Wayzata-based investment group denies responsibility for Quebec train disaster

The key phrase may be “arm’s length relationship.” Steve Alexander of the Strib says: “Dakota Plains Holdings Inc., a Wayzata firm that has been sued over the July 6 oil train explosion that killed 47 people in Quebec, said Thursday that the allegations against it are baseless. Dakota Plains has an ownership stake in the New Town, N.D., railcar oil loading facility that was the point of origin for the train that caused the Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, disaster, which occurred after runaway tank cars derailed and exploded. Loaded in New Town, the train was transporting oil from North Dakota’s Williston Basin oil fields to a refinery in eastern Canada. ‘We believe lawsuit allegations are without merit, and we maintain sufficient insurance to protect the company,’ Dakota Plains CEO Craig McKenzie said Thursday … . McKenzie told analysts that the company has an arm’s-length relationship with the oil loading facility. It owns the land, and its joint venture partner, World Fuel Services, runs the facility and owns the oil being loaded into the railcars.

Since they didn’t know who was touting the unequivocal benefits of e-pulltabs, it isn’t surprising they also didn’t know about Zygi Wilf’s 21 year-old legal troubles. Still, Bob Collins at MPR asks: “Yesterday’s “statement” from Gov. Dayton’s office professing shock that Vikings owner Zygi Wilf had been involved in a civil racketeering suit filed by former business partners carries plenty of questions. That the governor had his office issue a statement instead of facing the media with what the Star Tribune today calls his ‘harsh critique’ allowed the governor to avoid an uncomfortable question: ‘Why didn’t you know?’ … Do Minnesota politicians not know how to use Google? Absent a proper background check, a simple Google alert would’ve alerted the leaders as recently as April 2012 that the Wilf’s New Jersey empire had been the target of a 21-year old lawsuit and a two-year-long trial. That’s two weeks before the Legislature passed the public financing portion of the stadium plan, a plan we now know hasn’t worked so far. By then the trial in New Jersey had been going on for 112 days.” But Bob, The Commissioner came all the way to Minnesota. The Commissioner! And our guys had their picture taken with him.

A rather pointed reader letter in the Strib today … Allen Wilson of Maplewood writes: “Now that the tide has gone out on the Vikings stadium deal, it is time to examine what has been exposed: …
2) In the New Jersey case, the Wilf organization reneged on a previous real-estate agreement because the individuals involved — according to Zygi Wilf in court testimony — got “too good” of a deal. Locally, the city of Blaine was stiffed for constructing improvements at a site several years ago where it was thought the stadium would be built. … 4) Foremost among local media, the Star Tribune has provided recklessly rah-rah, chamber of commerce/brotherhood, self-serving coverage on the stadium issue. The virtual noncoverage of the pending court case against the Wilfs in New Jersey is only the latest in a series of failures in this regard. The newspaper’s record in covering the story is a scandal in its own right.”

Tim Post’s MPR story on Washburn High School’s principal problems says: “The Minneapolis school district has removed a newly hired principal over accusations that he tampered with student test scores in a previous job. Patrick Exner had just started his job as Washburn High School Principal on Monday but was put on administrative leave after an anonymous email sent to district and state officials alleged he changed answers on student assessment tests last spring while working at a charter school in Hopkins. In a statement, Minneapolis Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson said Exner has been removed from his job and that the issues surrounding him had become a distraction. She did not say whether he’s been fired from the district.”

The GleanSo he was flying low while flying high? Paul Walsh in the Strib has the story of the buzzing ultra-light pilot:“The unscheduled air show occurred about 9 p.m. Thursday over the Minnesota Bluegrass & Old-Time Music Festival at El Rancho Mañana near Richmond, according to the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office. The pilot, a 28-year-old man from Biwabik, Minn., was arrested upon landing at a campground north of the stage. He’s now in jail on suspicion of flying high, or what legal authorities call operating an aircraft under the influence of alcohol. Festival executive director Jed Malischke was on the scene and said the overhead intruder ‘flew over the area a couple of times’ in a 5- to 10-minute span and did not come close to anyone in attendance. Malischke described the mode of transportation as ‘a parachute kind of thing.’ ”

Expanding on comments he made to Eric Black here at MinnPost, Don Shelby told his former colleagues at WCCO-TV, “Shelby had considered running for Congress as a Democrat against Republican Congressman Erik Paulsen, but says he’s not willing to give up time with his family or his 50-year career as a journalist. He also said the current gridlocked Congress is not a place where important issues can be resolved. ‘When you see statements by John Boehner that says our job is not to pass laws but to repeal them, it makes you wonder who in his or her right mind would really want to get into that business, especially if they come from a background of trying to change things … trying to be helpful, trying to be a true public servant … ‘.” For another view of who in their right mind runs for Congress these days, may I suggest …?

You’ve heard that former-Packer-now-Viking Greg Jennings said he was “brainwashed” by the Cheeseheads? That hasn’t gone over well in Green Bay. Kevin Cusick of the PiPress reports: “Greg Jennings’ move from Green Bay to Minnesota has made ‘85’ Packers jerseys more affordable than ever. The NFL’s online shop has them marked down to $59.99, and bidding on eBay starts at only $12.99.Or you could go to one Green Bay shop, where they’re giving them away. Literally. … the store’s owner didn’t take too kindly to the new Viking’s claim that the Packers ‘brainwashed’ him during his days in green and gold.”

