More from the Homepage
Staff Directory 10645956

James Eli Shiffer

Columnist and team leader | Watchdog and data team
phone: 612-673-4116
James Eli Shiffer writes the Full Disclosure column and supervises the watchdog and data team. Shiffer joined the Star Tribune in 2005. A native of Scarsdale, N.Y., Shiffer previously worked at The News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Wesleyan University in Connecticut.
Recent content from James Eli Shiffer
Minnesota Legislature exempted itself from sunshine law

Minnesota Legislature exempted itself from sunshine law

Sen. John Marty knows his bill calling for more openness at the Legislature isn’t going anywhere this year. He introduced it at Friday’s special session…

How did Minnesota's criminal defamation statute hang around 52 years?

The law, which usually dealt with revolting speech, criminalized even true statements, if they were delivered with malevolent intent.
Access to Minnesota government data can improve

Access to Minnesota government data can improve

But despite collecting more information than ever before, most of government handles it the old-fashioned way. You have to ask for it. Then you wait.
'Adopters' take up the cause of research dogs in Minnesota and beyond

'Adopters' take up the cause of research dogs in Minnesota and beyond

The people hoping to adopt research dogs from the University of Minnesota know them only by code numbers: 14AC2, 12AC1, 14CC4 and so on. They…
Years after 9/11 attacks, 28 pages are still blank

Years after 9/11 attacks, 28 pages are still blank

In the public report of Congress’ investigation of the 9/11 attacks, something strange happens after page 395. The words disappear, replaced by blank lines that…
Behind bars, a news camera ban in Minnesota

Behind bars, a news camera ban in Minnesota

A media policy spelled out in February prohibits any photography or videography, reversing a previous rule that allowed inmates, with the approval of the Department of Corrections (DOC), to grant on-camera interviews.
Despite open data law, Dakota County closes ranks after official's firing

Despite open data law, Dakota County closes ranks after official's firing

Nearly a month has passed since the Dakota County commissioners fired the county’s longtime community development director. The public still doesn’t know why. No one…
On Sunshine Week, a salute to data sharers

On Sunshine Week, a salute to data sharers

Today marks the start of Sunshine Week, the annual exercise in chasing away the shadows of government secrecy. It’s observed by citizens examining public records,…
Chanhassen man fined for lying about an election

Chanhassen man fined for lying about an election

With his legal appeals exhausted, Bonn Clayton knows the time has come to write a $600 check. That’s the penalty for lying about an election.…
E-mail privacy belongs to government, not you

E-mail privacy belongs to government, not you

The law says the public has the right to read most of the government’s e-mail, because open records are critical to democracy.The law also says…
Feb. 15: Road project on edge of Lake Minnetonka disturbs ancient grave

Feb. 15: Road project on edge of Lake Minnetonka disturbs ancient grave

As heavy machinery scraped the site of a highway project near Lake Minnetonka, something unusual turned up in the dirt: quarter-sized fragments of bone. That…
Full disclosure: Why hide the camera's ugly truth?

Full disclosure: Why hide the camera's ugly truth?

After a grand jury exonerated police in a fatal shooting last February on Hwy. 212, the dash cam video became public. Except for the moment that the fatal shots were fired.
Inching toward a last call for the White Pages

Inching toward a last call for the White Pages

Minnesota still requires phone companies to deliver a printed copy of the residential listings to its customers every year. That could change as soon as this spring.
Another toxic villain rides into the sunset

Another toxic villain rides into the sunset

By the end of this year, PFOA, a major category of perfluorochemicals, will join PCBs, chlorofluorocarbons and leaded gasoline in the graveyard of chemical villains that we once loved.
HUD owes you money? See if you can get it

HUD owes you money? See if you can get it

Thomas Owens thinks he would have remembered if the government owed him $3,772. Yet more than 20 years after he paid off his federally backed…
Farmers to EPA: Don't tell activists where we are

Farmers to EPA: Don't tell activists where we are

In making their case for privacy, livestock farmers paint a menacing picture of what can happen when people know how to find them. Drones with…
Reporter's curiosity gets the FBI's attention

Reporter's curiosity gets the FBI's attention

In these strange times, merely asking what the government is doing can get you a file at the FBI. That’s what I learned earlier this…

