Staff Directory 34031274

Jennifer Bjorhus

Reporter | Watchdog and data team
phone: 612-673-4683
Jennifer reports on a range of topics, most recently government accountability and criminal justice. She has worked at the Pioneer Press, San Jose Mercury News, Oregonian and Seattle Times, and her work has won numerous awards. Her general rule is to listen hard, dig deep.
Recent content from Jennifer Bjorhus
Lizzy Wegner, 11, a 6th grader from Watertown-Mayer, beat her classmates in a snowshoe race Tuesday morning at the Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning C

Wolf Ridge Learning Center takes a leap of growth on shore of Lake Superior

An Eden Prairie couple helped give students access to the Great Lake, but the North Woods center is $2.3 million short of its fundraising goal to make it happen.
Linda Walther, a sexual assault nurse examiner, asked members of the House Public Safety Committee members to examine a sexual assault kit. Under a ne

Minnesota drafts new rape kit protocols with timetables to test

A bill in the state House would set statewide standards for processing sexual assault evidence kits after untested backlog revealed in 2015.

Debts and anger in wake of Minnesota officers' fundraisers

The trail of debts and ill will left by a Pennsylvania events management company has some Minnesota participants in its fundraisers crying foul.
Minnesota Management and Budget released details Friday of harassment in the state government’s executive branch, along with a report recommending n

266 sexual harassment complaints filed in state agencies from 2012-17

New reporting system, changes in culture needed, the report found.

Licensing board strengthens conduct standards for Minnesota law officers

Domestic assault, DUI will now trigger a license review for Minn. officers.
Nate Kinsey, in a Richfield Police Department photo, with his K9.

Richfield, police union argue over case of fired cop at appeals court

Rare appeal tests the power of public employee arbitration and handling of police misconduct.
Gary Swenson reviewed land up for auction at DNR headquarters last month. The state is working harder to publicize the auctions.

What would you bid for an acre of Minnesota wilderness?

The DNR is selling off less-desirable parcels, but demand has been slow.
POST Board executive director Nate Gove said sworn officers should be held to a higher standard.

Minn. police licensing board will consider new, tougher officer standards

Recommendations follow a Star Tribune series on police misconduct.
Gary Paulson has survived four bouts of cancer. His Lake Elmo home and well are near a landfill where 3M dumped PFC sludge.

In lawsuit, Minnesota is asking: What did 3M know about PFCs?

Court filing cracks open 3M's internal research on PFCs, raises new questions about risks for residents.
Rep. Tony Cornish and Sen. Dan Schoen announced Tuesday that they will soon resign, ending a jarring period in Minnesota politics, when the State Capi

Rep. Cornish, Sen. Schoen to resign after harassment claims

Two Minnesota lawmakers announce they will resign on same day following harassment allegations that reverberated at State Capitol.
Chair Tony Cornish assured Minnesota Department of Corrections Commissioner Tom Roy that reopening Appleton wasn't the only way the committee was look

Rep. Cornish's ex-wife once obtained domestic abuse protection order

Rep. Tony Cornish, facing allegations at the State Capitol, was accused of aggressive behavior toward his ex-wife in 1990.
State Rep. Tony Cornish, a Republican, is denying allegations that he sexually harassed women at the Capitol. ] GLEN STUBBE • glen.stubbe@startribun

Ex-GOP Speaker Zellers says he warned Cornish

"I believe he should resign" and apologize, says the former GOP House speaker.
Allegations of sexual harassment at the State Capitol widened as two women came forward with reports of sexual harassment by GOP state Rep. Tony Corni

Lawmaker, lobbyist accuse Rep. Cornish of sexual harassment

Late Thursday, House Speaker Kurt Daudt suspended Sen. Tony Cornish's chairmanship and called for a human resources investigation of the allegations, which Cornish denies.
Benedicta Hernandez

Obituary: Accountant Benedicta Hernandez came to U.S. alone, then helped her family, community

Benedicta Hernandez, an accountant from the Philippines embarking on a new life, was the first of her family to land in the Twin Cities in…
Nate Kinsey won in court, but the Richfield Police Department considers him fired.

