At last week’s hearing about the crisis within the Minnesota Department of Human Services, it became instantly clear that transparency and cooperation weren’t priorities for top HHS officials:

To get the answers to those questions, Benson and Sen. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, asked seven current and former top DHS brass to attend the hearing. They included Lourey and his chief of staff, Stacie Weeks; the on-leave inspector general, Carolyn Ham; acting inspector general Bob Jacobsen; and the two department deputies who resigned, then unresigned in the wake of Lourey’s departure: Claire Wilson and Chuck Johnson. But of those seven invitees, only one showed up: acting DHS Commissioner Pam Wheelock, who took the job July 15 and will relinquish it to new DHS Commissioner Jodi Harpstead on Sept. 3.

This was Gov. Walz’s equivalent of giving Sen. Benson the finger. While campaigning, Gov. Walz said that transparency and unity would be cornerstones of his administration. The evidence is now in. It proves that Gov. Walz doesn’t put a high priority on transparency, cooperation or unity.

Carolyn Ham, disgraced HHS IG
It figures that the only official that showed up is the person that’s leaving. That fits perfectly with the Walz administration’s governance-by-stiff-arm philosophy.

The lack of participation — and the subsequent paucity of new information revealed – was anticipated by Benson in her opening comments, in which she compared trying to get information out of the agency with the arcade game “Whack-a-Mole.” “Somehow the Legislature never gets direct answers,” Benson said. “It’s time for the shoulder-shrugging to stop. And for those who say it’s time to move on, that there’s nothing to see here, I can tell you it’s not time to move on; it is time to learn a lesson.”

If the DFL wants to offer nothing but silence on why there’s rampant fraud in several major programs, that’s their right — for the moment. Don’t be surprised if the DFL’s refusal to be transparent is turned into a potent campaign issue. If Minnesotans hope to determine why there’s rampant chaos within HHS, they’ll need to rely on Michelle Benson and Jim Abeler.

Jim Nobles is the other official who will get to the bottom of this. It won’t come from the Walz administration:

After 10 minutes of Wheelock going through slides describing the agency’s functions and beneficiaries, Benson interrupted.
“We sent a list of the topics we were interested in and so far you haven’t hit on any of those, and I am wondering when your presentation is going to get to those?” she asked.
“I’ll get to those very quickly,” Wheelock answered.
“I think now would be a good time,” Benson said.

As obvious as it is that Wheelock was stalling, that isn’t the galling part of her presentation. This is:

“At some point, we have to accept that these are personal choices,” she continued. “I have not found any issue about impropriety. I have not found any issue about any kind of criminal activity. There is no scandal. There is no chaos. I think it’s time to move on and let these people have some personal privacy and lives.”

Right. Toney Lourey accepted a government job that afforded him a annual pay raise of over $100,000 dollars, then abandons it 6 months later. That happens all the time. It’s virtually routine. Not. There’s no question that there’s a scandal here. Jim Nobles investigated the matter. He determined that there was rampant fraud.

If these DFL bureaucrats and DFL legislators want to say that there isn’t a scandal within HHS, that’s a fight Republicans should be thrilled to fight.

2 Responses to “DFL-DHS stunt isn’t a game”

  • eric z says:

    The image suggests Abeler is allowing Benson to be the lead voice in this inquiry. It fits Abeler as not being one to make partisan public waves. Where he comes out after the hearings will be important, but don’t expect him to be a press hound about it. See if he ends up lead sponsor of any bill or resolution. Both Benson and Abeler have secure districts and can do this.

  • Gary Gross says:

    Benson is the chair & she’s been leading on this issue since it first broke. Michelle Benson has been a total tiger on this issue. She’s taken it quite seriously..

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