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.
In February, Lora Pabst - our erstwhile Whistleblower reporter - revealed the pattern of complaints in Minneapolis about Roto-Rooter's sales practices, which many homeowners said suggested big-ticket repairs that other plumbers thought completely unnecessary. The city was close to reaching an agreement with the company when the Minneapolis police fraud unit stepped in, Nicole Norfleet and Anthony Lonetree report. A local spokesman for the company says its employees have been retrained, but Roto-Rooter stands by its work.
Read the search warrant below:
Posted on behalf of my colleague Jane Friedmann:
Two Minneapolis landlords were banned from the business for five years after a vote by the City Council last week.
The ban on Tyrone and Leana Reese satisfies a law that prohibits licenses for landlords who have had two revocations in five years.
In 2010, the city revoked Tyrone Reese’s license for a property at 6015 Wentworth Av. S. after he was cited several times for allowing basement rooms to be used as bedrooms when there was either not enough headroom or no egress window.
In April the pair lost their license for a property at 3822 Lyndale Av. N. after failing to pay a number of citations. Because of the ban, the Reeses had two additional licenses revoked last week, for properties at 3113 Central Av. NE. and 310 31st St. E.
Find the full list of landlords with revoked licenses here. Read the city's findings of fact below:
Hennepin County’s top prosecutor says he’ll throw the book at illegitimate contractors who target victims of the May 22 tornado in north Minneapolis.
“Nothing offends me more than greedy, heartless con artists preying on people who are tired and desperate because their homes were ripped open by a tornado,” County Attorney Mike Freeman said in a statement.
So far, Freeman’s office hasn’t received any solid reports of post-disaster swindles. But here’s a common example: “fly-by-night” operators that pose as legitimate contractors but disappear with your down payment.
If you are the victim of a scam, contact your local police department — and let Whistleblower know about it, too.
Meanwhile, neighbors on the hard-hit block in the McKinley neighborhood are wondering what will happen to a former rental property deemed uninhabitable by the city even before the tornado. The house, at 3738 Dupont Av. N., is owned by Erik Laine, whose failure to pay water bills resulted in threats by the city to shut off his water. But the water wasn't turned off until after a pipe burst and flooded the house, resulting in an icy waterfall that I wrote about in January.
Laine came to Whistleblower's attention again this week, when my colleague Randy Furst learned that he was co-owner of a construction company seeking tornado repair business. In his story describing the backgrounds of four contractors, Furst reported how Laine is the subject of a lawsuit alleging unethical practices in his previous construction company. Laine denied the allegations.
Here's how 3738 Dupont looks after the storm. The frozen cascade melted long ago, but city water is flowing once again. This time, it's from a rupture under the street. No word on when that will be fixed. The tree pictured above is actually lying on the roof. Whistleblower will check back to see what happens to the place.
My colleague Dan Browning wrote in Sunday's column about unhappy investors in a Minneapolis coin company that is under investigation by the Minnesota attorney general. It's part of Browning's continuing investigation of the collectible coin business, an unregistered and unregulated investment scheme that features all sorts of unsavory characters.
The North Side of Minneapolis swarms with contractors looking for business repairing the damage of the May 22 tornado. My colleague Randy Furst is keeping an eye on them, and his story Monday reveals some notable details about four contractors seeking disaster jobs, as well as practical information for homeowners on how to avoid problems with storm-related repair projects.
In her Hard Data column, Jane Friedmann lists child care centers found responsible for maltreatment by the state Department of Human Services in the second half of 2010. The column has ignited a lively debate over the value of these enforcement records, which is a big part of the reason Jane digs them out, week after week.
|Crime (1)||Employment (1)|
|Whistleblower (440)||Home Improvement (4)|
|Advertising claims (66)||Businesses in hot water (300)|
|Buyer beware (183)||Civil liberties (19)|
|Complaint sagas (110)||Corruption (1)|
|Dangerous products (49)||Free speech (1)|
|Government spends your money (30)||How to blow the whistle (12)|
|Loopholes (10)||Neighborhood nuisances (36)|
|Polling problems (21)||Problems on the job (14)|
|Property problems (44)||Public records (37)|
|Scams (145)||Seniors (40)|
|Whistleblowers (22)||Discrimination (4)|