Richfield goes to Minn. Court of Appeals to keep police officer fired

Despite video of incident, officer won twice in court.
Criminal defense lawyer Fred Bruno consulted with his client Brian R. Johnson outside a courtroom at the Dakota County District Court, Wednesday, Apri

PART 3: How Minn. officers accused of serious crimes plea bargain to keep jobs

Officers with convictions – which might have cost them their careers in other states – can exploit weaknesses in Minnesota's licensing rules to keep their jobs.
Minnesota’s top police licensing authority is reviewing its standards of conduct for sworn officers and will consider expanding the list of crimes t

Minnesota police licensing board to consider revising standards

Board chief says there's "potential for some change" in light of Star Tribune series.
Students practice shotgun basics at the state academy in Salem run by the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training. Oregon’s police

What Minnesota can learn from Oregon on police oversight

In Oregon, police officers can be disciplined for infractions that wouldn't even trigger a state review here. The northwestern state has become a national model for rigorous licensing, with lessons for Minnesota in police accountability and improving public confidence.
92 percent of the Minnesota River basin's land is agricultural, and the quality and quantity of its water depend overwhelmingly on farming practices.

Heavier rainfall, drained wetlands erode progress on Minnesota River.

The agricultural workhorse river has been the focus of intense efforts since the 1970s to improve its water quality; close to $1 billion has been spent on it. But it's unclear whether that has paid off.
In Minnesota, law enforcement officers can stay on the job for years even when a judge or jury finds them guilty of criminal behavior.

Minnesota police officers convicted of serious crimes still on the job

Over the past two decades, hundreds of Minnesota law enforcement officers have been convicted of criminal offenses. Most were never disciplined by the state. More than 140 are still on the job.
Laura Bloomberg of Buffalo, Minn., said she still lives with the effects of domestic abuse.

PART 2: A blind spot for officers involved in domestic violence in state

The state rarely sanctions police officers in domestic violence cases, a glaring weakness that police chiefs and victim advocates say needs to change.
St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, shown in 2016, says a project related to the Ford site could be among those packaged for investors.

Mississippi River mayors eye wetlands and parks to reduce flooding and environmental damage

St. Paul's Chris Coleman says a project related to the Ford site could be among those packaged for investors.
Crossroads Elementary in St. Paul, shown in 2016. Classes there won't start until Thursday after concern that toxic vapors under the school's foundati

Vapor intrusion scare delays start for St. Paul school

The MPCA says the air at Crossroads Elementary Science and Montessori School is not contaminated, and vapor mitigation is being installed.
In this May 2016 image provided by the city of Minneapolis, police officer Mohamed Noor poses for a photo at a community event welcoming him to the Mi

Fast-track training put officer Noor on Mpls. police

The former police chief stood by the training of officer Mohamed Noor, who shot and killed Justine Damond. But not everyone is sold on the process.
Yellow law enforcement line with police car and lights in the background.

Fatal police encounters in Minnesota since 2000

More than 160 people have died in forceful encounters with law enforcement in Minnesota since 2000.
A male Dakota skipper showing his proboscis which is used for eating nectar. Tuesday June 27, 2017 Minnesota's native Dakota skipper prairie butterfly

With help from Minnesota researchers, imperiled prairie butterfly takes new flight

As the tallgrass prairie has disappeared across much of Minnesota, the Dakota skipper has nearly vanished. Researchers at the Minnesota Zoo have been breeding Dakota skippers in captivity, and now, for the first time, the butterfly is being reintroduced into the wild.

Despite criticism, Minnesota lawmakers seek expansion of R&D tax break

The legislative auditor finds the credit doesn't pay for itself, but the increase is still being sought.
In this photo taken Feb. 10, 2016, skiers ride the chair lift at Giants Ridge in Biwabik, Minn.