Full Disclosure: Search for Mound housing info turns into comedy of errors

My saga begins way, way back in April, when I came across a 2013 list of “troubled” public housing authorities nationwide. Only one Minnesota agency…
Rescue effort hopes to head off extinction of Minnesota butterflies

Rescue effort hopes to head off extinction of Minnesota butterflies

The Minnesota Zoo’s experiment to create an “insurance population” of Dakota skippers represent a small but heroic effort to counterbalance whatever is killing them in the wild.
Ditch-mapping mission by drone has FAA's OK

Ditch-mapping mission by drone has FAA's OK

Tim Briggs said he’s the first commercial drone operator in Minnesota to get permission from the Federal Aviation Administration.
Body in shed is a rare 'John Doe' in Minnesota

Body in shed is a rare 'John Doe' in Minnesota

Advances in DNA, the electronic trail of social media and a concerted national effort to match missing persons reports with unidentified remains have solved mystery after mystery, often within hours.
Price of naming rights to Saints ballpark an unnameable topic

Price of naming rights to Saints ballpark an unnameable topic

Buffeted by a cold October breeze, the banner on the construction fence still says “Lowertown Ballpark Opening May 2015.” Workers are too busy welding steel…
Full Disclosure: How to report an exploding casserole dish

Full Disclosure: How to report an exploding casserole dish

Casserole dishes that shatter into flying fragments are among the 21,000 report that are part of the catalog of horrors and mishaps reported by consumers to the federal agency in charge of ensuring that the stuff we buy doesn’t kill or injure us.
Horror stories reveal broader risk to vulnerable adults

Horror stories reveal broader risk to vulnerable adults

  There’s a $72 billion federal program that controls the money of 8 million vulnerable Americans, and you’ve probably never heard of it. The

A feeling of betrayal by 'Do Not Call' list

People who put their phone numbers on the Do Not Call list reported a staggering 3.7 million violations last year. That doesn’t include…
Lifelong fraud-fighter pays a visit

Lifelong fraud-fighter pays a visit

John Kotalik’s battle over a medical bill sounded like so many of the eye-glazing pleas launched in my direction every day. But Kotalik’s e-mail noted…
The University of Minnesota builds a dream on gravel

The University of Minnesota builds a dream on gravel

The University of Minnesota has launched its vision of an eco-friendly city in rural Dakota County, and right now, it looks an awful lot like a gravel pit.
Orono man sent to jail for junky yard

Orono man sent to jail for junky yard

Two days before his date with the workhouse, James Barth made one final bid for freedom. He told a Hennepin County district judge that he…
Maple Grove council member reflects on life in workhouse

Maple Grove council member reflects on life in workhouse

Fresh from the county workhouse, LeAnn Sargent will have plenty to talk about when she rejoins the Maple Grove City Council next month. The foul…
Minneapolis' golden age of river traffic never arrived

Minneapolis' golden age of river traffic never arrived

The long-lived dream of river commerce in Minneapolis officially ended a few weeks ago, laid to rest by the stroke of a presidential pen.
Full Disclosure: U law prof. under fire from angry investors

Full Disclosure: U law prof. under fire from angry investors

In filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission and lawsuits, shareholders have alleged that Edward Adams has at times served as a director, officer, lawyer and stockbroker for Scio, a start-up company that has suffered net losses of $13 million since it went public, with Adams as chairman, in 2011.
Full disclosure: One man's public fight for privacy

Full disclosure: One man's public fight for privacy

The police have never knocked down Rich Neumeister’s door in the middle of the night. They haven’t rifled through his files, tapped his phone or…
Full Disclosure: Database solves cold-case mysteries

Full Disclosure: Database solves cold-case mysteries

The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) is the first publicly accessible nationwide database designed to solve some of the most puzzling and agonizing modern mysteries.
Full Disclosure: $200K in custody

Full Disclosure: $200K in custody

The strange journey of the $200 grand in the silver attaché case began when drug investigators raided a Minneapolis tobacco shop.
Full Disclosure: What's in those rail cars?

Full Disclosure: What's in those rail cars?

When it comes to hazardous rail freight, the public just has to have faith.

