Archive for the ‘DFL’ Category

Back in June, 2013, Rep. Ryan Winkler stepped in it when he criticized Republican-appointed Supreme Court Justices for ruling against the Voting Rights Act, which I wrote about here. At the time, Winkler tweeted “#SCOTUS VRA majority is four accomplices to race discrimination and one Uncle Thomas.” He obviously was referring to Justice Clarence Thomas with his Uncle Thomas quip.

Despite that exercise in racism, the DFL didn’t see anything wrong with making him the House Majority Leader after the 2018 midterm elections. He still isn’t bright enough to stay out of trouble. This past week, counties across Minnesota voted on whether they were willing to accept primary refugees. This week, Beltrami County voted 3-2 to not accept additional primary refugees. After the vote, Leader Winkler threatened counties that voted not to accept refugees with funding cut in this tweet:


Talk about strong-arm tactics. Considering his past racist comments, this shouldn’t surprise people. Still, it’s something that shouldn’t be tolerated. State Sen. Justin Eichorn published this statement criticizing Rep. Winkler:

I am deeply disturbed by DFL House Majority Leader Winkler’s threat to cut off funding to Beltrami County simply because the county did not vote the way he wanted. This hostile behavior from the Majority Leader has no place in government, and we should not move towards a society that requires quid pro quo or else. Rather than engaging in this destructive behavior, I encourage the Majority Leader to visit Beltrami to learn the importance of state aid for the area and why continued support will be critical in the future.

Ultimately, local control is one of the most important principles in our country. When President Trump empowered counties to have a voice in the decision-making process for the federal refugee resettlement program to empower them to make choices that are best for their area, that is the choice that the Beltrami County Commissioners made last night.

I’d add that President Trump’s executive action is simply enforcing federal law.

Specifically, the Refugee Act of 1980 requires consultation “with representatives of voluntary agencies and State and local governments.” That’s found in 8 U.S. Code §?1522 Clause B. Here’s the exact text of that part of the bill:

The Director shall develop and implement, in consultation with representatives of voluntary agencies and State and local governments, policies and strategies for the placement and resettlement of refugees within the United States.

It doesn’t say should, may or has the option of. It says that the federal government “shall develop and implement … policies and strategies for the placement and resettlement of refugees within the United States.”

I don’t doubt that Rep. Winkler doesn’t like Beltrami County’s decision. Elections have consequences, though, so if he doesn’t like the vote, he can run against one of the people who didn’t vote the way he wanted them to vote. Otherwise, he should shut his pie-hole. At minimum, he should deliver a speech saying that he’s retracting his threat.

The DFL governor has let the Minnesota Department of Human Services operate a slush fund within various programs, starting with the Child Care Access Program, aka CCAP, and programs for opioid addiction. The fraud in those programs literally run into the tens of millions of dollars. Now, the DFL House Majority Leader is threatening independent units of government because they didn’t do what he expected them to do.

This is gangster government at its worst. It should be utterly rejected this November.

Saying that Jason Rarick’s statement on the state of Minnesota’s Department of Human Services isn’t filled with compliments is understatement. Sen. Rarick opens the statement by saying “It’s time to break up the Minnesota Department of Human Services. This was the recommendation of Acting Commissioner Pam Wheelock this past August. It is not a brand new idea, but it is the only reasonable option. I can no longer see an alternative path that gets the agency turned around and functioning at the level Minnesotans demand.”

While there’s no doubt that DHS needs to be broken up, that’s only part of the problem. Another part of the problem is the corruption. There must be a way to get rid of corrupt employees.

In the heart of Sen. Rarick’s statement is this paragraph:

In just November, we have learned that the agency has habitually been violating state contract law to award more than 1800 illegal contracts last year alone. We have learned that DHS illegally instructed counties and Indian tribes to claw back $727,000 in overpayments to poor people, which must now be returned. We have learned a DHS screw up led to $624,000 in improper county payments to foster homes that didn’t meet federal background check requirements. And we have learned of an additional $22 million in illegal payments that must be repaid to the federal government, including $13 million that occurred even after the mistake was discovered. Again, that’s just from November. [emphasis added]

A department filled with waste, fraud and lawlessness needs transformation. Leadership is required to accomplish that. That doesn’t exist:

The Senate has held several hearings to get answers straight from those in charge. Unfortunately, those answers were mixed at best. For the most part, the officials we asked to testify evaded questions, stalled, or merely offered vague promises about being engaged and committed to comprehensive changes. The administration has also delayed for as long as possible responding to data requests we have made.

