FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT INFORMATION: Luke Sprinkel - (651) 296-9183 - Luke.Sprinkel@house.mn
RELEASE DATE: 10/17/22
THE WALZ ADMINISTRATION BROKE THE LAW
St. Paul – Today, Rep. Steve Drazkowski and Sen. Mark Koran announced a major development regarding the Feeding Our Future fraud investigation and the Walz Administration’s response.
“Minnesota Statutes 3.971 requires the Minnesota Department of Education to promptly notify the Office of the Legislative Auditor if they believe public money is being used for unlawful purposes,” said Rep. Drazkowski. “Despite this law, Governor Tim Walz, the Minnesota Department of Education, and Commissioner Heather Mueller never notified the Legislative Auditor about the massive Feeding Our Future fraud when they first learned about it in 2020.”
In a letter Rep. Drazkowski received from the Office of the Legislative Auditor, Legislative Auditor Judy Randall specifically states:
“The Office of the Legislative Auditor (OLA) has no record that the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) or Governor Walz notified OLA about the potential misuse of public money.”
Additionally, the letter states:
“OLA learned about the alleged fraud when it was first reported in the news in late January 2022.”
According to MDE’s own timeline, MDE became suspicious about fraudulent activity regarding Feeding Our Future in the spring of 2020. MDE then contacted the U.S. Department of Agriculture and asked for their assistance. Eventually, the FBI was brought in to investigate.
“The Walz Administration knew for over a year and a half that massive fraud was being perpetrated against the State of Minnesota, but they never notified the OLA as required by law,” said Sen. Koran. “Governor Walz himself stated that he was first briefed on the issue in April or May of 2020. However, the Governor has since changed his tune regarding when he was informed about the fraud, but the coverup and lies don’t stop there.”
In the OLA’s letter to Rep. Drazkowski, the Legislative Auditor stated:
“an MDE official told us that they called OLA and notified a staff person (or left a voicemail) about the alleged fraud in “mid-to late March, 2021.” OLA has a fairly robust process for tracking and reviewing allegations, complaints, and agency notifications; we have no record of such a call taking place. Further, we searched our phone records for March 2021, and found no record of the MDE official calling any OLA staff.
“The Department of Education is trying to retroactively say they contacted the Legislative Auditor when no such call occurred,” continued Rep. Drazkowski. “The Walz Administration is trying to cover up the fact that they broke the law and were derelict in their duty to protect Minnesota taxpayers. Even if their lie about contacting OLA in March of 2021 were true, that still means they waited nearly a year to notify the OLA.”
Rep. Drazkowski concluded, “If Governor Walz and his administration’s officials had done their job from day one, then this $250 million fraud scheme could have been stopped almost as soon as it started. Instead, criminals were allowed to bleed Minnesota taxpayers dry for well over a year. The Governor and his administration have totally failed the people of Minnesota.”