About the program
How do Ombudsman-trained staff handle an issue?
Ombudsman-trained staff will receive notice of an issue. If it's not an Ombudsman issue, we'll pass it along to the appropriate MnDOT resource. If it is an Ombudsman issue, we'll ask whether the constituent has tried to resolve the issue through the normal channels, and whether there's a process in place to address the issue.
- Conduct informal fact-finding
- Educate the constituent on channels of redress and Ombudsman process
- Use tools of shuttle diplomacy, coaching or facilitating a meeting to address issues and find resolution
- Refer the issue and options with pros and cons to the MnDOT Commissioner for final determination
- Report the decision back to the constituent
Sustainable resolutions - MnPASS
A constituent wrote a letter to MnPASS customer service and the Ombudsman’s Office regarding a billing issue. Normally MnPASS Customer Service directly handles billing complaints; however, in this particular instance, the constituent had tried to resolve the issue with customer service and still felt he was being billed incorrectly. According to MnPASS records, the account was opened, a transponder was sent to the constituent and a deposit of $40 was retained for the transponder. After more than 1 ½ years of charges of $1.50/month for rental of the transponder, which was never used, the credit card on file was declined, adding another $25 to the bill. Very shortly thereafter, a $25 deactivation fee was also assessed. To top it all off, between the time the deactivation fee was assessed and the $40 transponder lease deposit was charged, recovering the cost of the transponder, another $1.50 lease fee was also charged. After all these charges, the account was closed per MnDOT protocol. The transponder would not work, its cost had been recouped through the deposit and the account was deactivated because the credit card on file had been declined. Even though the account was closed, the $1.50 monthly lease fee for the transponder continued to be assessed on the account. These charges to a defunct account continued for 46 months after the closure of the account, creating a bill for $69.00, which MnPASS Customer Service was unwilling to reimburse.
The Ombudsman worked with MnPASS staff to reimburse the additional charges assessed to the constituent after the account was closed.
Although MnPASS billing is handled through a contractor, it seemed rather obvious this was a problematic billing mistake. Once the deposit is taken to recover the costs of the transponder, charges should stop. The monthly fee was found to be in error and a refund was issued to the constituent for the excess charges. The computer glitch which caused the billing error was reported and fixed.
Sustainable resolutions - Unsightly fish house
A staffer from the Minnesota House of Representatives contacted the Ombudsman’s Office on behalf of a constituent about an old, dilapidated fish house on the right of way. The constituent felt the fish house was an eyesore, detracting from the beauty of the area, and wanted to know if MnDOT would take it down.
Although this sounded easy, the age of the shed and the unknown nature of the title made this much more complicated than just tearing down the unsightly building. First, MnDOT needed to find out who owned the land on which the shed sat and what kind of rights the title bestowed on the owner; so, a title search was completed for the site. The title search found the State had a highway easement on the land but the riparian rights, rights to use the lake and the land by an owner underneath the highway easement, probably still existed. The title search also revealed the last known owner was a land developer who appears to have purchased the land in 1956. After an extensive search for the owner/developer was conducted, it was determined the developer could not be located. Because the owner could not be located, and there was significant concern from other lake shore owners about the abandoned fish house, MnDOT could then step in and begin the process of removal.
Due to the age of the fish house, probably built in the 40’s or 50’s, an environmental review through the Environmental Stewardship Office needed to be conducted. Their review of the building materials concluded the fish house contained asbestos in the roof shingles and lead in the paint. These hazardous materials had to be removed and disposed of properly to ensure the land and the lake were not contaminated while the fish house was being permanently removed. The contract for removing the hazardous materials and the building structure amounted to $3,574.77. The constituent had this to say after the case was closed: “Well it is done. And citizens’ efforts are heard and responded to. Our state is working for us. I encourage you to get involved, if you are not already, and make government work for you. I found out that most of those employees and elected officials do want to help. Put them to work on your issues.”