Complaint sagas

Minneapolis park board to take up tribute and memorial program tonight

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board will get an update this evening on its fundraising foundation’s revamped program for people who want to endow benches, trees, picnic tables, bicycle racks and gardens. The meeting comes nine days after my story about how one memorial bench donor, former park commissioner Vivian Mason, decided not to renew her commitment for another five years because of the sharply rising prices and tight deadline for doing so.

Mason had hoped to tell the park board directly about her complaints tonight, but it was still unclear Tuesday whether she would be able to do so. She had planned to do it during the public comment period, but once that became an agenda item – with a presentation from Cecily Hines of the Foundation for Minneapolis Parks – park board rules don’t allow commentary on agenda items during the “open time” portion, said Dawn Sommers, the park board spokeswoman. Mason got a phone call from a park board staff member informing her that she wouldn’t be allowed to speak as a result.

Sommers said the board, which approved the program in February, was revisiting it because “there have just been a number of questions of late.” You can watch the meeting live, starting at 5 p.m., on the city of Minneapolis webcast.

A family’s asbestos ordeal in south Minneapolis, and teachers seek back wages from closed school in St. Paul: Whistleblower weekend roundup

Monday, July 13th, 2009

sherene.jpgSherene O’Hern, shown above in haz mat attire, didn’t want to take any chances when she went back to her apartment in south Minneapolis in May. Read more about how her family fled a botched asbestos removal project in my Sunday story. Also, Whistleblower reporter Lora Pabst reported how the workers at a now-closed private school in St. Paul’s mansion district are on their own in seeking back wages – the Department of Labor and Industry’s labor and standards division doesn’t have the personnel to go after every employer who stiffs employees. Four investigators look into 20,000 to 25,000 unpaid wage complaints every year. So even as our volume of story tips goes up every week, Whistleblower has no excuse for failing to return your emails or phone calls!

The mystery of the missing tax returns – resolved, but unsolved

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

Rick Carlson of Lakeville is still bruised from his six-month tussle with the Minnesota tax people. But he can finally put his 2006 tax year behind him, after Whistleblower’s fax machine succeeded where previous efforts to file his return had failed. I told Carlson’s story this morning. I’ve already heard from one taxpayer who says the same thing happened to her, despite the assistant revenue commissioner’s claim that Carlson’s problem was an isolated one.

Bank fees torment an identity theft victim, and park board tributes have a time limit: Whistleblower weekend roundup

Monday, July 6th, 2009

Katie Trottier of Minneapolis turned to Whistleblower when she couldn’t persuade U.S. Bank to forgive overdraft fees charged to her after a thief drained her checking account. Whistleblower reporter Lora Pabst described the bank’s change of heart when confronted with the facts. In the Sunday Whistleblower column, I described how Vivian Mason, a Minneapolis park commissioner from 1997 until 2005, was taken aback when she learned that memorials aren’t forever in the City of Lakes parklands. Her endowment of a bench in memory of her late husband Jack came with a time limit, and the cost of renewal was rising 150 percent, as part of a new plan to use the tributes to cover the park board’s maintenance costs and to raise money for the park system’s foundation. Whistleblower will check back in with Mason to see if the bench by Cedar Lake gets a new benefactor.