A state employee who blew the whistle on fraud within Minnesota’s Department of Human Services said in an interview this week she’s still being retaliated against.
Faye Bernstein, a compliance officer at DHS, told the Pioneer Press she’s been excluded from certain work tasks, has been told her opinion “is no longer needed,” and was encouraged to seek out a therapist. She also claimed that some of her coworkers have started “wild and hurtful” rumors about her.
“It is embarrassing and painful to have my work discredited and my character questioned,” she said in an interview. “My co-workers who see this treatment are understandably unwilling to point out compliance issues or even voice a contrary opinion at risk of getting the same or worse response.”
Bernstein said she has “yet to see an appropriate response to the retaliation” she has repeatedly reported.
“Instead, I have been told that I should take time off or seek therapy through the Employee Assistance Program. I find this an insulting response to someone who was simply doing her job,” she added.
Bernstein expressed concern in July about “substandard and noncompliant” state contracts that were approved by DHS leaders. The state pays out millions of dollars through these contracts for various addiction treatment programs.
She testified before the Senate Health and Human Services Finance and Policy Committee in August where she revealed that she was escorted from her place of work and banned from the premises after writing an email to 133 of her coworkers.
“I just want to say that I am a good employee,” Bernstein said during her testimony, as The Minnesota Sun reported. “I feel I’m a very good employee, and the time spent on retaliation has been very much wasted time. What I was pointing out, originally, was quite routine and it was simply my job.”
State Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles said he’s “very concerned” about the retaliation against Bernstein and said the Officer of the Legislative Auditor may launch an investigation into retaliation against DHS employees.
“When I say I won’t tolerate retaliation against employees, it’s not just talk,” said new DHS Commissioner Jodi Harpstead. “We have systems and processes in place for employees to follow when they need to raise concerns. Investigating those concerns allows us to gather all of the facts. While it can be frustrating, until investigations are complete, there is a period of time when everyone is waiting.”
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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 “Faye Bernstein” by Minnesota Senate Republican Caucus.