In fact, rather than address these problems head on, Gov. Walz seems disinterested. We’ve asked him to engage and help us fix the department, but instead he has placed his priorities elsewhere – like his newly-formed sub-cabinet to fight climate change.

It’s apparent that the DFL isn’t interested in fixing DHS. When it comes to Human Services, the DFL is interested in the status quo. Gov. Walz’s formation of a cabinet department on climate change is proof that he’s disinterested.

It’s also proof that Gov. Walz’s priorities aren’t Minnesota’s priorities. If you polled Minnesotans about what’s more important, it’s a safe bet that they’d say eliminating waste, fraud and lawlessness at DHS rates far higher than forming a new bureaucracy dealing with climate change.

This DFL administration is tone-deaf. This DFL administration is oblivious to the need for transformation. Watch Commissioner Harpstead’s testimony and you’ll see what obliviousness looks like:

She couldn’t care less if DHS is transformed. It isn’t clear whether she cares about the department she’s been charged with leading. Her opening statement was 100% incomprehensible word salad.

There’s an age-old principle about presidential candidates. It says that a presidential candidate’s vice presidential pick says much about the presidential candidate. That’s transferrable to this situation. When Gov. Walz picked Jodi Harpstead, it said that fixing DHS wasn’t a high priority. Further, the DFL House has followed Gov. Walz’s lead. They offer the same word salad as Gov. Walz. If the DFL won’t help fix the problem, then they’re part of the problem. Next November, it’s time to fix that problem.

According to this article, the DFL’s leadership might become further metrocentric. To those that think that wasn’t possible, that’s understandable. Of the 7-person DFL Senate leadership team, 1 person is from northwest Minnesota (Kent Eken) and another person (Tom Bakk) is from northeast Minnesota. The other 5 people (Susan Kent, who is challenging Bakk for Minority Leader, Jeffrey Hayden, Carolyn Laine, John Hoffman and Ann Rest) are from the Twin Cities. By comparison, the 9-person GOP leadership team represents the entire state.

In particular, Bakk’s positions on northeastern Minnesota mining issues have run afoul of environmentalists who are an important part of the DFL coalition. Kent’s challenge came to light days after Bakk came under fire from environmentalists for telling a group of business and political leaders in Ely that the controversial Twin Metals copper-nickel mine proposal on the Iron Range will not be stopped by a state environmental review. “Now it might take a decade or more,” Bakk said, “but the process isn’t intended to stop projects.”

Bakk’s opposition to stronger gun laws also put him at odds with colleagues from Minneapolis, St. Paul and their suburbs, deepening a long-simmering intraparty rift. Bakk has long been a fixture in the politics of northern Minnesota, a region that was once a DFL stronghold and which has drifted increasingly toward the Republican Party in recent elections.

In other words, Sen. Bakk is too moderate for DFL Metrocrats. DFL Metrocrats passionately hate mining. In fact, the only thing that DFL Metrocrats hate more than mining is the Second Amendment. Apparently, Tom Bakk isn’t leftist enough for the DFL Metrocrats’ liking.

The brewing leadership fight has played out largely out of public view, with several DFL senators declining to comment publicly for this story. It comes as Senate Democrats prepare for a 2020 election cycle in which they will attempt to overturn Republicans’ current 35-32 majority.

With the DFL’s divisions, the DFL should be worried in 2020. DFL turnout in 2018 was almost as high as it is for a presidential election. In 2020, Republican turnout will be higher than it was in 2018. It’ll be difficult for the DFL turnout to be much higher.

This begs the question of whether the DFL can gain seats in either the House or Senate. I wouldn’t bet on it, especially if the DFL essentially tells the Iron Range that they aren’t welcome in the DFL anymore.

Bit-by-bit, people are putting a higher priority on teaching old-fashioned civics. About five years ago, “a coalition of prominent leaders assembled by the Arizona-based Joe Foss Institute launched a Civics Education Initiative.” They started with the premise that students shouldn’t graduate unless they pass the same test that immigrants must pass when they apply for citizenship.

This movement started after it was discovered that “fewer than half knew that John Roberts is the current chief justice of the United States. More than one-quarter thought Brett Kavanaugh was.” When students were asked the term length for U.S. senators and representatives, “fewer than half of college graduates could give the correct numbers.”

