ST. PAUL – Following an announcement that two senior officials from the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs (MDVA) had been fired due to the toxic work environment allegations that had been brought against the Hastings Veterans Home, State Representative Shane Hudella (R-Hastings) said he supported the move.
“When the St. Paul Pioneer Press first broke the story regarding whistleblower allegations at the Veterans Home in Hastings, I was both shocked and incredibly concerned,” Hudella said. “I immediately launched my own investigation into the allegations, and recalled by motion on the House floor, House File 1687 that I authored to appropriate $78 million Minnesota taxpayer dollars to the Hastings Veterans Home campus renovation project.”
“As dialogue progressed with current and former employees and residents of MDVA and the Hastings Veterans Home, I felt it was appropriate to file a Data Practices Act request with MDVA for all communications concerning the allegations,” Hudella continued. “Additionally, I conducted an initial meeting with the Office of the Legislative Auditor to talk through the process for potentially requesting a full audit of the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs.”
“This past weekend, I was incredibly pleased to see that Commissioner Herke has taken swift and appropriate action to address the concerns stemming from the allegations. I applaud his commitment to our Veterans, his candor in addressing a need for change in leadership and oversight for the Hastings Veterans Home, and his willingness to create a new culture with listening sessions for the staff and residents, conducted by his office.”
According to an article in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, a dozen current and former caregivers at the Hastings Veterans Home described what they say is a toxic workplace culture in the domiciliary program that includes harassment, retaliation and bullying of workers who raise safety and staffing concerns. Caregivers and residents say the problems have led to an exodus of workers and present hazards for both veterans and staff.
In response, the commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs announced that Doug Hughes, deputy commissioner for veterans’ health care, and Mike Anderson, administrator of the Minnesota Veterans Home in Hastings, had been relieved of their duties on March 19.
“With the Commissioner’s actions, I am closing my investigation and will be withdrawing my Data Practices Act and OLA requests and I look forward to continuing to push for funding and legislation in support of the much-needed campus renovation project at the Hastings Veterans Home,” Hudella said. “I will always place our heroic Veterans, and those who care for them, at the top of my list of Minnesotans to fight for at the Minnesota State Capitol.”
The Hastings Veterans Home provides shelter and service to roughly 150 residents.