Anyone that thinks this Lourey resignation isn’t a big story is kidding themselves. This afternoon, Sen. Michelle Benson issued this statement regarding Commissioner Lourey’s resignation:

I want to thank Commissioner Lourey for his service to the state of Minnesota. Going forward, reform must be the top priority at DHS. Their technology is failing and costing too much. Their programs are filled with fraud and wasting taxpayers’ dollars. The new commissioner should examine DHS from the bottom up and prove they can meet basic benchmarks in their budget, program integrity, and technology.

This is further proof of what Republicans have been saying since the Walz administration began promoting ONECare, his massive public healthcare program – DHS is simply not able to take on a project of that scope and size.

It would be my recommendation that any future DHS commissioner focus on reform and accountability rather than new programs if they expect confirmation from the Senate. That’s exactly the right prescription for what’s ailing MN DHS. I’d also say that the Department is in turmoil but that’s too obvious. A 10-year-old could see that. Kurt Daudt issued this statement this morning:

The abrupt, unexplained departures of the top three officials at DHS in the past week is deeply troubling, and indicative of turmoil at our largest state agency. Minnesotans deserve answers and transparency from Governor Walz about what’s going on.

Lourey’s resignation is the latest in a major exodus of top leaders at the agency. Last week, Deputy Commissioners Chuck Johnson and Claire Wilson resigned unexpectedly without explanation from DHS. 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.'”

In the same statement, Daudt announced that “Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michelle Benson, who also serves as Chair of the Senate HHS Finance and Policy Committee, and Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria” would join him for “a noon press conference to discuss the latest developments at DHS.”

Rep. Franson is the leading authority in the House on child care issues. That leads me to think that this shake-up at Human Services is, at minimum, partially caused by the child care fraud investigation. Frankly, it sounds like Human Services is putting the fun out of dysfunctional. Starting with MNsure, then proceeding to the child care fraud investigation to the OneCare initiative, it’s difficult to point to a recent success story at the Department.

Saying that Daudt, Benson and Franson were upset is understatement. To say that they criticized Gov. Walz over these multiple scandals is understatement, too. The harshest criticism early in the press availability came from Kurt Daudt when he said that if Gov. Walz kept ignoring the problem, he’d own the problem. That’s exactly right.

Frankly, this isn’t how a major state agency should be run. The Human Services budget comprises approximately 40% of the state budget. If money is flying out the door as a result of fraud and the people running the department aren’t paying attention to what’s happening, then that’s a monstrous problem. It’s one thing if there’s fraud in one of the minor departments. It’s another when it’s a major part of the budget. That can’t happen.

Sen. Benson highlighted the fact that she chief-authored a bill that would’ve made the Inspector General’s Office a separate office. Republicans passed it in the Senate. According to Sen. Benson, the House DFL refused to move on it last session because the DFL is beholden to the public employees union that staff Human Services.

It’s also worth noting that the press covering the press availability tried their best to suggest that this wasn’t really a scandal, that it might just be 3 separate resignations that have nothing to do with the culture at Human Services. Frankly, it was pathetic watching them try to cover for the DFL.

2 Responses to “Sen. Benson’s statement on Tony Lourey’s resignation”

  • Rex Newman says:

    Am I wrong to think this is really Mark Dayton’s legacy? Yes, Walz was too busy being Super-Legislator to mind the Administrative store but he now has no higher priority than to fix DHS. Tony Lourey wanted the job, could have been our DHS hero, only to resign en masse. Why? Perhaps he knew he wouldn’t be able to clean the stables with a micro-managing, bare-knuckle politician, Governor Walz, hovering over him.

  • Gary Gross says:

    Rex, you aren’t wrong in thinking that Mark Dayton’s misadministration was epic. There’s too much proof of him being inept to contradict your theory. I think, though, that it’s entirely possible to say that Gov. Walz is just about as inept as Gov. Goofy II, aka Gov. Dayton. Gov. Walz isn’t as eccentric as Dayton but I think he’s just as inept.

    Further, I think that Lourey was a check-the-boxes choice. Let’s remember that he was one of the ‘leaders’ who put together MNsure, only to watch it fall apart right from the start. Michelle Benson did more to fix MNsure than all of the other politicians combined. While the DFL was busy patting themselves on the back over the ‘fact’ that MNsure was doing better than HealthCare.gov, Sen. Benson was highlighting the corruption within the administration and the failings it was experiencing.

Leave a Reply