Archive for the ‘DFL’ Category

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.

Articles like this spin-piece shouldn’t be published. They’re one-sided propaganda. They aren’t informative. When I want legitimate information that helps me make decisions, I often turn to Harold Hamilton’s weekly commentaries. First, let’s examine the spin from the Times’ spin-piece.

It says “As the Minnesota Legislature wrapped up its special session last May, one state lawmaker spoke out about the increases in Local Government Aid and County Program Aid in the 2019 tax bill. Cities, he said, ‘should be fat and happy for a long time’ thanks to the $30 million boost in LGA. Now that cities are in the midst of important budget discussions, I keep thinking back to that comment and how it trivializes the challenges cities face in prioritizing the needs of our residents and communities.”

Later in the spin-piece, we learn this:

My city, Willmar, is poised to get a $272,000 boost in LGA in 2020. However, the cost of health insurance for city employees is going up 30%, nearly $500,000. This added expense alone far exceeds any additional LGA that Willmar will receive.

First, we know that Willmar gets a total of over $9,200,000 in FY2019-2020 in LGA. By comparison, St. Paul and Minneapolis receive a combined $289,500,000 in LGA in 2019-2020. I mention that because of this information that I got from Harold Hamilton’s report from this past Friday:

HAD ENOUGH SCANDAL?

Don’t leave. We have one more for you. This one comes from the City of Minneapolis (surprised?) Having plenty of money and having solved the big problems, the city embarked on the building of new public services building to properly house the many bureaucrats who administer city ordinances, like the one mandating the sale of fruits and vegetables at city convenience stores.

The crowning jewel of this new building is a massive ceiling-mounted sculpture at the building’s entrance. Want to guess the cost? If you said $772,000, you would be correct. $772,000 for a sculpture.

When called out, do you suppose the city was contrite and embarrassed? A person from the city with the title of “city arts administrator” said the following:

“We wanted a piece that would capture people’s attention when they came into the building. We wanted a piece that would be interesting and exciting. We also wanted a piece that would be interesting to people who came into the building over and over again.”

The state sends about $80 million each year in aid payments to Minneapolis. If they have money like this for sculptures and the salary of an “arts administrator” they certainly don’t need these state aid payments.

This isn’t surprising. A few years ago, Minneapolis bought 10 “artistic” drinking fountains that cost the city $50,000 each. Had they purchased standard drinking fountain, that would’ve cost taxpayers a total of less than $60,000.

The point of this comparison is to highlight the fact that Minneapolis wastes more money per year than Willmar sees in terms of LGA increases. There are legitimate expenses that LGA helps defray the cost of. Unfortunately, big cities, especially Minneapolis, waste money on things like artistic drinking fountains, sculptures and bike trail administrators. When I went through the St. Paul city budget in 2008, I reported to my client that 30-40% of St. Paul’s operating budget was wasteful spending that could be eliminated without a single person noticing outside of the lobbyists who lobbied for the extra money.

Think of how much money could be either redirected or eliminated if we didn’t have cities like the Twin Cities wasting $500,000 on artistic drinking fountains or $772,000 for a sculpture inside a building. These are just the things we know about. There isn’t any doubt that they’re just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Less than 24 hours after they voted on rules for impeachment, Republicans are targeting vulnerable Democrats. This has the potential to end the Democrats’ House majority nd Speaker Pelosi’s time with the gavel.

This time, it’s like she doesn’t have the strength to fend off her AOC + 3 adversaries. There are too many far left leftists in the Democratic Party for her to handle. If she can’t herd these cats, and if Collin Peterson is facing a difficult fight in northwest Minnesota, that’s proof that the Democrat Party has changed dramatically.

“The Democrats are so blinded by their personal hatred of President Trump that they’re willing to sacrifice all work on the issues voters care about, just to have one last shot at removing him from office to avenge their 2016 loss,” said CLF President Dan Conston. “Now that they’ve cast their votes in favor of marching headfirst into impeachment, vulnerable Democrats have shown voters there is zero difference whatsoever between them and the radical leftists fighting tooth and nail to impeach this president.”

The Democrats can’t relate to blue collar Americans anymore. They’ve definitely changed their identity. This is one of the ways that vulnerable Democrats are getting hit:

Conor Lamb, D-Pa., who won his seat in a competitive 2018 special election, is one of the higher-profile Democrats targeted by the campaign. On Thursday, he said his vote for the impeachment rules resolution was simply to establish rules for the investigation and that he had not yet made up his mind if he would vote to impeach Trump.

“This resolution sets the rules for the upcoming hearings. I believe everyone benefits from clear rules, so I voted yes. I have not made any decision about impeachment, nor will I until all the evidence is in,” he said in a statement. “I do believe that Russia is a major threat to the United States in Ukraine and around the world, and our oath requires us to put our country first, always.”

