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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUND-UP: Former MSU football coach could return to job

MINNEAPOLIS - We're expected to learn this afternoon whether former Minnesota State-Mankato football coach Todd Hoffner will return to his old job, after being fired last May. 

An arbitrator ruled last week that Minnesota State-Mankato was wrong to dismiss Hoffner and his four-year contract should be reinstated with back pay.  Child pornography charges were filed against Hoffner after nude images of his young children were found on his cell phone, but those charges were later dropped.  The arbitrator said Hoffner's suspension and firing were not for just cause.  In January Hoffner was hired as head coach at Minot State Univeristy in North Dakota.  Hoffner is expected to discuss his future at a news conference this afternoon at his lawyer's office in Minneapolis.


A passing driver pulled a woman to safety after she crashed her car into a pond along I-94 and Highway 101 in Rogers yesterday afternoon.  Police say the 46-year-old St. Paul woman lost control of her car and careened down a ditch and through a field before splashing down in the pond. The good Samaritan swam out to the car and pulled the driver to safety.  The woman was not seriously hurt and the cause of the crash remains under investigation.


While majority of Minnesotans have already filed their 2013 tax returns, others are scrambling to finish and avoid penalty.  Minnesota Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans encourages people to file electronically if they can, to help avoid errors.  He says if you are filing a paper return be sure to double check your math. Frans says math errors are most common when filing a paper return.  He says if you are due a refund, another benefit of filing electronically having your refund direct deposited is you will likely see that money in a week or less.    


A former state employee accused of looking up private data on thousands of people will serve no jail time.  Forty-nine-year-old Former Minnesota Department of Natural Resources employee John Hunt of Woodbury plead no contest earlier this year to misconduct of a public officer, unauthorized computer access and unlawful use of private data, and has now been sentenced to two years of probation.  If Hunt successfully completes probation the convictions will be dismissed. 


Minnesotans who indicated that technical problems prevented them from buying health insurance through the state's exchange by the end of March now have until April 22 to complete enrollment.  The new MnSure dealine only applies to those who filled out an online form alerting MNsure that they had been unable to create an account on the new online health insurance exchange.  It affects just over 8,000 people, but will likely impact more as MNsure staff finish reviewing more than 23,600 reports from Minnesotans who had problems getting through the system but may already have started the enrollment process.


Firefighters in Rochester say an incident at a local bar could easily have proven fatal if not for the quick rescue of a maintenance worker overcome by carbon dioxide.  Deputy Chief Steve Belau says a custodian collapsed at Roosters bar when he went into the basement of the business to check on a hissing noise.  The sound was carbon dioxide leaking out of the system used for carbonated beverages and the bar taps.  The 63-year-old custodian lost consciousness while trying to repair the leak and Belau says some customers and other employees tried to reach the man but were turned back because they could not breathe.  Firefighters wearing oxygen tanks managed to rescue the man, who was taken to the hospital. He is expected to recover.


There's a shortage of whitefish in the Great Lakes and it's causing problems for Jewish families during the Passover holiday, which began last night.  Chuck Bronte of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says many boats still cannot get out to fish, as record ice levels on the Great Lakes continue their slow melting.  As a result, fish wholesalers are not getting anywhere near the whitefish they need.  Whitefish is a key ingredient in gefilte fish, a traditional Jewish recipe that normally includes ground-up fish and other foods like eggs, carrots, onions, and bread crumbs.  Experts say the Great Lakes whitefish population has dropped in recent years, and some blame invasive species like zebra mussels.


Nearly 25,000 Minnesotans have been added to the roster of organ, eye and tissue donors in the past five months.  The increase follows the launch of a new donor curriculum in October by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety and the state's three donation agencies.  More than 63-percent of Minnesotans are registered as donors, well above the 48-percent national average.  


Governor Dayton blasted opponents after signing the minimum wage bill into law Monday at the Capitol.  It raises Minnesota's minimum wage to $9.50 an hour by 2016 and indexes it to inflation.  Dayton says every time Democrats do something to help people Republicans warn that jobs will leave the state.  He said the GOP claimed jobs were leaving the state after the fourth tier income tax,  Medical Assistance expansion and the minimum wage bill and he  claims the opposite is true.  Dayton received loud applause from the partisan crowd when he said there are 155,000 more jobs in Minnesota today than when he took office three-and-a-half years ago.  


The task force appointed by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis is out with a list of five problems and six recommendations to handle clergy sexual assault issues.  From October to March, the seven-member task force met nearly two dozen times to discuss the problems.  They found a lack of oversight and accountability and a power structure that was too top-heavy gave some priests the opportunities to sexually assault children.  The task force recommends a change in the organizational structure, developing a new compliance program and come up with better record keeping.


Six jurors have been chosen during the first day of jury selection in the murder trial of Byron Smith.  Smith is accused of first degree murder of two Little Falls teenagers who had broken into his home on Thanksgiving of 2012.  Cousins 18-year-old Haile Kifer and 17-year-old Nicholas Brady were shot to death.  Four women and two men have been chosen so far to decide the case, and jury selection will continue this week until a full panel is seated.  Testimony begins April 21st in Little Falls, and the trial is expected to last two to three weeks.


It's National "Purple Up!" day in honor of military families and children.  Army Captain Marian Belinski is Minnesota National Guard State Family Programs Director.  She says the day is a great opportunity to honor our hidden heroes and encourages everyone to wear purple to show support for military-connected youth, who endure separation from loved ones during a loved-one's deployment.  In conjunction with Purple Up! day, Governor Dayton has proclaimed April the "month of the military child."  


Minnesota U.S. Senator Al Franken (DFL-Minneapolis) visited the federal courthouse in Fergus Falls Monday and presented a special gift.  Franken delivered a flag that was flown over the United States Capitol in honor of Edward J. Devitt in recognition of his extraordinary career as a federal judge and his service to the people of Minnesota.  The U.S. House and Senate passed a bill late last year that renamed the building after the late U.S. District Judge Edward J.Devitt.  He was first appointed to the federal bench by President Eisenhower in 1954.    


Minnesota's Cold Weather Rule expires today (4/15). It's designed to protect Minnesotans from having their primary heating source disconnected during the cold winter months.  The Cold Weather Rule is in effect annually from October 15th through April 15th.  Customers with a past-due balance should contact their local utility right away to make payment arrangements.  Xcel Energy's Patrick Boland says there is still heating assistance funding available for those who qualify.  He encourages customers with past-due accounts to contact a local community agency to make application for funds. 


A Moorhead man faces attempted murder, assault and false imprisonment charges for a brutal attack on his girlfriend.  Bond is set at one-million dollars for 34-year-old Michael Karau  He's accused of stomping on the woman and beating her with a baseball bat during a drunken attack that lasted several hours.  Prosecutors say Karau also tried to drown her in a bath tub.  Police were called to the home after Karau passed out and the victim was able to send a text message to her brother.