The sudden, unexplained departures of the top four officials at the Department of Human Services (DHS) in the past week — and then two of them “rescinding” their resignations — is deeply worrying, and revealing of disorder at our largest state agency.
Over a million Minnesotans rely on the services provided by DHS and one-third of the almost $50 billion general fund budget goes toward DHS.
Minnesotans deserve answers and transparency from Gov. Tim Walz about what’s going on at the state’s largest agency.
Commissioner Tony Lourey’s surprise resignation on July 15 is the highest-profile exodus from the Walz Administration. Lourey left the state’s largest agency only six months after giving up his state senate seat to serve as DHS commissioner. He was soon followed by his chief of staff also resigning.
The previous week, deputy commissioners Chuck Johnson and Claire Wilson resigned unexpectedly and without explanation from DHS, only to rescind their resignations following the resignation of Commissioner Lourey and his chief of staff.
A former DHS director, whose position was unexpectedly eliminated after 13 years in June, called for an investigation by the Walz Administration, citing “systemic issues with the leadership culture of the agency.” This predated any of the explosive resignations and should have served as a warning for what was to come.
A compliance officer at DHS claims she was punished for reporting wrongdoing with state contracts. The whistleblower wrote in an email dated July 10 to all employees in her division, “I am aware of substandard and noncompliant contracts approved by management to go out the door, putting DHS funds at risk and impeding client services.”
On top of all this, Carolyn Ham, the inspector general for DHS, was put on paid leave following revelations on inaction related to child care fraud. She has been on leave for four months, has collected $42,000 while on leave, and the investigation did not even begin until this past week.
Minnesotans expect their government to be effective, efficient, and transparent. Right now, the Department of Human Services is failing at all three. And no one can tell us why.
We deserve answers.
Getting to the root of the problem at DHS will require transparency from the Walz Administration. We need to know what went wrong here so we can figure out how to make this vital government agency working as efficiently and effectively as possible.
I will continue to work to get the answers Minnesotans deserve because, like you, I believe in an open and transparent government that is beholden to the people we serve.