Gov. Tim Walz has asked Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa) to “suspend” a Senate Republican effort seeking information on “abusive or fraudulent behavior” in the state government.
The Senate Republican Caucus recently launched a “state government employee whistleblower portal” in response to the ongoing stories of fraud and internal discord at the Minnesota Department of Human Services.
“Unfortunately, we continue to hear stories of fraud, waste, and abuse within Minnesota’s state agencies. If you’re a current or former employee of the State of Minnesota and have witnessed wasteful, fraudulent, or unethical behavior in your workplace, Senate Republicans want to hear from you,” the new portal states.
“Weeding out abusive or fraudulent behavior is critical for improving the service provided to taxpayers by their government,” it adds.
In a Monday letter, Walz requested that Gazelka suspend the effort, saying he’s concerned that it’s “politically motivated” and doesn’t comply with the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act (MGDPA).
“While I welcome legislative oversight, I am concerned that you chose to house this initiative within the Senate Republican Caucus. This represents a departure from neutral investigatory principles, and leads me—and Minnesotans—to believe this system is politically motivated,” Walz writes.
He references a separate letter sent by Commissioner of Management and Budget Myron Frans to Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles.
“It is my sincere hope that you were consulted during the development of this website, but I fear that, due to its partisan nature, you may have been excluded,” Frans writes. “The website provides no information about an internal controls process to support its claim that stories will be treated with confidentiality and privacy, particularly when stories are ‘shared with legislative staff or other members of the legislature.’”
Frans goes on to express concern that the whistleblower portal isn’t protected by the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act.
“Alarmingly, submissions made through the website lack the MGDPA protections that exist for employees who submit reports to the Executive Branch or your office, including the MGDPA’s private right of action to bring suit and recover damages and attorney fees should a data breach occur,” he continues.
As a result, Walz requested that Gazelka “suspend the website” until he has “consulted with Commissioner Frans and Legislative Auditor Nobles and satisfied them that your initiative does not expose state employees to unnecessary risk.”
“I look forward to our next opportunity to connect about a legislative initiative to expand the MGDPA beyond the Executive Branch to include the Legislative Branch in the near future,” Walz concludes his letter. “In the meantime, please let me know your intention regarding taking down the Senate Republican Caucus website until Minnesotans have been assured it’s not politically motivated and the problems of transparency and governance are addressed.”
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News, The Ohio Star, and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Paul Gazelka” by Paul Gazelka.