Iron Range agency names new management company for Giants Ridge resort

It's the latest change at Giants Ridge after an unflattering audit in 2016.
PolyMet Mine in Hoyt Lakes, Minn.

Suit alleges faulty appraisal in PolyMet land swap

Environmental groups want to block a deal with the mining company proposed by the U.S. Forest Service.
In this October 2008 photo provided by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, a brown bat with white nose fungus is seen in New York.

Fatal bat disease confirmed in the Twin Cities area

White-nose syndrome has killed thousands of bats across Minnesota.
Skiers and snowshoers, like Bill DeZelar here, enjoy trails in Superior National Forest.

Comment period on restricting mining near BWCA extended to August

Proposal to ban mining on 234,000 acres of national forest open for scrutiny.
A group of people led a sing-a-long to the hebrew song Hineh Mah Tov at the beginning an interfaith rally at the Highland Park Community Center on Thu

More than 200 gather in St. Paul to denounce hate crimes, bomb threats vs. Jewish groups

Recent threats against Jewish sites led over 200 from many beliefs to gather in St. Paul to denounce hate.
Minnesota Legislative Auditor James Nobles

Legislative auditor: Minnesota R&D tax credit lacks explicit purpose, doesn't pay for itself

The audit, released at a Senate Taxes Committee meeting, leaves lawmakers to digest the implications of a somewhat rudderless tax break that some have recently proposed enlarging.
Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles in his St. Paul office. The report on the R&D tax credit, due out this week, is the first under a 2015 law requiring No

Minnesota's R&D tax credit is popular with business and lawmakers. But does it work?

State auditor to release report on effectiveness.
Gov. Mark Dayton has set a bold new goal for Minnesotans: Slash water pollution 25 percent by 2025.

Gov. Dayton aims for 25 percent water quality boost by 2025

Plans public meetings across the state to gather ideas.
The Perpich brothers — Joe, Tony, Rudy and George — in 1983. “It’s a sad day for the Range,” said a former senator.

Obituary: Tony Perpich, state senator and one of a famous trio

The former state senator formed one-third of a storied trio of siblings in Minnesota politics, the DFL clan from the Iron Range that included George Perpich and the late Rudy Perpich, Minnesota's longest-serving governor.
The upper Mississippi River between its headwaters in Itasca State Park and Bemidji in mid-June.

How the upper Mississippi goes from pristine to polluted

New MPCA report is the state's first comprehensive look at the entire upper Mississippi
Rev. Philip Jegede sued the local BBB for giving online seminary an “F” rating, which he says hurt business.

Columbia Heights seminary vows to continue clash with BBB

Defamation settlement is not enough, says seminary owner.
John Sorenson fished the Straight River in August as the mating dance of the hex mayflies drew brook trout to the surface. “It’s a treasure,” So

Dayton signs $500 million deal to protect rural waters

The highly anticipated state-federal deal will provide $350 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and $150 million in state funds.

Minnesota agency says police didn't discriminate in hauling mentally ill man to jail

State sides with police after Alexandria family alleges dad faced discrimination.
Orlan Sandro, an original member of the Lake Hendricks Improvement Association, on the northeast shore of Lake Hendricks in 2014. Local residents have

Waste flows downhill, and that's what worries folks in Hendricks, Minn.

The people of Hendricks, Minn., thought they had won the feedlot war two years ago when they sued to stop a mega-dairy slated for a…
In this file photo, a drill rig digging for Twin Metals was working in the woods near Ely, Minn.

Feds block copper-nickel mine near BWCA

In a major victory for environmentalists, the federal government said it will not renew the expired mineral leases of Twin Metals Minnesota, saying its proposed copper-nickel mine near Ely poses too great a risk of contaminating the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
This is the Minntac taconite mine in Mountain Iron, Minn.