It’s pretty obvious the “dirty hippie protesters” have been the most credible all along. At City Pages, Aaron Rupar continues to follow the bizarre tale of the Drug Recognition Expert program and the Occupy crowd.  “In testimony offered last fall under immunity from prosecution, Hutchinson police officer Karl Willers admitted to giving people pot while he was in Minneapolis for Drug Recognition Expert program training in 2012. Given that other officers testified they saw both Willers and his brother Kenneth use free pot to entice people to participate in the DRE program, that revelation might not come as a surprise. But Willers also said he twice saw his partner give someone money to buy crack, then watched as the person smoked it in the back of a squad car. Not a single cop involved in the DRE scandal — including Willers — has been charged with a crime. … the latest revelations will bolster the case of Occupy Minneapolis protesters who have sued cops for designing and implementing ‘a pernicious human research experiment exposing young people from minority and/or disadvantaged backgrounds to various illegal drugs in an effort use these individuals as human guinea pigs for the benefit of law enforcement.’ “

Finally, from a couple of days back. Here’s Mark Fischenich of the Mankato Free Press on Tim Walz’ latest opponent, GOP-er Aaron Miller: “Miller said he will sign the no-new-taxes pledge that the vast majority of congressional Republicans have signed and would join the much smaller group of conservatives that wants to defund the Affordable Care Act, often referred to as Obamacare, even as other Republicans say the strategy is pointless as long as President Obama is in office and politically dangerous if it leads to a government shutdown. Miller said he would join the group because the health care reform is doomed to failure and is already causing companies to shift from full-time to part-time employees to avoid the medical coverage mandate in the law. ‘It’s not working and it’s not going to work’, he said of the reform bill.”

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Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 08/10/2013 - 08:38 pm.

    “Due diligence” of Dayton, Rybak, Legislature, City Council

    We’re all wondering on what basis these parties swept this stadium deal through – what facts did they know, in what ways were they in the dark ? Were they WILLFULLY in the dark ?

    Yet the Vikings have nothing but praise for the keen effort at “due diligence” by these parties:

    “…two years of review and due diligence by our public partners…” http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/9550527/gov-mark-dayton-alarmed-minnesota-vikings-owner-zygi-wilf-legal-woes

    Really ? “two years of due diligence” ? Since the Governor, and now the Mayor, say they had not a clue about the financial liablility the Vikings could be under in the NJ racketeering lawsuit, you wonder, AGAIN (!), whether ANY INVESTIGATION AT ALL was performed.

    The proponents in the Legislature and the City Council are all of a sudden and curiously silent, raising the question – is this a case of massive incompetence – or a sly rush job, knowing that if this info came to public light first, there is NO WAY it could have prevailed ?

    The people of MN would have been totally outraged, as they are sickened now by the idea of passing the hat to all taxpayers to collect money to give to someone who has been adjudicated a fraud and racketeer.

    Did the Vikings disclose the potential liability arising from this lawsuit in their documents presented to all these parties, or did they hope these officials were fool enough to not actually investigate and find out the truth ?

    How could any reasonable person possibly call this “due diligence” ?

    Another thing: asking the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) to investigate the Wilfs is like asking Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd to investigate Edgar Bergen ! (An old reference, I admit, but who are the great ventriloquists of this day, anyway ?)

    The latest PR grab for control of the public debate, and this is embraced by the Vikings and the MSFA, is: are the Vikings financially able to carry off their part of this deal, BASED UPON documents and claims the Vikings provide. This is not the question at all.

    The question is: were the people of Minnesota and Minneapolis, through their elected representatives, defrauded by non-disclosure by the Vikings of ALL the “true and accurate” facts, so sorely missing in the NJ racketeering case ??

    Further questions:

    – Are there any other lawsuits pending against the Wilfs and the Vikings, in any jurisdiction ?

    – Are there any criminal investigations of the Wilfs or the Vikings at this time, in any jurisdiction, state or federal ? Could there be in future, based upon what we know now ?

    – What is inside that black box of “secure” funding the Vikings are claiming ? What assets and liabilities acted as the basis for those loans ? Was it exactly the same set of facts disclosed to the public authorities in MN ?

    – Did the Wilfs funnel money arising from the NJ fraud to the Vikings organization ? If so, this crosses state boundaries. It also makes you wonder why they would need to do this.

    There are other questions, too – but getting answers to these would be a good start.

  2. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 08/11/2013 - 09:55 am.

    Major League Sports Strike Again

    I think the NFL owners are also complicit in the Wilf matter in that the good old boys club has a due diligence filter system when it comes to adding new owners. Is it due diligence or is it just a means of letting in those they want to become new owners? It appears to be the latter. In the final stages of the negotiations the NFL “Comish” came forth, from his throne, to put pressure on the politicians to make sure they knew the Vikings could move somewhere else if they didn’t fork over the money. The Viking fans exuberance lost sight of the fact it was going to be a $1,000,000,000 stadium for 8 games a year. I guess they thought it would all of a sudden make the Vikings a better team. This is just a case where no one did a good job and it might come back to bite us all, whether you are Vikings fan or not.

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