Whistleblower: Catching up

  • Article by: JANE FRIEDMANN and MARY LYNN SMITH , Star Tribune staff writers
  • Updated: December 24, 2011 - 9:26 PM

At year's end, we contacted some of the people we wrote about in 2011 to see whether their issues were resolved.


Byrl Johnson’s insurance expired before surgery necessary to fit new dentures. A dentist and clinic that made the dentures donated services.

Photo: Richard Sennott, Star Tribune

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Toothless man has a reason to smile again

Byrl Johnson of Cannon Falls was scheduled to get bone chips removed from his toothless mouth when he was notified in April that MinnesotaCare, a state insurance program for the working poor, stopped covering him the month he turned 65.

That was three days before the scheduled surgery that he needed to have dentures that fit.

Whistleblower wrote about his predicament in June. A reporter contacted the dentist who would have performed the surgery, Dr. James Midtling of St. Paul, who offered to work for free. The Smile Center, a St. Paul dental clinic, fitted Johnson with new dentures in September, also at no cost.

"Everything came together and so I'm happy," Johnson said.


Car she bought is repossessed, woman repaid

Though Kimberly Lovett is now motoring around town in a 1985 Delta 88 Royale Brougham, she really wishes she was in the 2002 Ford Taurus she paid $1,000 for in November 2010.

It turned out the car was reported as stolen after Auto Mart, the Minneapolis dealer from which Lovett bought the car, repossessed it from a previous owner.

"It was a good deal. ... I should have known it was too good to be true," Lovett lamented.

In January, Whistleblower wrote about Lovett's attempts to get the $1,000 back from the dealer. She has since been paid, but is still out the almost $500 she shelled out for repairs.

"I'm moving on," Lovett said. She's just completed a dental assistant program and is preparing for her national boards and state licensing exam.


Family is paid for exploding nightlight

Nine months after a nightlight exploded into flames in their 3-year-old son's bedroom, a Vadnais Heights family finally was compensated for the damage caused by the defective light.

Rebecca Modert, a mother of two, was led to believe the company planned to compensate her for the damage caused by the AmerTac light that was later recalled. But after months of wrangling with the company, she was told there would be no check in the mail. Company officials changed their minds soon after Whistleblower tried numerous times to contact the company about the case.

Eventually, Modert received a $1,530.79 check to pay for damage to the walls, carpet, toys and books.

Although she was happy to finally get the check, Modert said her main concern was getting the dangerous product off of store shelves. "I was more concerned what would happen to someone else if [a defective light] caught curtains or a comforter on fire," she said.


Customer to be repaid for meter mix-up

Three months after Whistleblower wrote about an Eden Prairie woman's fight to be reimbursed for years of overpayments to Xcel Energy, the Public Utilities Commission granted her request this month for full payment.

This summer, Terry Pearson, and her twin-home neighbor Dick Lux discovered that Xcel had transposed their meter numbers and had likely been billing them for each other's usage since 1997.

State law limits reimbursement to three years of overpayments, plus interest -- in her case $1,049.10.

Her account was credited for the three years, but Pearson pushed for the rest of the money, estimated to be more than $3,000.

In December, with the support of Xcel, she brought her case to the Public Utilities Commission, the body that sets the rules on reimbursement.

The commission granted a variance that allows Xcel to fully reimburse Pearson.

"I got exactly what I wanted," Pearson said, and attributed her success to a "multifaceted approach" that involved contacting several agencies and the Star Tribune.

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