Hecker, Petters, and Pawlenty: Turkeys of the Year 2009

The Twin Cities dirty dozen we're thankful to see go away

The church instead embraced gay and lesbian clergy, and the skies remain sunny.

Colleen and Tony Hauser

The Bad Parenting Hall of Fame is divided into two wings: parents who are truly bad and parents who mean well but are hopelessly misguided. This year Minnesota inducted another mom and pop into the latter category—Colleen and Tony Hauser, the parents of a 13-year-old boy, Daniel, who was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Though Daniel's form of cancer is highly treatable, his parents refused medical help, saying it was against their religious beliefs. As members of an obscure, quasi-Native American spiritual group, they insisted on treating their son with a natural—and wholly unproven—remedy of herbs and ionized water.

As a result, the state was forced to step in and try to save Daniel from his own flesh and blood. At trial, it was revealed that with chemotherapy Daniel stood a 90 percent chance of living, but without it, a 95 percent chance of dying.

His parents, naturally, chose to gamble their son's life on that 5 percent. After just one chemotherapy treatment, Colleen Hauser grabbed her son and fled the state, prompting a massive nationwide idiot hunt. After wasting the time of the FBI and customs agents for a solid week, Colleen and Daniel finally surrendered in Los Angeles, where they were supposedly on their way to Mexico.

The story at least has a happy ending: After completing his chemotherapy treatments this month, Daniel was pronounced healthy and cancer-free. And thanks to the balloon-boy saga, he only has the second stupidest parents on Earth.

Norm Coleman

As if the whole Al Franken-Norm Coleman recount wasn't bad enough in 2008, Norm and Al had to drag the drama through half of 2009. Meanwhile, we Minnesotans were left without a junior senator for eight months, making us the laughingstock of the nation.

On January 3, elections officials kicked off the year by finishing their recount of wrongly rejected absentee ballots from November's election.

Franken came out ahead by 225 votes.

Coleman filed a lawsuit challenging the recount results. Franken challenged Coleman's right to sue. While thousands of Minnesotans fumed in frustration, the court politely affirmed Coleman's right to the most ungraceful exit in modern political times.

In April, after seven weeks of trial, 2,200 exhibits, and 134 witnesses, Franken's lead over Coleman widened to 312 votes. But Coleman prolonged the battle for months with an appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court. Finally, the tiresome saga ended on June 30, when the court rejected Coleman's appeal.

We think MAD magazine put it best in a spoof of Cialis advertisements featuring the two candidates reclining in bathtubs: "When the time comes to concede defeat, will you be ready?"

Metro Gang Strike Force

The level of incompetence and corruption displayed by the infamous Metro Gang Strike Force would be laughable were the implications not so dire.

The Strike Force was supposed to work like this: Multiple police departments across the metro provided a few of their best guys. The resulting multi-departmental unit—ostensibly a sort of gang-fighting Dream Team—investigated, monitored, and broke up gangs. Upon nabbing a dope-peddling gangbanger, officers confiscated the accompanying drugs, paraphernalia, and ill-gotten goods.

There was just one problem: No one was keeping track of the inventory. When the state auditor announced in May that an investigation into the Strike Force's inner workings would soon be underway, a handful of officers hightailed it to the unit's New Brighton offices, where they shredded documents and destroyed computer files.

That was suspicious enough to compel both the FBI and the Department of Public Safety to launch investigations.

In August, the department released its long-awaited report, and it wasn't pretty. The Strike Force, contrary to its name, wasn't dedicated to fighting gangs. At least not "gangs" as they are commonly defined. Rather, Strike Force members seemed to take "gang members" to mean "any person of color." The Strike Force "saturated" (their term) predominately black neighborhoods, where arresting officers had free reign. Teenagers carrying small baggies of personal-use pot—normally a $200 misdemeanor—had their wallets confiscated, supposedly as evidence.

On many occasions, according to the report, officers accosted law-abiding residents and went through their cell phones, the Fourth Amendment be damned. In addition, Strike Force members snapped mug shots of numerous individuals, including minors, despite lacking evidence to charge them with anything.

The looting went well beyond shaking down the occasional 15-year-old. During searches and seizures, Strike Force officers routinely confiscated, for their own personal use, highly valuable luxury items. The plunder included flat-screen televisions, laptops, jewelry, and jet skis—items "officers and their family members were permitted to purchase, at low prices," according to the findings.

Merriam-Webster's dictionary defines a gang as "a group of persons working to unlawful or antisocial ends." The Metro Gang Strike Force, as it turned out, was precisely that.

Tom Petters

On the surface, the owner of Sun Country Airlines and Polaroid Corp. was a wildly successful businessman whose pious Christian streak ingratiated him to myriad movers and shakers throughout Minnesota. But that facade came crumbling down in October of last year after he was arrested for orchestrating the largest Ponzi scheme in American history (Bernie Madoff stole the show just weeks later).

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