State Sen. Scott Newman (R-Hutchinson) published an open letter Saturday calling on Gov. Tim Walz to take action to address mismanagement in Minnesota’s Department of Human Services.
Newman reveals in his letter that he was contacted by a “legislative liaison” from DHS after he first spoke out about the “mountains of problems” at DHS.
“Instead of acknowledging the agency’s repeated regulatory failures, the DHS official doubled down, providing me a list of ‘clarifications’ while completely minimizing the litany of problems at the department, referring to them only as ‘technical’ violations,” Newman writes.
He criticizes the state for demanding repayment from counties and tribes for the $61 million in improper payments DHS made to chemical dependency treatment providers.
“For a state government that routinely and repeatedly breaches the public’s trust, there’s a certain irony in bureaucrats asking local governments to pick up the tab for the state’s own incompetence. At best, it’s irresponsible and tone deaf. At worst, it’s crippling for county governments,” says Newman.
The Republican lawmaker writes that DHS “appears to be on auto-pilot” and is “non-responsive to good-faith legislative inquiries” while it continues to “operate under a culture of dysfunction and mismanagement.”
His comments echo statements made last week by Sen. Michelle Benson (R-Ham Lake), who said that Gov. Walz “doesn’t seem remotely interested in the problems happening on his watch” and has not been “willing to engage with legislative leaders.”
Both Benson and Newman have explicitly called on Walz to fire those responsible for contract violations at DHS.
“We’ve been hearing these reports for months and the law regarding these improper contracts is clear,” writes Newman. “Yet, as far as I know, there have been no terminations, no disciplinary actions, and no assurances these problems won’t balloon again.”
The House Health and Human Services Committee has a hearing scheduled for Monday with DHS Commissioner Jodi Harpstead, who recently skipped a hearing with the Senate Finance Committee.
“State agencies are part of the executive branch; the legislature can provide oversight, but ultimate responsibility lies with the governor. I cannot understand this lack of accountability and I urge the governor to take swift and immediate action to stop the bad behavior, put controls in place to protect the taxpayers’ money, and work diligently to establish a positive environment and culture at our state agencies,” Newman concludes his letter. “The governor must take responsibility for his executive branch agencies.”
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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 “State Sen. Scott Newman” by Scott Newman.