The drama at Minnesota’s largest state agency continues. As The Minnesota Sun reported Tuesday, Department of Human Services Commissioner Tony Lourey abruptly announced his resignation after just six months on the job.
The Pioneer Press then reported Tuesday afternoon that Lourey’s chief of staff, Stacie Weeks, would also be stepping down. That would’ve made her the fourth top official to leave the department in just a number of days, but the plot thickened Wednesday morning.
Chuck Johnson and Claire Wilson, both deputy commissioners at DHS who had announced their resignations Friday, said they would be rescinding their resignations.
“Deputy Commissioners Chuck Johnson and Clair Wilson have rescinded their resignations, which I welcome as a way to ensure continuity that will benefit the organization during this transition period,” Acting Commissioner Pam Wheelock wrote in an email to DHS staff Wednesday morning. “I thank Chuck and Claire for their willingness to continue their leadership roles during my tenure.”
UPDATE: Here’s the email from Acting DHS Commissioner Pam Wheelock on the rescinded resignations of Deputy Commissioners Chuck Johnson and Claire Wilson. pic.twitter.com/luiZbyofqt
— Michael Brodkorb (@mbrodkorb) July 17, 2019
Republican lawmakers called a press conference Monday afternoon to discuss the ongoing controversy.
“We’re calling for more transparency. We want to know exactly what’s going on at DHS,” said House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt (R-Crown), labeling the mass exodus from the department “mismanagement of the highest level.”
“Note: if you’re looking for why this is all happening, sorry. No one has publicly explained it all in a detailed way. We’re trying to get answer,” the House Republican Caucus wrote on Twitter Wednesday.
— MN House Republicans (@mnhousegop) July 17, 2019
State Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Alexandria) pointed to “serious flaws in Governor Walz’s administration in regards to the management and operation of the Minnesota Department of Human Services.”
“In less than a week, three top officials at DHS have resigned, leaving a void in the department that has already struggled with a lack of leadership,” he said in a statement. “These developments offer no comfort to hardworking Minnesotans who expect efficiency and reform but have only witnessed their tax dollars go to waste as a result of embarrassing management of this department.”
Walz hasn’t provided much of an explanation for Lourey’s departure apart from saying that Lourey didn’t feel his “management style” was right for the agency.
A Walz spokesperson told The Star Tribune that the governor “is pleased that the two deputy commissioners have decided to stay for the time being, so that there is a stable leadership team in place to manage through the transition to a permanent commissioner.”
“The governor will continue working with legislators on both sides of the aisle to ensure the agency is functioning as effectively as possible,” said Teddy Tschann.
“There’s going to be a desire to find more drama than is there; those of you that know me know that I don’t do drama,” Walz recently told reporters. “I will take Commissioner Lourey at his word that he felt he was not the right person at this time.”
But these explanations aren’t satisfying Republican legislators, or some in the local media.
“This keeps getting crazier! Two top DHS deputies who resigned last week just ‘rescinded’ their resignations. Should they be allowed to return to the job without providing answers to the taxpayers?” State Sen. Kristin Robbins (R-Maple Grove) wrote on Twitter.
This keeps getting crazier! Two top DHS Deputies who resigned last week just “rescinded”their resignations. Should they be allowed to return to the job without providing answers to the taxpayers? #mnleg https://t.co/PEWu4GTAz1
— Kristin Robbins (@KRobbinsMN) July 17, 2019
“Minnesota taxpayers want to know just what’s going on. We deserve to know. We have a right to know,” the board wrote. “In only about half a year in office, this disappointingly wasn’t the first time Walz has sidestepped questions about his transparency—or lack thereof. And that was after the former congressman touted the quality to voters while campaigning to be governor.”
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