How to blow the whistle

Critic of relinquished puppy tale wants to know: why is this a Whistleblower story?

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

Reader opinions are boiling over in the comments section of my story about Pat Bergstrom’s puppy, which she “relinquished” to her vet when she couldn’t afford the cost of care. A reader named Kenneth sent this e-mail in response.

“I don’t get it, what are the ‘whistleblower’ or ‘investigation’ aspects of this story?” he wrote.

It’s a question I hear often. Most Whistleblower tips come from people who feel they have experienced an injustice and don’t know where to turn to get results. In deciding whether to pursue a story, I look for several key elements, including whether the individual’s problem might address a broader issue. I recognize that the stories that are pitched by the tipster will always have another side and we make every effort to get all the sides of the story.


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!

How I made a door-to-door alarm salesman vanish. What do you do?

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

It was a sultry summer evening in south Minneapolis. I was helping my son and his friend from across the street look for bugs underneath rocks in my front yard. A young man with a stubbly beard walked up my steps and crossed my lawn.

“Is this your home?” he asked.

“Yes,” I answered, antennae twitching. I noticed his gray tennis shirt had a corporate logo on it, and that he held a binder in his hands.

“How long have you lived here?”

“Who are you?” I said. I’m sure he could almost taste the hostility in the air, but he kept smiling. He said he was selling alarm systems for Pinnacle Security and that in this neighborhood –

I cut him off. “Do you have a city solicitor license?”


Even if your contractor goes belly-up, state fund could help finish your home improvement project

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

My Sunday column used the experience of a Plymouth man who successfully sued his former contractor to explain how winning a judgment in conciliation court isn’t the same as collecting your debt. The comments on the story offer some advice from those who have experienced this little-noticed arena of the Minnesota court system.

After reading my column, Donald H. Walser, an attorney with Kraft Walser Hettig Honsey Kleiman in Hutchinson, Minn., alerted me to the Contractor Recovery Fund, a pot of state money that comes from fees paid by licensed contractors. Here’s how the state Department of Labor and Industry describes its purpose: