Archive for the ‘Nick Zerwas’ Category

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?