While this is disturbing information, there’s more frightening news lurking on the horizon:

As Education Week has reported, the very idea of schools using the citizenship test elicits a “torrent of criticism from leaders who favor the new, broader conception of civics education.” Jessica Marshall, former social studies director for Chicago schools, put it this way: “[The citizenship tests] don’t tell us if young people know how to mobilize their communities to get resources or pass laws they care about.”

It isn’t the job of schools to teach students how to be progressive activists. Back in September, I wrote about Rep. Dean Urdahl’s op-ed (Part I and Part II). In that op-ed, Rep. Urdahl wrote this:

Next session, the MSBA [Minnesota School Board Association] plans to double down on its campaign against civic education. MSBA officials want to no longer have to offer the civics test. This crosses the line from passivity to enmity regarding civics. Testing conveys a message; we care about what we test. Eliminating the test implies MSBA doesn’t think civics is important. In Minnesota, it should not be about the number of tests, but rather, are we testing the right things.

Rep. Urdahl also wrote this:

The failure is measurable. The National Assessment of Educational Progress, the highly respected “Nation’s Report Card,” reports that 75% of our graduates leave high school not proficient in civics. They are failing. A nationwide poll found that two-thirds of Americans can name an American Idol judge, but only 15% can name the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. One-third of our graduates can’t name a single branch of our government. The Annenberg Study revealed that 37% cannot name one right guaranteed in the First Amendment. There are students who think Judge Judy is on the Supreme Court.

Rep. Urdahl also wrote that MSBA wants school boards, not voters, to have the final say on operating levies:

Over 332 school boards are elected by their communities. These members are trusted and charged with the governance of school property, budget, curriculum, technology, taxes, student achievement and teacher quality – ensuring excellence and equity in all public schools. Therefore, MSBA asks that you honor and trust the work of these local officials by allowing school boards to renew an existing operating referendum, by reducing the current number of mandates, and provide flexibility to meet the unique needs of their schools and communities.

TRANSLATION: Those pesky citizens shouldn’t have a say on their property taxes. We know what’s best. That’s what progressive arrogance sounds like.

Since the DFL controls the House in 2020, it isn’t likely that they’ll say no to MSBA. That means we’ll need the GOP Senate to stop this unaccountability initiative dead in its tracks. Trusting school boards to do the right thing is like giving matches to an arsonist, then expecting him to not set something on fire. That isn’t insanity. It’s stupidity.

It’s also imperative that we elect a GOP majority in the House and maintain the GOP majority in the Senate in 2020. We can’t afford unified DFL state government. We saw what a disaster that was in 2013-14.

These things should be taught until students understand why we adopted this Constitution and why the US is the greatest nation on earth. We should make it illegal to teach political activism in schools. That’s the job of political parties and outside groups. Taxpayers shouldn’t be paying for that stuff.

In addition to emphasizing teaching civics, it’s essential to emphasize teaching history, math and science, too. It’s important to de-emphasize the victimology classes, too. Civics classes unite us as a nation. Victimology classes divide us. Let’s work to unite, not divide, this great nation.

You can’t make this stuff up. Just when you thought that Minnesota’s Department of Human Services couldn’t get more corrupt, more proof surfaces proving that it’s totally corrupted. It’s worth noting that the DFL was in charge the vast majority of the time that DHS was corrupted.

Let’s start with the fact that there are 3 new scandals that DHS has to deal with.

Just recently we learned of three new financial management errors at the department. Counties and tribes will have to foot the bill for these mistakes, to the tune of more than $20 million. We also learned that DHS and other state agencies routinely violated state contract and spending laws, with more than 1,800 violations in the last year alone.

Sen. Michelle Benson had this to say about the situation:

I am cautiously optimistic that the new commissioner, Jodi Harpstead, is sincerely interested in fixing the problems at the department. She has made a habit of personally calling to let me know of new problems before they have become public. This is a welcome change of pace from the last few years. However, I will continue to judge her by her actions rather than her words, and if we don’t see adequate progress we will hold her accountable.

I do, however, expect far more from Gov. Walz. He doesn’t seem remotely interested in the problems happening on his watch and he has not been willing to engage with legislative leaders. If he doesn’t get in the game soon, we are going to have big problems. He can’t ignore this.

Gov. Walz has paid attention to the insulin crisis, though that’s largely been fixed. Gov. Walz hasn’t paid much attention to the DHS problem because that ‘just’ involves mismanaging millions of taxpayers’ dollars. Then there’s this from Rep. Mary Franson:

Carolyn Ham, the former Inspector General, is still on paid leave from DHS. She repeatedly showed poor judgement in addressing fraud in the Child Care Assistance Program. Based on emails obtained through a data request, it appears she had more interest in managing the political ramifications of the fraud than investigating the fraud itself.

