claims against health care providers. 

Fake kidnappers demanded ransom money, defraud one Minnesota woman

Posted by: Alejandra Matos Updated: November 13, 2013 - 2:52 PM

A bogus kidnapping ring based in California allegedly defrauded at least one Minnesota woman after she was told that her husband had been smuggled into the United States and was told to wire $2,000 for his release, according to court documents unsealed last week.

Four people were indicted and three were arrested in San Diego last week. The charges against Ruth Graciela Raygoza, Maria Del Carmen Pulido Contreras, Adrian Jovan Rocha and Jonathan Rocha says they falsely reported that they were holding a family member and demanded money for the safe release of their relative.

The group received at least five money transfers from people living in Maryland, Virginia and Minnesota.

The Minnesota woman, identified only as E.D. in the complaint, was contacted in August 2012 and told her husband “had been smuggled into the United States.” She was instructed to wire $2,000 to Adrian Rocha.

According to the complaint, Rocha picked up the transfer in the San Diego area and then “traveled to a location near the border in San Ysidro, California and handed money to a conspirator who delivered the money to another conspirator in Mexico.”

The Associated Press reported that scammers mostly targeted immigrants, and dialed random phone numbers to reach them.

"They would just randomly run through a sequence of numbers, like 1 to 100," Daniel Page, assistant special agent in charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs and Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations unit in San Diego told the Associated Press. "They're just like your professional telemarketer. They have a script. 'You need to pay this money. If you don't, something's going to happen.'"

Continuing investigation of outbreak means old records are sealed

Posted by: Alejandra Matos Updated: September 18, 2013 - 11:23 AM

After the outbreak of Salmonella that sickened over 80 people at an Ecuadorian independencefestival, the obvious question was whether there had been previous problems at New York Plaza Produce, the Minneapolis grocery store that was identified by health officials as the source of the outbreak and organizer of the festival.

Because New York Plaza Produce is a grocery store, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture is the agency tasked with inspecting the store and following up on any complaints.

On Aug. 22, two days after our first report, I requested all inspection, incident and enforcement records prior to the outbreak. I knew any reports on the current investigation would be non-public, but was surprised when the Department of Agriculture said the information I request was non-public because it is now part of an open and active investigation.

"The documents you requested will be released to you once our investigation has been completed," said the department, noting they were allowed to classify the information as non-public under statute 13.39 sub 2.

I asked the state Information Policy Analysis Division if it was legal to classify previously public data as non-public simply because of an active investigation. Stacie Christensen with IPAD said it is legal, but noted the statute is a part of the law that is highly contested. 

I'll keep you posted on what happens with my request.

Court: State agency can withhold records during appeal

Posted by: Brandon Stahl Updated: September 16, 2013 - 12:51 PM

Despite a judge's ruling that its records are public, the Minnesota Joint Underwriting Association can continue to keep them secret as it appeals its lawsuit against the Star Tribune.

District court Judge Margaret Marrinan ruled Friday that the state-created insurance fund doesn't have to immediately turn over its records to the Star Tribune, reversing a ruling she made in August. 

Marrinan has determined that the MJUA, which insures only high-risk providers, was subject to the state's open records laws because it was created for a public purpose by a public body. Marrinan's decision came after the MJUA sued the Star Tribune to prevent a release of records. 

The MJUA went back to Marrinan on Sept. 4 to seek a stay of that ruling, arguing that it wanted to take the case to the state Court of Appeals, but to give its records over to the Star Tribune in the meantime would make the case moot. 

Marrinan agreed.

"Although the public may well be entitled to the information," Marrinan wrote, "the timing of its release does not appear to be a factor so crucial that the motion of the [MJUA's] should be denied."

The Star Tribune reported in May that the MJUA has spent at least $32 million over the last decade to settle claims, including $12 million to resolve 169 claims filed against health care providers, some of whom were accused of crippling or killing their patients.

Because most MJUA policyholders have to prove they can’t get insurance from the private market, critics contend the MJUA keeps bad providers in business. Supporters of the group say it provides an essential protection for consumers to allow them to recover damages from providers in the case of harm or negligence.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT