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RELEASE: Zerwas calls on Ramsey County Attorney to evaluate DHS law breaking

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Top DHS critic also echoes calls from Sen. Michelle Benson for firings at DHS

ST. PAUL, MN—On Tuesday, the Star Tribune reported that in the past year alone, the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) "violated state law more than 200 times" by failing to finalize and sign numerous contracts with vendors tribes, and other agencies. An internal memo obtained by the Star Tribune included an admission from DHS Chief Financial Officer Alexandra Kotze that DHS "broke the law."

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."

Zerwas also echoed calls by Senate Deputy Majority Leader and HHS Finance Chair Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, for firings at the agency.

"It's time for the agency to take action and fire any employee who knowingly violated state law, as well as managers who were aware of the behavior and failed to stop it. Failing to fire those responsible sends a message that the status quo is acceptable, and that there are no meaningful consequences for violating public trust, misusing taxpayer dollars, and breaking state law."