The Whistleblower blog has moved

Monday, August 31st, 2009

The Star Tribune is still blowing the whistle, but our look and location have changed. Click here to get to the new blog. If you want the actual URL, it’s www.startribune.com/blogs/whistleblower.html. Our blog posts will now be easier to search on the web site, but you’ll need to register to post a comment. In the past, you’ve just had to provide a phony name and email address.

Your news tips keep rolling in as Whistleblower’s mission expands

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

The widely-read story today of the state’s $25,000 fine slapped on the Anoka-Hennepin schools for two teachers’ homophobic taunting of a student was a joint effort by Whistleblower researcher and reporter Jane Friedmann and Anoka County reporter Paul Levy. It’s also part of the Whistleblower team’s expanded mission: to report on how government agencies punish or penalize wrongdoing or misconduct. These enforcement actions deal with the same kinds of subjects we hear about every day at Whistleblower, thanks to your calls, emails and letters. I often tell the tipsters that yes, the government does have an agency with the power to do something about whatever gripe it is. The enforcers are often ones that you don’t hear much about, such as, in the Anoka-Hennepin schools story, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. Often we hear from people disappointed with the response from the official watchdogs – so Whistleblower needs to report when they do respond, not just when they don’t.

At the same time, Whistleblower is staying on task with our original mission: investigating and reporting on your complaints about ripoffs, injustices and other problems. Those are rolling in faster than ever. More than 200 came in last month alone. Sometimes it takes us a while to get to them – the tip that led to Whistleblower reporter Lora Pabst’s story last week about a troubled housing complex in Maple Grove originated with an email to Whistleblower in February. While we’re trying to respond to queries as they come, we’re also going back and contacting those that slipped by us over the past year. That’s why you may get an email or letter out of the blue, months after you asked us to investigate your complaint. There’s no way we can follow up on every tip, but we value each one. Keep them coming.

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.


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.