13 seconds in August: The 35W bridge collapse

The Star Tribune has identified the drivers and occupants of 78 of 84 cars, trucks and other non-construction vehicles that remained on the bridge or sank in the river, as well as six of the road construction workers.
John Bacich, 'King of Skid Row,' preserved history

John Bacich, 'King of Skid Row,' preserved history

Back in the days when Minneapolis had a Skid Row, John Bacich was its king. Bacich owned the Victor Hotel, Rex Liquors and the freewheeling Sourdough Bar, home of the 10 cent beer. Those institutions, like the rest of the Gateway District downtown, were swept away by urban renewal in the early 1960s.

Hours before death, man talked of pride in firm

On Thursday morning, Reuven Rahamim bubbled over with enthusiasm about the future of his company, Accent Signage Systems.
May 22, 2011: On North Side, a quiet Sunday turns into chaos

May 22, 2011: On North Side, a quiet Sunday turns into chaos

In a part of Minneapolis where neighbors often feel buffeted from all directions, Sunday's tornado was one thing they didn't think they had to worry about.
Whistleblower: Grain Belt sign a big graffiti target

Whistleblower: Grain Belt sign a big graffiti target

The iconic sign's owner thinks he deserves a break from city's graffiti crackdown policy. | Hard Data
Their risk, his reward

Their risk, his reward

Longtime landlord finds a way to make money at bottom of city's real estate market.
Twister upends housing landscape

Twister upends housing landscape

But some say the disaster could bring a chance to improve north Minneapolis' housing stock - if landlords don't flee.
Going where the buffalo roam

Going where the buffalo roam

On a trip to South Dakota to view bison, one family finds the creatures can be both noble and annoying.
Homewrecker? Troubled landlord faces eviction

Homewrecker? Troubled landlord faces eviction

Whistleblower: Despite new management taking over, Minneapolis holds landlord responsible after years of maintenance complaints

Unfit to be lawyer, yet a guardian for 200

The case of Terri Ann Hauge, charged with bilking 10 vulnerable adults, shows the flaws in selecting and monitoring conservators.

Loan scams are thriving, Commerce says

Loan modification scams are finding victims in desperate homeowners.
Still slippery after 2 years

Still slippery after 2 years

Denny's settled a slip-and-fall case, but the source of trouble at a Coon Rapids restaurant remains.
Failure to pay water bill results in icy waterfall

Failure to pay water bill results in icy waterfall

Gusher demonstrates problems with enforcing little-known rule in Minneapolis.
Few limits on private towing

Few limits on private towing

Some motorists are shocked by what it costs to get cars back when towed from private property.

People-search website accused of deception

It took nearly a year before Isaac and Mika Turner of Northfield, Minn., noticed the $19.95 monthly charges on their credit card. Now the couple has sued Intelius, a popular people-search website, for signing them up for a service they never wanted.
Catching up on the stories of 2010

Catching up on the stories of 2010

Whistleblower heard this year from hundreds of people who wanted us to look into their situations. Here's an update on a few we wrote about in 2010.
Lung patients are left in the lurch

Lung patients are left in the lurch

The sudden departure of Healthworks exposes tension between Medicare and medical providers.
Turbine creates headwinds in Orono

Turbine creates headwinds in Orono

Orono resident Jay Nygard believes installing a small wind turbine in his yard would be an energy saver, but he has run into opposition from the city.

Financial woes spark revolt at condo

Some residents of the Meadow Creek Condominiums in Hopkins say they were misled, others that they ought to have paid better attention.
Bedbugs bite tenants more ways than one

Bedbugs bite tenants more ways than one

A tense question in apartment buildings: Who pays the exterminator?

Code dispute turns ugly

Maplewood officials wanted an entrepreneur to make changes before issuing a new permit. When she refused, they took action that some think went too far.

Whistleblower: Diaper debut prompts rash of complaints

Pampers defends "Dry Max'' as parents vent online over leaks, blow-outs and, more ominously, red bottoms.
Ruling stymies child sex-abuse case

Ruling stymies child sex-abuse case

Citing a 2004 decision that limits the use of videotaped interviews, Hennepin County won't prosecute a case involving 4-year-old victim.
Owners of senior housing in Edina defaulted, each resident being sued

Owners of senior housing in Edina defaulted, each resident being sued

Because the owners of a new senior housing complex in Edina defaulted on loans, each resident is being sued and may be ousted.
Sponsored Links
From Around the Web
More from Star Tribune
Top Stories
Most Read