I don’t think Lamb is getting helped by this:

Brauer notes that in Lamb’s first two victories, he positioned himself as a moderate in an area in which Trump garnered and maintains significant support. “Lamb avoided running against Trump as much as possible, and he even claimed that he liked Trump. However, since taking office, Lamb’s actions and voting record have been to the contrary, as he has been a highly reliable Democratic vote for the House majority,” Brauer said.

Back in 2010, I said that Tarryl Clark had acquired the worst thing that a DFL moderate could acquire. That thing is called a voting record. Once they’ve got one, they’re never a moderate again.

Apparently, the DFL isn’t serious about protecting whistleblowers. If the DFL was serious about eliminating corruption, this wouldn’t still be happening:

A state whistleblower says she is still being retaliated against months after she reported wrongdoing. Faye Bernstein, a compliance officer at the Minnesota Department of Human Services, said she has been excluded from the work she did before speaking out, told by superiors that her opinion “is no longer needed,” and encouraged to take time off or seek therapy when she objected to the retaliation she continues to face. And Bernstein said some employees have even started “wild and hurtful rumors” to discredit her.

Bernstein, a 14-year veteran of the department, raised concerns in July about “substandard and noncompliant” state contracts that were being approved by leaders in the agency’s behavioral health division, which pays out millions of dollars in contracts and grants for programs that include battling addiction and the opioid epidemic.

This started before the Walz administration but it’s obvious that the Walz administration isn’t taking their responsibilities seriously. When she was appointed, I said that new Commissioner Jodi Harpstead was a terrible pick. That was mid-August. It’s now late October. Changing the culture takes time but it isn’t unreasonable to think that Ms. Harpstead should get 1-2 of her top priorities fixed in that time. According to this testimony from Ms. Harpstead, changing the culture wasn’t a high priority:

That’s depressing. What’s depressing, too, is that, after naming Harpstead the new commissioner 2 months ago, Democrat Gov. Tim Walz essentially disappeared. I just did multiple searches for Gov. Walz but found only a handful of articles, most of which dealt the insulin issue. The insulin issue is important but the DHS whistleblower/bullying scandal is important, too. Walz and the DFL have disappeared on the issue of eliminating fraud within DHS.

The DFL hasn’t provided meaningful oversight on DHS. Tim Walz has disappeared. Walz’s new leader for DHS, Jodi Harpstead, hasn’t prioritized changing the culture in her new department, meaning that DHS’s culture remains toxic. Big government that thinks it doesn’t answer to anybody is a nightmare. Why doesn’t the DFL think that stopping corruption and bullying is a big thing? The DFL has treated these scandals like they aren’t interested.

Margaret Anderson-Kelliher is trying to con Minnesotans into a massive gas tax increase. Sorta. This is where we’ll get into the weeds a little. Normally, I wouldn’t waste my time but this isn’t normally.

Minnesota Department of Transportation Commissioner Margaret Anderson-Kelliher is pushing a combined gas-tax increase along with what she’s calling a “debt-service fee” that would raise fuel prices by up to 15 cents per gallon, according to interviews with local news outlets.

Anderson-Kelliher did back-to-back interviews with the Rochester Post-Bulletin and the Mankato Free Press in September to promote the idea. Minnesota’s DFL Party began “actively exploring” the debt-service fee in July, which would increase gas prices to help cover the costs of borrowing money for highway improvements.

Next comes the razzle-dazzle:

In her interview with the Rochester Post Bulletin, Anderson-Kelliher said the state “should start anew and look at ways we can build from there. There is a real need in this community to address not only the transportation movement of cars and transit, but people want to bike safely and they want to walk safely. And to be able to do that, you actually need more resources,” she said.

The Center of the American Experiment’s Tom Steward thinks this means Anderson-Kelliher plans to use “the increased bonding capacity as a backdoor way of building bike paths and diverting billions of tax dollars to green alternatives to the automobile.”

Gov. Walz tried pushing through a massive tax increase during the budget session. It failed miserably. IF Gov. Walz tries pushing that agenda again, he’ll have to work with an all-GOP legislature in 2021. The other possibility is watching DFL legislators abandon him in large numbers. If Speaker Hortman pushes this agenda in the House, it will be her only term as Speaker. Tax increases aren’t popular. Gas tax increases are the least popular of the tax increases. Having the DFL push a gas tax increase right before an election is a gift — to Republicans. Having the DFL push a gas tax increase and ‘debt service fee’ increase to pay for bike paths and walking trails in an election year is political suicide for the DFL.

This won’t happen unless we have another Override Six fiasco. If something like that happens, which I don’t think will happen, those senators will be primaried and their political careers will be over.