Local Lawmaker Questions DHS Head

Local Lawmaker Questions DHS Head Click to Enlarge Photo: Department of Human Services Website

(KSNI) - A joint Minnesota Senate committee hearing into the embattled Department of Human Services told the agency's acting head that the department will need to figure out to repay the Federal government for $25 million in overpayments to two tribes for substance abuse treatment.

St. Cloud Senator Jerry Relph was one of those questioning witnesses and said the White Earth Tribe and Leach Lake Band submitted the paperwork for payments the way DHS told them to.

"They're (Federal government) says the tribes have to pay it back, but we don't know if they did anything wrong, and from the testimony on Tuesday, no one could tell them if they did anything wrong."

Relph was a guest of KNSI's Dan "The Ox" Ochsner shortly after the hearing finished.

He also questioned Acting Commissioner Pam Wheelock about the recent resignations of several top officials in the department last month, and he says the answers were evasive.

"There was a lot of what I call prevaricating about the fact that people leave for various reasons, some of them intensely personal, and we shouldn't take this as an indication that this is the idea of some reformers against some bureaucrats. Well, I'm sorry, but that's exactly what it sounds like."

Commissioner Tony Lourey abruptly resigned in July after his top two deputies resigned.

Relph says something about the resignations doesn't seem right.

"Obviously there was an attempt being made at some kind of systemic reform and all of a sudden, in the middle of it, the architect left. You have to wonder about that."

After Lourey's resignation, the two deputies came back to the agency.

More hearings will likely be called in the coming weeks and months.

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