Soon it will pay off to blow the whistle in Minnesota

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

thompson.jpgFor three years, supporters of a state False Claims Act, an anti-fraud measure proven to save taxpayer money, failed to prevail at the Minnesota Legislature. This year, the whistleblowers got their law, as Whistleblower reported today. Perhaps it helped to have a local face and a big ticket payoff from a successful whistleblower lawsuit that originated in Minnesota.

Neil Thompson, the pharmacist turned lawyer turned whistleblower I wrote about last year, told me that if a state False Claims Act were in place at the time, Minnesota taxpayers could have gained another $270,000 from the Medicaid overbilling lawsuit he and fellow Minneapolis pharmacist Dan Bieurance filed against Walgreens. On Wednesday, Thompson sounded less than enthused about the law Minnesota ended up with, after months of committee hearings, compromises and an intra-DFL dustup between attorney-lawmakers and attorneys general past and present. Still, Thompson said it’s a building block for what he hopes will be amended into a tougher measure in the future. “At least we got it,” he said.

The poisoned trail to a courtroom in Montana wound through Minneapolis

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

picketfence.jpgFive former mine executives for W.R. Grace & Co. went on trial this week for the asbestos contamination of Libby, Montana, one of the nation’s most notorious environmental disasters, the New York Times reports. The company’s mining of vermiculite wafted asbestos over the town, and at least 200 deaths and thousands of illnesses were blamed on the decades of contamination, the Times reports. Prosecutors allege that the company knew the dust enveloping the town was toxic, but denied it for years. Like 22 other states, Minnesota imported vermiculite from Libby and now has its own chapter of the debacle. This one is around the site of the former Western Mineral Products/W.R. Grace plant in northeast Minneapolis.


Abuses prompt Liberia to halt adoptions

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

Last year, a BBC report on abuses in foreign adoptions of Liberian children named an Eden Prairie-based organization that operates an orphanage and school in Liberia and arranges adoptions by American parents. My colleague David Shaffer picked up on the story and reported Jan. 14 that the West African nation had temporarily halted adoptions by that agency, the West African Children Support Network (WACSN). As Dave wrote, “International adoptions have flourished in Liberia since its 13-year civil war ended in 2003, but the country has faced international criticism for child trafficking and fraudulent adoptions.”

On Monday, in her Annual Message to the National Legislature in Monrovia, the Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf announced the suspension of U.S. adoptions by any agency because the system had “gone amok.” Here are more details from her speech:


City skullduggery in small-town Minnesota

Friday, January 2nd, 2009

Something is rotten in the city of Lewiston (pop. 1,500). In this burg, located in the bluff country of southeastern Minnesota, just west of Winona, someone is stealing money, drugs and documents from the police department, while a bunch of public records, not to mention $50,000, has apparently disappeared from City Hall, the Winona Daily News reports. The story also notes that records of city meetings are among those destroyed, from as recently as three years ago. Now why would someone want to erase the official record of the actions of public officials?

There’s no mention of the thefts on the city of Lewiston web site, but the it notes that there’s only one-time full-time police employee, presumably the chief, David Kleinschmidt.