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.
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In Sunday's column, I wrote about a Burnsville couple who received a startling letter from the state Department of Revenue this summer. Jerry Blaschko was personally assessed for a tax debt owed by a golf course where he had served as a volunteer board member 20 years ago. It was up to him to prove that he didn't have anything to do with the golf course and wasn't responsible for unpaid 2009 withholding taxes.
The Blaschkos contacted Whistleblower and state Senator Chris Gerlach to complain that the revenue department should have done some research before sending out the letter assessing personal liability. Their efforts paid off. Last Friday, they received a letter from the revenue department notifying them that Jerry Blaschko was no longer being personally assessed for the $8,574 debt.
To read the state law that allows the revenue department to go after individuals for an unpaid business debt, click here.
Most people assume that juvenile court records are private, but that's not always the case. Kyle Lewis recently found out that his juvenile record was mistakenly displayed on the state court website. I wrote about his situation in Saturday's paper.
State officials said Lewis' record should have been private because he was 15 at the time of his offense, but the law isn't always that clear. When an offender is 16 or 17 and charged with a felony, the record becomes public, even if the charge is later dropped to a misdemeanor. Mark Haase, who used to work with the Council on Crime and Justice, advocated for a change to the law last legislative session. Haase now works with 180 Degrees, which also focuses on issues affecting ex-offenders.
My Sunday column explored an eternal question, at least in public policy circles: what should the government do to ease the pain for merchants who lose business as the result of infrastructure projects? We all know the cost of ignoring our infrastructure, but governments face a real dilemma when businesses that depend on a street suddenly lose that street, if only for a few months. Here's more information on the city's Chicago Avenue reconstruation, as well as the Minnesota Department of Transportation's bridge project.
A Minneapolis man was disturbed when his grandchildren told him they had to turn over their Social Security numbers to get a fishing license. He called the state Department of Natural Resources, which told him that federal and state laws require it.
The DNR gives the numbers to the state Department of Human Services to assist in child support enforcement. Other state-authorized workers also could have access to Social Security numbers, the DNR’s website said.
"Others who may have access to your SSN include individuals whose work assignment require access and persons authorized by state or federal law or pursuant to a court order, or by your written consent," according to the website.
The grandfather was also told there are more than 1,000 places in the state that sell licenses.
“The state doesn’t have any jurisdiction over who these places hire,” he said. "They're able to see this information. They're able to copy it."
If the state has to use Social Security numbers, he suggests only using the last four digits.
Do you think this grandpa has a reason to be concerned?
A Farmington woman who wanted to claim her boyfriend as a dependent on her tax form was warned that she might be violating a state law against fornication, according to this report from Fox9's Tom Lyden. The state Department of Revenue eventually backed off its claim that her tax declaration was violating state law - but only because the tax people assumed that she and her boyfriend were having sex. Confirming that fact probably goes beyond the scope of your average tax audit.
The fornication law dates to 1967 and consists of one line:
"When any man and single woman have sexual intercourse with each other, each is guilty of fornication, which is a misdemeanor."
A misdemeanor carries a maximum of 90 days in jail.
Married women, by contrast, who have sex with men outside marriage are covered by the more extensive, and harsher, 1963-vintage adultery law:
When a married woman has sexual intercourse with a man other than her husband, whether married or not, both are guilty of adultery and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than one year or to payment of a fine of not more than $3,000, or both.
There's an insanity clause, and a one-year get-out-of-bed free provision:
No prosecution shall be commenced under this section except on complaint of the husband or the wife, except when such husband or wife is insane, nor after one year from the commission of the offense.
Finally, there's the "she wasn't wearing a ring" excuse:
It is a defense to violation of this section if the marital status of the woman was not known to the defendant at the time of the act of adultery.
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