By Rep. Kristin Robbins
The hasty, unexplained departures of the top four officials at the Department of Human Services (DHS) in the past week — and then two of them “rescinding” their resignations — is deeply concerning and reveals a significant level of chaos at our largest state agency.
Commissioner Tony Lourey’s surprise resignation Monday, July 15, was the latest in a major exodus of top leaders at DHS. The previous week, Deputy Commissioners Chuck Johnson and Claire Wilson resigned unexpectedly and without explanation — only to rescind their resignations late last week following the resignations of Lourey and his Chief of Staff.
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.”
Prior to all of this happening, Carolyn Ham, the Inspector General for DHS, was put on paid administrative leave following revelations of inaction related to child care fraud. She has been on leave for four months, collecting $42,000 to date, and the investigation did not even begin until this past week.
Minnesotans expect their government to be effective, efficient, and transparent. Right now, the Department of Human Services is failing at all three. We deserve better than this.
Getting to the bottom of the issues at DHS will require transparency from the Walz Administration. We need to know what went wrong so we can figure out how to make this important government agency eliminate fraud and abuse of taxpayers’ dollars and work as efficiently and effectively as possible.
As a member of the Health and Human Services Policy Committee, I believe we need to hold public hearings on these unexplained departures. DHS controls 30% of state budget and is the largest area of state spending when federal funds are included.
We need answers and accountability now. This cannot wait until the legislature reconvenes in February.
Rep. Kristin Robbins, House District 34A, represents the cities of Dayton, Maple Grove, and Rogers.