Ham also continued working with the Minnesota Minority Child Care Association (MMCCA), even though the President of MMCCA was sanctioned by DHS for fraud. She tried to throw off reporters looking into her relationship with the MMCCA president, saying she “didn’t recall” meeting with him, even though he claimed they met three times.

Rather than Carolyn Ham updating the Legislature on fraud investigations, she instead went to MMCCA and another activist association to solicit input on the fraud situation and discuss “consequences for political agendas.” Then, when a story about $100 million in Child Care Assistance fraud was about to break, Ham wanted to give MMCCA a “heads up.”

Wow! That’s bigtime corruption on steroids. Unfortunately, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Here’s more:

Included in the documents I received from DHS, I also learned that a Deputy Inspector was told during a meeting with child care providers that “it is well known that providers give kickbacks to mothers for bringing their children and supplied fake paychecks.” Meanwhile, our investigators are being treated like criminals while DHS is completely aware that corruption is present in the CCAP program.

What isn’t disputed is that he DFL is in charge of DHS. The DHS is part of the executive branch, which is the governor’s responsibility. We’ve had DFL control of DHS for a decade. Finally, there’s this frightening report:

In one email, an employee debated issuing a check to a child care center for $24,000, rather than the usual electronic payment. The reason for the change? Their initial payment was rejected due to the account being frozen – because the center’s owner is associated with a Taliban official.

How do you ask that question after seeing the account is frozen? This isn’t just a meaningless detail. It’s a major red flag and the DFL missed it entirely. That type of incompetence can’t be tolerated.

The last part of Friday night’s Almanac Roundtable focused on DFL mismanagement of multiple agencies and departments. Moderator Eric Eskola opened that portion of the segment by saying “Gregg, you were around the legislature for a long time and with candidates and so forth. I really sense that this is a bad year for big government in Minnesota, Human Services and so many problems and I wonder if it was this bad when you were working for Speaker Sviggum?” Later in the segment, Eskola interjected, saying of Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles’ testimony at this week’s hearing that “If this was a prize fight, they would’ve stopped it. He just mopped the floor with her.”

Eric Eskola has been a significant part of the Minnesota media for a generation+. That’s the most provocative thing I’ve ever heard him say. That isn’t saying that he’s wrong. In fact, I think he’s exactly right. The times I’ve watched Auditor Nobles testify about DHS’s mismanagement, Mr. Nobles didn’t pull his punches. He’s landed some hard-hitting body blows to DHS management.

The laughable part of the segment was Abou Amara saying that divided government was to blame for the mismanagement. It’s laughable because the executive branch can function perfectly whether there’s unified government or divided government. Period. Stop.

Amara is right in the sense that it’s easier to pass legislation when it’s unified DFL government. That doesn’t guarantee problems getting fixed, though. The bigger point that Amara intentionally side-stepped is that reform-minded people in the executive branch could start changing the culture without passing a single law. That doesn’t mean we don’t need reforms to fix DHS’s problems. It simply means we can start fixing the problem by hiring high quality management personnel.

Gov. Walz got criticized for the mismanagement:

Gov. Tim Walz’s administration came under fire Wednesday for violations of state contract laws. Republican senators held a hearing about the violations, which occurred when vendors working with the state started work before contracts were signed and when employees committed to spending state money without agency permission. Records from the administration show these violations happened roughly 1,300 times over the last year.

Minnesota’s bureaucracy needs a major overhaul. There’s no time to waste.

Despite all of the hearings into Minnesota’s Department of Human Services, this article hints that what’s been discovered thus far is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The article starts by saying “A top official at the Minnesota Department of Human Services has told Legislative Auditor James Nobles that recent overpayments to two Indian bands represented just ‘one example’ of wider dysfunction in the agency’s oversight of millions of dollars in state and federal money.” That isn’t difficult to believe.

Later in the article, it states “In an interview Friday, Human Services Commissioner Jodi Harpstead said she is on track to release a promised plan to address the agency’s problems in early December. She also is interviewing candidates with management experience to fill two assistant commissioner jobs, including one overseeing health care. We are working to be tough on the process and supportive and encouraging of our people, and trying to get that into the culture here.”

