Catching up with 2013 Whistleblowers

  • Article by: ALEJANDRA MATOS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 28, 2013 - 5:13 PM
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Laura Guthery with a portion of the incorrect cabinets taking up space in her Bloomington garage.

Photo: GLEN STUBBE • gstubbe@startribune.com,

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Earlier this month, Whistleblower reported how the contractor behind Laura Guthery’s botched kitchen remodel now faces a misdemeanor charge of practicing without a license. One of the contractors who tried to come to her rescue had some troubles of his own.

When the Tom Barnard KQ Morning Show interviewed Guthery after reading the Whistleblower story, at least six contractors reached out to help.

One was a man from Big Lake, with whom Guthery said she exchanged phone calls and e-mails. He was set to come see her kitchen when a letter arrived at Guthery’s office.

“Please be careful who you hire. For you[sic] own safety as well as the type of businesses that you support,” the letter said. Included were copies of the man’s criminal history. He had been convicted of 4th-degree criminal sexual conduct with a mentally impaired victim and was arrested earlier this month and charged with domestic assault.

“I called the contractor and said that my fiancé was going to do the work for me,” Guthery said. “I didn’t want him coming into my home.”

She said the experience was a strong reminder to do a background check on companies and their owners.

“I would have looked him up eventually, but thankfully someone sent that letter to me,” Guthery said. After she hired a number of reputable tradespeople, Guthery’s kitchen is almost finished.

Lawsuits after explosion

Despite losing in conciliation court, Necole Berglund has not given up hope that CenterPoint Energy will pay for the replacement of her scorched Pontiac Grand Am.

In February, Whistleblower described how Berglund’s Pontiac was among two dozen vehicles damaged in the explosion of an underground gas line near 60th Street and Nicollet Avenue S. in Minneapolis.

Berglund was hoping to get CenterPoint to pay her deductible, the cost of her new car and the difference between the value of her old car and what her insurance company paid out. But her claim was caught in finger-pointing between the city of Minneapolis and CenterPoint.

The city sued CenterPoint in March, claiming the company was negligent in maintaining and repairing the pipe. CenterPoint countersued Minneapolis, claiming the city failed to maintain sewage and water lines, which it said created a washout that damaged the gas line. A pretrial hearing is scheduled for April 2014.

Berglund is hopeful that she will still get some compensation. Whatever happens, the financial strain of the explosion will soon get a little easier.

“I’ll be done paying for my car in April after three years,” Berglund said.

Possible foreclosure relief

Ice Demmings is a step closer to staying in his home for good. Last week, Bank of America decided to reinstate the loan modification that it had offered on Demmings’ St. Paul home back in 2010.

The bank admitted it made a mistake when it told him to pay less than what he actually owed for more than a year. But the bank proceeded to threaten foreclosure, leaving Demmings in limbo and wrecking his finances. When Whistleblower first contacted the bank in October, Bank of America offered a temporary loan modification that would require Demmings to make a $743 payment for three months and then get a permanent loan modification.

Carl Christensen, Demmings’ attorney, said they refused that offer.

“We weren’t comfortable with a temporary loan modification that did not offer a permanent solution or did not explain what that would be,” Christensen said.

Jumana Bauwens, a spokeswoman with Bank of America, said Monday that its “attorney contacted the borrower’s attorney today and offered to reinstate the previous loan modification.”

Whether that offer resolves the three-year conflict, Christensen said he could not comment.

Feds looking into policy

The U.S. Department of Education is raising concerns about how the Minnesota State High School League’s transfer policy affects student athletes who have mental health or learning disabilities, according to an attorney who represents students and parents in the proceedings.

Whistleblower reported earlier this month how some parents have had to hire a lawyer to enable their children to play varsity sports after they transfer to new high schools. The league said it does not discriminate against students with disabilities, but its policy generally prevents students who transfer from playing varsity sports at their new school for a year.

The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights asked Andrea Jepsen, with the School Law Center in St. Paul, to send a memo detailing why she believed the policy was in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Minnesota Section 504.

“OCR expressed concern over the league’s approach to handling reasonable modification requests for kids with disabilities,” Jepsen said.

The Office of Civil Rights declined to comment to Whistleblower.

Meanwhile, Jepsen said the league reached a decision on two cases within the past two weeks. One student was allowed to join a varsity dance team because “the judge found that there were special or unusual circumstances that warranted an exception to the transfer rule,” Jepsen said.

The other student, who has neuropsychological disabilities, was denied his request to play varsity sports at his new school, Jepsen said.

 

Alejandra Matos • 612-673-4028 alejandra.matos@startribune.com

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