Environmental groups drop suit vs. MPCA over Minntac's long-expired water permit

Environmentalists said they are satisfied by new steps to regulate Minnesota plants.

Stillwater financial adviser gets six years for ripping off clients

Levi Lindemann stole $1.9 million from clients, including friends and relatives.
FILE - In this Nov. 25, 2014 file photo, police officers watch protesters as smoke fills the streets in Ferguson, Mo., after the fatal police shooting

Prosecutions in U.S. police shootings rise, convictions remain rare

Convicting police officers of murder or manslaughter in fatal on-duty shootings is difficult.
Database of deaths after police use of force in Minnesota since 2000

Database of deaths after police use of force in Minnesota since 2000

More than 140 people have died in forceful encounters with law enforcement in Minnesota since 2000.
Cecil in Hwange National Park, in Hwange, Zimbabwe, in an undated photo.

Zimbabwe court drops charges against professional hunter in Cecil the lion case

Theo Bronkhorst helped Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer track the lion.
I voted stickers were placed at the Minnesota Suffrage memorial at the State Capitol on election night Tuesday October 08, 2016 in St. Paul, MN.

Minnesota likely No. 1 again in voter turnout

Voter turnout dropped in Minnesota, yet it was strong enough that the state has likely regained its No. 1 spot.About 74 percent of eligible voters…
In June, Burnsville police held a tarp around the body as BCA investigators and medical examiners investigated a shooting that occured in a McDonald's

Family of mentally ill man killed by Burnsville police sues city

A grand jury decided the deadly force was justified; Kong's family says he posed no threat.
An arbitrator has decided the city of Minneapolis was wrong to fire Minneapolis police officer Blayne Lehner earlier this year for using excessive for

Arbitrator orders Minneapolis to rehire fired police officer

Blayne Lehner to get an unpaid suspension of 40 hours over use of force.
Are Minnesota cops in more danger now than in the past?

Are Minnesota cops in more danger now than in the past?

A look at 35 years of data on assaults and killings of police officers in Minnesota shows the answer isn't exactly clear.
Jazmine Hawkins, left, worked with Victoria Moorhead and Jason Coleman on a construction class project at Summit Academy OIC. Hawkins is looking to he

Minnesota minority households get left out of the income boom

Racial earnings gap persists, but some see signs of progress.
Flowers were left at the foot of the driveway at the home of Patty and Jerry Wetterling in St. Joseph, Minn., Saturday morning.

St. Joseph grieves for Jacob and his family

In the Wetterlings' hometown, their neighbors expressed sadness and relief.

2016: Citing victims' wishes, cost, agencies aren't rushing to test old rape kits

Minnesota's approach contrasts sharply with states such as Ohio, whose attorney general pushed to ship all old rape kits for analysis. More than 500 defendants have been indicted as a result.
Philando Castile, 32, a school cook from St. Paul, was killed by a St. Anthony police officer during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights last week.

Officers who pulled over Castile not zealous traffic enforcers

The traffic ticket data are incomplete but don't signal extreme racial profiling.
Philando Castile was fatally shot by police July 6 during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights.

Officer who shot Castile helped book him in jail after 2011 stop

Officer Jeronimo Yanez was also one of the two officers assigned to work the July 2 armed robbery of a Lauderdale convenience store.
“They showed great restraint because they did not shoot me,” says Robert Wood who is showing how he held his pellet gun. He is locked up at the Ra

Mentally ill man gets 8 years for standoff that injured cop

His lawyer sought care over jail, but judge said accountability needed.
Jim Glennon taught a course called “Finding the Leader in You” on Wednesday at the University of St. Thomas. Glennon co-taught the training Jeroni

Officer who shot Castile went to 'Bulletproof Warrior' training

Critics say "survival" seminar fosters paranoid mind-set, but firm defends approach as balanced.
BCA investigators conferred at the scene of the police shooting in Falcon Heights early Thursday morning.

