Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Over the past week, we have been alarmed by news coming from Minnesota’s Department of Human Services (DHS). This has left Minnesotans with numerous unanswered questions, and they deserve answers.
DHS IN TURMOIL
Last Friday, we learned about the unexpected resignations of Deputy Commissioners and longtime department employees Chuck Johnson and Claire Wilson. On Monday, DHS Commissioner Tony Lourey resigned after roughly six months on the job. After that, Johnson and Wilson “rescinded" their resignations.
We also discovered that an investigation into a complaint against Inspector General Carolyn Ham has not begun, despite the fact that she has been on leave for four months and has collected roughly $42,000 in salary while sitting on the sidelines. This investigation was supposed to take place after state officials reported pervasive fraud in the child care assistance program.
All of these reports have us questioning the direction of the human services department and wondering what is causing the stunning actions – or in one case, inaction – regarding the department’s most prominent employees.
Health and human services (HHS) represents Minnesota’s largest budget area at 30 percent of the state’s spending - nearly $17 billion over two years. DHS is the largest agency in the state and is responsible for administering programs like Medicaid, MinnesotaCare, the Childcare Assistance Fund, MFIB, and SNAP.
Independent audits have confirmed fraud across multiple areas, most recently child care.
Governor Walz has been less than transparent on this topic, saying only that Commissioner Lourey simply realized new leadership was needed. I’m sorry, but no one just quits after less than six months on the job while the agency is clearly facing chaos. Further, what private sector company with revenues of $17 billion dollars can simply have their entire leadership team resign without explanation to shareholders? Taxpayers deserve leadership and greater transparency from their state government.
As a member of the HHS finance committee for two terms, I'm very concerned about these resignations and lack of any real explanation from the Governor’s Office. We have been plagued with problems in this department from MNSure to the Child Care Assistance Program and people are rightly outraged when government “covers up” problems and doesn't hold people accountable.
Because of the unprecedented and unanticipated turmoil at Minnesota’s top government agency, we need immediate hearings so lawmakers can learn why so many abrupt changes are occurring at the Department of Human Services, determine how to rebuild the state’s largest agency, and eliminate the fraud and abuse that continues within this department once and for all. I join many of my colleagues in asking for the Health and Human Services committee leadership to get these hearings started and to call on Governor Walz to provide the taxpayers with answers.
The 151st Wabasha County Fair is underway! Learn more about the scheduled events here.
The Cannon Falls Wine and Art Festival is also taking place this weekend from 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. at Hannah's Bend Park along the Cannon River. More details can be found here.
STAYING IN TOUCH
As always, if you have questions or concerns regarding any issue, please contact me. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-296-8635.