Bank failure doesn’t take the pressure off troubled senior co-op in Edina

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

pa020214.JPGLast week, my colleague Chris Serres’ reported on the collapse of BankFirst, the 55th bank failure in the nation this year, blamed on risky real estate loans in urban areas. That’s a good description of the financing deal that has left a luxury senior housing cooperative, the Gramercy Club of Edina, in foreclosure limbo. Last year, I described how BankFirst was suing each resident individually as part of its effort to foreclose on the co-op’s owner. In February, that owner declared bankruptcy.

This week, I checked in with Jim Campbell, a co-op resident who has taken a leadership role in the residents’ effort to stay in their homes. Campbell told me the co-op is still in real estate paralysis, unable to sell any of its vacant units, although five of them have been rented out. The bankruptcy of the co-op developer delayed the foreclosure proceedings for months. But it isn’t over. Even the government shut-down of the lead creditor can’t stop it – the debt on the $25 million loan still exists, and it’s actually parceled out among 30 or so entities, he said.

His side of the lawsuit was required to submit comments to the judge earlier this week. “I have no idea as to whether the other side [BankFirst] even exists enough to put in any comments,” he said.


Weekend roundup: guardian reforms now law, a deeper look at credit card overhaul, tougher penalties for swampin’ ATVs

Monday, May 25th, 2009

Lawmakers in St. Paul and Washington have given Whistleblower and my colleagues plenty to consider over the Memorial Day weekend. My Sunday column noted that the reforms to guardianships and conservatorships in Minnesota, passed in the last days of the legislative session, are now law. Meanwhile, closer to the action in Washington, colleague Kevin Diaz offers a deeper look at the new credit card law that I have blogged about, including how it might raise fees on people who pay off their balance each month.

Also this weekend, my colleague David Shaffer described how lawmakers have toughened penalties for ripping up wetlands with ATVs, a practice described in mud-splattering detail in last year’s Renegade Riders series that was produced by Shaffer, Tom Meersman, Brian Peterson and Glenn Howatt.

Bill tightening oversight of guardians, conservators on its way to governor’s desk

Monday, May 18th, 2009

For the first time, professional guardians and conservators would have to register with the state courts. Wards and protected people would have a “bill of rights” that defines their liberties while under the authority of a court-appointed professional, and they would have more opportunity to speak out against the actions and decisions of those professionals. Those are some of the main features of a bill overwhelmingly approved by the Minnesota Legislature in its waning days. As an example of how little regulation currently exists, the bill for the first time defines a professional guardian and conservator:

“Professional guardian” or “professional conservator” means a person acting as guardian or conservator for three or more individuals not related by blood, adoption, or marriage.

After lobbying hard for the bill, reform advocates hope the changes will bring more professionalism to a lightly regulated activity and help hold guardians and conservators accountable for abuses of vulnerable people that happen under their watch. Read my previous posts on the subject here and here.

The House approved the conference report 127-7 on Sunday. The Senate approved it 56-4 today. Now it goes to Gov. Tim Pawlenty for his signature.

Guardian reform bills advance in the Legislature as time runs short

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

This afternoon the state Senate passed a bill on a voice vote that would restrict the power of professional guardians and conservators by requiring them to register with the state and to obtain certification. These court-appointed officials exercise sweeping powers over individuals deemed incapacitated by a judge, but there are no educational or professional requirements to become one. The reforms passed by the Senate are part of a broader bill that would also establish a bill of rights for wards and protected persons. The state House unanimously passed a guardian reform bill last week, but it omitted the certification and registration requirements.

Now reform advocates hope that a conference committee can, sometime before Monday, reconcile the more far-reaching Senate bill, championed by Sen. Mee Moua, with the House bill, sponsored by Rep. Paul Thissen, said Kathy Kelso, public policy director with the Mental Health Association of Minnesota.