Now it gets interesting … again. At the Strib, Jennifer Bjorhus and David Phelps report: “BMO Harris Bank, as current owner of M&I Bank, was accused Wednesday of “aiding and abetting” the $3.65 billion Ponzi scheme of former Wayzata businessman Tom Petters. In a lawsuit brought by Petters bankruptcy trustee Doug Kelley, attorneys accuse the former Milwaukee-based M&I Bank of turning a blind eye to the source of funds flowing in and out of the principal bank account used by Petters Companies Inc. (PCI) to finance the fraud for more than five years. The bank had knowledge of the fraud, they argue, and was complicit in it. … The lawsuit, filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in St. Paul, states that from 2003 until 2008, when the Ponzi scheme collapsed, more than $35 billion was deposited into the M&I account controlled by PCI. None of it, however, came from the retailers Petters was supposedly doing business with.” What do you think might change if the public took as much interest in this stuff as sex scandals?
St. Paul is now in synch with Minneapolis on retention of traffic-tracking data. At the Strib, Eric Roper writes: “How long agencies hold onto this data has become a hot-button issue in law enforcement circles, and is the subject of an ongoing state-level discussion about possible legislative limits. St. Paul cops are retaining the public location data on vehicles in the area for 90 days, after initially storing it for only 14. The change was spotted by Public Record Media, an organization that frequently files open records requests and posts the documents online. The policy was revised on Oct. 29.”
It had been a while since I had given much thought to how the state handles methadone treatment. But Brandon Stahl at the Duluth News Tribune says: “A hearing in St. Paul has been tentatively set for Dec. 6 for members of Minnesota’s House and Senate to gather information on whether methadone treatment needs tighter regulation in the state. The hearing will come after two Carlton County residents were killed by a driver who allegedly was high on methadone and after concerns about the use of methadone as a treatment for drug addiction were highlighted in a News Tribune series. … Among the News Tribune’s findings, published in a series that began running in mid-September:
• Since 2001, 392 people have died from methadone overdoses in the state (though some of those deaths are from people who took the pill form of the drug, which is used to treat pain).
• Use of methadone treatment has increased 60 percent since 2007.
• Some methadone patients sell their prescribed doses on the streets.
• Five percent of patients successfully complete methadone treatment in Minnesota.”
Yeah, a lifestyle restructuring might be a good idea. Lots of tongue waggling over Jim Buchta’s Strib piece on singer Lorie Line’s financial issues: “Pianist Lorie Line, known for her grand holiday concerts, is now facing foreclosure on the sprawling Mediterranean-style house that she and her husband, Tim, built on Lake Minnetonka. Documents filed with Hennepin County say the couple owe more than $2 million on the glitzy 9,100-square-foot house, which was mortgaged for $2 million in 2005 but is now headed toward the sheriff’s sale. … In an interview with the Star Tribune earlier this month, Line said she and Tim were looking for a smaller home now that their two children are grown. ‘It’s a good time to sell. I see myself living in a simpler way,’ she said.” … Although perhaps not by choice.
So how much exactly is a duck-shaped potato worth on the open market? Stribber Alejandro Matos writes: “Gardener Danny Haataja has grown some oddly shaped vegetables before, but nothing like the potato that he will put on eBay for $100 on Thursday. ‘I’ve never grown a potato that looks like a duck before,’ 52-year-old Haataja said. ‘I wiped the dirt off, and it even has an eye in the right spot’. Haataja, of Menahga, Minn., plucked the Yellow Finn spud from his home garden and was ready to eat it, but his nephew suggested they sell it. After all, there is a market for this kind of thing. The duck-potato will join a heart-shaped potato (starting bid $1.99) and a ‘happy face on toasted toast croissant’ ($50) currently on sale on eBay.” I’ll take out a second mortgage for a turnip that looks like Denny Hecker.
A security upgrade for the Capitol? The AP is saying: “A committee charged with recommending security upgrades for the 17-building Minnesota Capitol complex expects to review a preliminary report next month and approve it by mid-January. The report will include recommendations about staffing levels for security personnel and physical changes to the Capitol complex intended to minimize threats.” Just to be clear, these are threats to legislators from the public, not the other way around, right?
At MPR, Tim Nelson offers a bit more on those Vikings stadium seat licenses: “It’s not clear what these seat licenses will cost. Ramsey County estimated them at $125 million when it was pitching the stadium site for Arden Hills. There are 16 NFL teams that have similar programs. The most recent example is the San Francisco 49ers. They sold them for the stadium they built in Santa Clara, and some of their seats come with an $80,000 price tag. In Dallas, they ran as much as six figures. … Based on what Vikings officials have said in the past, the licenses in Minneapolis are likely to be a lot less expensive. ‘There’s only six NFL teams that have done just a traditional PSL program. Of those six teams, the average is $50 million,’ Vikings CFO Steve Poppen said in a state Senate hearing last December. ‘There’s this perception that PSLs are going to pay for $300 million of a project. And we don’t think that’s the case. Again, we’re trying to figure out what that is. But again, the average is about $50 million for mid-market communities that do not have anything to do with relocation or expansion’ .”
Also at MPR, Dave Peters has a piece on the latest Blandin Foundation grants: “Blandin today announced the selection of nine more communities it will work with in the coming two years, part of a plan to spend $1.5 million of its own money to accomplish similar results.
The nine recipients of the project are:
• Fond du Lac Band of Chippewa
• Itasca Economic Development Corporation
• Kanabec County
• Lake County
• Southwest Minnesota Broadband Services
• Lake of the Woods County Economic Development Agency
• Lac qui Parle Valley School District
• Mille Lacs County
• Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe
The nine vary in how available high-speed Internet access is for residents and they vary in how ‘ready’ residents are to make use of the Internet in education, government services, health care and communication. Residents in Lake and Lac qui Parle counties, for example, and in the Jackson County area served by Southwest Minnesota Broadband Services, are going to benefit from fiber connections that federal stimulus money is paying for.” Those would be fiber connections from that “failed stimulus” we used to hear so much about.
Speaking of ex-car dealers … Emily Gurnon of the PiPress writes: “The former owner of Forest Lake Ford has been sentenced to nearly four years in prison for writing bad checks to the tune of $92,000. John David Berken Jr., 44, of Columbus, tried to withdraw his guilty plea at the Wednesday, Nov. 14, sentencing before Ramsey County District Judge Gregg Johnson. Johnson denied the request and continued with the sentencing. ‘This defendant — he doesn’t seem to get it’, said prosecutor John Ristad. ‘He keeps breaking the law.’ Berken’s criminal history goes back at least 20 years. It includes theft, check forgery and theft-by-swindle. The former firefighter also was convicted in March 2011 of setting a 2009 fire that burned 2,700 acres of the Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area in the north metro. And he was convicted in federal court in 1991 of threatening to blow up a local airport. … Ristad said he was told that, during one recent court appearance, Berken showed up wearing ‘a tailored suit and a Rolex watch.’ v” I think we’ve reached the point where merely wearing a Rolex is enough for presumption of guilt.