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.
The Star Tribune's journalists need your help blowing the whistle in Minnesota. Contact us here.
After being fired from a doctor’s office last year, Jolene O’Donnell has suffered another legal setback in her effort to get unemployment benefits. The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that O’Donnell was ineligible for benefits because her phone call to state insurance regulators amounted to employee misconduct.
I told the story last September of how O’Donnell lost her medical billing job at Hennepin Faculty Associates because she had called the Department of Commerce to try to resolve a dispute with an insurance company. Her supervisors worried that the call might damage the office’s relationship with the insurer, Medica. But O’Donnell said her firing violated the state’s whistleblower law.
The law as written when O'Donnell was fired says that a single violation that doesn't have a "significant adverse impact" on the employer isn't employee misconduct. There's no evidence that O'Donnell's phone call to commerce ever damaged Hennepin Faculty Associates' relationship with Medica. But the appeals court ruled that O'Donnell's action made her supervisors believe she would do it again, and that's a significant adverse impact.
The court also notes that lawmakers have since rewritten that part of the law to remove the "adverse impact" language. Now it has much more employer-friendly language: "If the conduct for which the applicant was discharged involved only a single incident, that is an important fact that must be considered in deciding whether the conduct rises to the level of employment misconduct..."
O’Donnell said she’s “devastated” by the ruling.
Longtime Whistleblower readers will know that I have a passion for history. That's what prompted me to collaborate with McKenna Ewen of Ewen Media to put together a digital history project on the murder of a Minneapolis journalist, Arthur Kasherman, in 1945. A brief introduction to the case and video are on startribune.com, while rubbedout.net gives you the full story, archival photos, original documents and more about the life and death of a forgotten Whistleblower.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and Fibrominn, a Benson power plant, recently reached an agreement to resolve the company's alleged air-quality and permit violations, the agency announced December 21st. Alleged violations occurring since 2007, including excess emissions of nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide, resulted in a $65,000 penalty.
Fibrominn, which burns primarily turkey litter to generate electricity, agreed to take corrective action including the installation of a sulfur dioxide monitor. They also have submitted plans for testing to keep the facility in legal compliance.
Read this and other MPCA news releases here.
A St. Paul couple renovated their Highland Park home in an attempt to eliminate the need for private mortgage insurance (PMI), something required of mortgagees who don’t have enough equity in their home. They missed the mark by $8,000. Here’s how it all added up:
The license of a Brown County Emergency Medical Technician (EMT-B), Kari Reinhart, was revoked after she was convicted in May 2009 of arson and Driving While Impaired (DWI).
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