The people that are currently part of DHS are the problem. If they hadn’t screwed things up with program after program, Minnesota wouldn’t be in this fiasco. Minnesota isn’t alone in terms of Medicaid fraud but Minnesota is a leader in the worst way. This is frightening:

“No single person knows everything that is going on in DHS related to Medicaid” is what Marquardt, the assistant Medicaid director, told the Office of the Legislative Auditor, according to a summary of her comments obtained by the Star Tribune. Marquardt also described frosty relationships between Medicaid and other DHS divisions. “Our presence was not always welcomed,” Marquardt told the auditor’s office. “There is a culture of keeping HCA out of the business of the other divisions,” according to the summary.

Throw into this hot mess the fact that the DFL has a problem with Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles:

Thankfully, Mr. Nobles set the record straight on why he made the statements and characterizations that he did. It’s difficult to picture a department that’s been more mismanaged than DHS. Thank God Mr. Nobles editorialized a little so that it got people’s attention. It might make people uncomfortable but it got their attention. When a house is on fire, it’s ok to blast the sirens because you aren’t worried about waking up the neighbors.

After last week’s articles and statements about the difficulties identified within the Department of Human Services, Minnesotans didn’t expect to get blasted wit more graft, corruption and unauthorized payments. After reading this statement, though, it’s looking like reports like those will become relatively routine.

First, it’s totally legitimate to call some of what’s happening graft:

the acquisition of money, gain, or advantage by dishonest, unfair, or illegal means, especially through the abuse of one’s position or influence in politics, business, etc.

Let’s look at what’s been identified:

Senate Republican leaders announced a Senate Finance Committee hearing next week to examine the use of illegal contract and spending practices in state agencies. Based on recent reporting of brazen use by DHS employees of the 16A/16C forms that approve spending on services and purchases without a signed contract, a request has been made to the Department of Administration for their 16A and 16C forms across state government.

This agency is the fastest growing part of our budget,” said Senator Julie Rosen, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee. “We’ve heard about the fraud in childcare assistance, we’ve seen the waste in overpayments to the tribes, and now we have abuse by agency staff spending money without approval and filing a ‘get out of jail free’ form each time.

With the biennial budget signed, it’s time that Gov. Walz focused on fixing DHS. It’s the fastest-growing department in the budget. It’s filled with fraud, corruption or people who simply don’t give a damn:

Senator Michelle Benson, Chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, said “Commissioner Harpstead has been given an impossible task. The CFO at DHS has been trying to fix this problem, but the entrenched bureaucracy is preventing meaningful change. The governor needs to stop the ribbon cuttings and dig into fixing DHS,” Benson concluded.

It’s time for heads to roll. It’s foolish to argue that the inmates aren’t running the prison within DHS. At this point, there’s too much proof that what few guidelines and safeguards exist aren’t taken seriously. Major departments can’t function without systems that are well thought out and taken seriously. Departments that ‘operate’ without well thought out guidelines are profiles in anarchy and chaos.

The 16A/16C form expressly states: A payment made in violation of this chapter is illegal. …the violation is just cause for the employee’s removal by the appointing authority or by the governor if an appointing authority other than the governor fails to do so. (Emphasis added.)

If Gov. Walz won’t take this crisis seriously, then he should get defeated in 2022 in a landslide. Wasting 100s of millions of dollars without legitimate oversight is certainly despicable, if not outright corrupt.

The frightening part of this is that it isn’t limited to a rogue agency. To use Jim Nobles’ characterization, this situation is “pervasive.” More on that in the next article.

Anyone that thinks that the Minnesota Department of Human Services isn’t suffering through a crisis hasn’t been reading LFR lately and they certainly haven’t read this article, either. After reading the article, LFR reached out to Rep. Nick Zerwas of Elk River, who consented to an interview.

Q: What has bothered you the most about this scandal thus far?
A: Obviously the total lack of accountability is disappointing (but predictable).
Q: You say that it’s predictable that there was a lack of accountability. Why is that predictable?
A: In all of the scandals at DHS over the last 7 years I’ve been in the legislature, I can’t recall anyone ever being held accountable.

If you visit Rep. Zerwas’ legislative website, you’ll see a lengthy list of statements on the DHS crisis. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that DHS management has responded to the crisis.

Rep. Zerwas issued this statement yesterday:

Rep. Nick Zerwas, R-Elk River, who serves on the House Health and Human Services Finance Division and has called for a full forensic audit of all state and federal spending at the embattled agency, is calling on Ramsey County Attorney John Choi to examine the latest report, and determine whether the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office should step in to prosecute the repeated violations of law.