BCA: Squad video in Castile case won't be released yet

Citing active investigation, St. Anthony won't make squad car evidence public.

Grand jury clears Roseville officers in February shooting

John Birkeland, who had a history of mental illness and had stabbed a police dog, was fatally shot in February.

Fatal encounters with police in Minnesota since 2000

Fireworks explode over the Carver County Fairgrounds as part of the Taste of Minnesota celebration in Waconia on Thursday, July 2, 2015.

Fireworks injuries in Minnesota last year were highest in a decade

The number of emergency room visits, mostly from young people, especially men, have been increasing in recent years.
Jerry Seppala of Wayzata indicted on fraud.

Wayzata man resigns from Chisholm film venture amid fraud charges

Jerry Seppala resigned from Ironbound Studios Minnesota after a federal grand jury indicted him and two California men for allegedly cheating investors out of $12 million meant to finance movies. The indictment makes no mention of the Iron Range film studio space.

Wayzata man among 3 charged in $12M movie investing scheme

The man behind one of Minnesota's largest film studios and two California men have been indicted after the FBI said they bilked investors out of $12 million that was supposed to finance movies.

If you're poor, you'll pay more for car insurance, study finds

Minneapolis is included in consumer group's report.
Burnsville police officers held a tarp around the body of Map Kong after the March 17 shooting in a McDonald’s parking lot.

Bodycam video shows Burnsville officers fatally shooting man with knife

3 officers who killed man with a knife were cleared.
Rev. Philip Jegede is suing the local Better Business Bureau for giving his online seminary an "F" rating, which he said is seriously hurting the semi

Reverend sues BBB over seminary's F rating

Group says it's doing its job, but Philip Jegede says it's bias.
Beckie O’Connor visited her son Jeff’s grave at Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis. She said she thinks her son would be alive had police handed the

Police being forced to front lines of growing mental health crisis

At a time when police are facing intense scrutiny over the use of force, more law enforcement officials agree with Beckie O'Connor that officers need more training. Yet no one is taking charge.

How we counted police-involved deaths

Shortcomings in public data have obscured a full accounting of the cases.
“They showed great restraint because they did not shoot me,” says Robert Wood who is showing how he held his pellet gun. He is locked up at the Ra

Scars of a standoff in St. Paul: He's now fighting to rebuild his life

During a suicidal episode last year that warped into a standoff, Robert Wood seriously injured a St. Paul police officer by shooting him in the face with an air rifle. But St. Paul officers didn't kill him.
Sgt. Joe Adams of the Roseville Police put on his uniform to start his 6PM to 6AM shift. He found himself in an intractable position of having to neut

Part 1: Police being forced to front lines of mental health crisis

A Roseville officer walks into the unknown every night. Twice, when the calls came, he fired his weapon.
Harrowing video shows Columbia Heights police killing of Kirvelay

Harrowing video shows Columbia Heights police killing of Kirvelay

Footage shows failed efforts to get Kirvelay to respond to commands.
Retired Teamsters workers rallied at the State Capitol in St. Paul in March.

Teamsters pension fund to Congress: We need your help

With the retirements of 407,000 people on the line, the Teamsters' Central States Pension Fund is appealing to Congress to help solve its dire financial predicament.
Teamsters Union retirees rallied in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., in April to protest proposed pension cuts.

U.S. Treasury rejects cuts to the Teamsters' pension fund

The U.S. Treasury Department has rejected the deep retirement cuts sought by the ailing Teamsters Central States Pension Fund. The decision is a relief to thousands of retirees, who stood to see pension checks slashed.
Prince presented an award at the 72nd Annual Golden Globe Awards on Jan. 11, 2015, at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Pill discovery keeps spotlight on role of drugs in Prince's death

The discovery of prescription pills at Paisley Park follows new details about the emergency landing made by Prince's jet in Moline, Ill.
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