State Sen. Julie Rosen (R-Vernon Center) said she was “very upset” with a pair of commissioners for skipping a Wednesday Senate Finance Committee hearing on contract violations in the Minnesota Department of Human Services and other state agencies.
Rosen said she decided to call the hearing last Wednesday after a report showed DHS violated state law “more than 200 times” in the past year and used “illegal contract and spending practices.” Rosen, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, said she sent letters to DHS Commissioner Jodi Harpstead and the Minnesota Department of Administration “about questions that we needed answered on that day and the request to be at this hearing.”
She then asked Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Myron Frans to attend Wednesday’s hearing after he told the Pioneer Press over the weekend that he didn’t think the contract violations rose to “the level of fraud or abuse.”
Rosen said she wasn’t notified until Tuesday that Harpstead couldn’t attend the hearing, and didn’t receive responses to her questions until Wednesday morning—the day of the hearing. Both Frans and Harpstead sent their deputy commissioners to testify in their place so they could attend a tribal leaders summit with Gov. Tim Walz.
“I do want to first express my disappointment. I’m sure you would probably rather not be at the table and you’d rather have the acting commissioners at the table, but apparently there is a conflict. We will continue on with this hearing, but I can guarantee there’s going to be further work coming out of this finance committee on the issues that have been developing particularly over the last 24 hours,” Rosen began Wednesday’s hearing.
Rosen said she called the hearing out of concern that contract violations were occurring in other state agencies, which was confirmed by data released Wednesday by Minnesota Management and Budget.
“We have a very troubling situation that’s developing as we go and I felt it was important to call this finance hearing because of the thought that these contract violations occurred in this article at DHS but perhaps they are in other agencies,” she said.
The data released Wednesday shows that 1300 contract and procurement violations occurred across state agencies in the past year alone. Minnesota’s Department of Employment and Economic Development had 584 violations in one year, the most of any state agency.
MMB just released data on contract/procurement violations for all state agencies, from Nov. 2018 to Nov. 2019. A quick look at the agencies with the most violations ⬇️
• DEED: 584
• DHS: 181
• MDH: 146
• DOC: 114
• MNIT: 83
• DPS: 83
• DOT: 65
• Admin: 56#mnleg
— Ryan Faircloth (@RyanFaircloth) November 13, 2019
The Republican senator said she was upset that the information was released to the media before lawmakers received the information and claimed Wednesday’s hearing had been “turned upside down” by the newly-released information, which she had requested last week.
“We asked for our information—yesterday at 3 o’clock was the deadline. Last night at 6:30 we get a response from Admin saying that they are not able to comply with our questions. And then today we get the information from you, but it was at 12 o’clock. From DHS, we got their response at 11:10 today, and frankly I’m upset because the press had pretty much the information that was given to us at 11:10 today.”
“So we’ve got an issue here that I am going to peel back along with the members of this finance committee about what is going on in our agencies and this blatantly dismissive way of acting with contracts and the procurement of money,” she concluded. “I will save the rest of my comments for later because as I said this whole hearing has been turned upside down because of the tweet, because of the no-shows from the acting commissioners. I’m very, very upset about this along with the members from this caucus that sit at this table.
The full hearing can be watched below:
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