“While I appreciate the good-faith efforts Commissioner Harpstead is making to clean up the agency and restore public trust, at some point we must determine whether there are consequences for violating the laws we have in place,” Zerwas said. “If the agency is unwilling to hold employees accountable, then it may be time for law enforcement to step in.”

At this point, actions and consequences are more important than words. If the Ramsey County Attorney won’t prosecute lawbreakers, then it’ll be apparent that their office isn’t taking this seriously. There were other questions asked of Rep. Zerwas. This one stood out:

Q: One final question: Should the legislature break up DHS? Or is just changing the culture required?
A: I think the agency is too large, and I would support breaking it up. However, a restructure of DHS alone will not fix anything. If the employees don’t believe there will be consequences for their illegal actions, then I guarantee you nothing will change.

That’s the growing consensus about DHS. There’s no question that the culture must change. The Department must change, too.

The records obtained by the newspaper show employees sometimes allowed vendors and grantees to perform work or services without finalized and signed contracts, while in other cases employees bought products such as software without the required permission. Department officials said the agency has safeguards in place that prevent spending in such situations. But legislators said the violations put the agency at risk for misusing taxpayer dollars.

Thank God for those departmental safeguards. Where would we be without them? Apparently, DHS management doesn’t pay much attention to those ‘safeguards’. Question: Can they be considered safeguards if nobody pays attention to them?

Last Thursday’s hearing of the Senate’s Health and Human Services committees elicited important testimony, although it’s impossible to picture it having been pleasing. Michelle Benson is taking a trust-but-verify attitude towards Health and Human Services:

“For the most part, Commissioner Harpstead said all the right things in yesterday’s hearing,” said Sen. Michelle Benson (R-Ham Lake), chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Finance and Policy Committee. “Acknowledging they made errors and need to clean up their processes is an important step. One issue on which I will continue to demand a straightforward answer, however, is what will happen when the federal government asks Minnesota to return the $29 million in overpayments. Will DHS attempt to bury it in a forecast adjustment? Or will they be open and upfront? If it’s the former, I will have serious problems. I will be watching carefully to make sure they follow through on their promises and their accounting for these illegal payments is transparent.”

Sen. Benson didn’t pull punches:

Yesterday, Benson indicated major cultural changes need to happen at DHS. “If you want to know how much bureaucracy and unaccountability costs state government, look no further than DHS,” she said. “Several levels of management were either too incompetent or too indifferent to check for and identify obviously erroneous payments.” The OLA report yesterday indicated that no one in DHS has taken responsibility for the overpayments, and there is no documentation to determine who made the decision for the higher payment structure to the tribes. “There are six managers between the Opioid Treatment Authority Representative and the Commissioner,” Benson continued. “All of them failed—miserably. If none of them are going to take responsibility, none of them should keep their jobs.”

This is what happens when the people don’t care because it isn’t their money. It’s either corruption or incompetence or both. How do 6 managers not catch this simple mistake? This isn’t just about restructuring of DHS. It’s about getting rid of these potentially incompetent, corrupt employees. You’ll be shocked at Jim Nobles’ statement 4:20 into this video:

The standard payment for these opioid addiction programs is $455 when the patient visits the clinic and receives a dose of whatever medication they’re taking. According to Mr. Nobles’ testimony, there isn’t supposed to be a payment if the medication is self-administered at home. Mr. Nobles said that $455 was paid to the White Earth and Leech Lake tribes when patients self-administered their medication.

When the patient visits the clinic, then gets a dose of medication, that’s called the “encounter rate.” DHS kept paying the White Earth and Leech Lake tribes the encounter rate even when the patient self-administered. It isn’t surprising that these tribes refused to answer Mr. Nobles’ auditors’ questions when they did their audit. Further, DHS employees wouldn’t cooperate either.

The tribes have issued a statement saying that they won’t pay back any of the money because it wasn’t their fault. Knowingly accepting money that isn’t due to the tribes is certainly their fault. That being said, there’s no doubt that DHS is at fault, too. They’re the ones who made the allegedly unjustified payments. Nobles testified that “In fact, the tribes were told by officials at the Department of Human Services that they could receive those payments. That was direction and guidance that the Department gave.”

There’s no question that the tribes received a ton of money from this federal program. What isn’t known is who authorized the improper payments. If nobody at DHS admits who authorized the improper payments, that entire group of managers should get terminated. They didn’t have the statutory authority to approve those payments. If there wasn’t a clinic visit, there shouldn’t have been a payment. That isn’t difficult to figure out.