What’s going on at DHS?

The Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) is the state’s second biggest department, behind only Education, with a budget of $18 billion and 6,800 employees. It is complex, covering a wide range of services from medical assistance to day cares to child care assistance. It is, according to a recent Legislative Auditor’s report, an agency that is susceptible to fraud and waste.

So the revolving door changes in leadership at DHS should be of concern to Minnesotans, and should be explained by Gov. Tim Walz.

Last week, two of the top deputy commissioners in DHS announced their were resigning. On Monday, DHS Commissioner Tony Lourey resigned suddenly, after a mere six months on the job. According to Walz, Lourey felt he wasn’t right to lead the department. On Wednesday, the two deputy commissioners rescinded their resignations. Then Lourey’s Chief of Staff resigned.

In the meantime, department Inspector General Carolyn Ham, who was put on paid leave in March to allow investigation of an active complaint against her, has been collecting her pay ($42,000 so far) while waiting for the investigation to start. It apparently started only recently, after her situation was reported by the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Nobody is offering much in the way of real explanations as to what is going on, leading to lots of speculation and event suggestions by some Republican legislators that there is some kind of scandal going on.

So Gov. Walz has some explaining to do – about what’s going on in the department, why hasn’t the inspector general investigation started until just now, who is working on the changes needed in the Child Care Assistance Program to cut down on waste and fraudulent claims that were the focus of the Legislative Auditor’s investigation last winter?

It’s time for some answers.