MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A leading Republican says she believes there is a culture of retaliation and fear at the scandal-plagued Minnesota Department of Human Services.
Senator Michelle Benson voiced her concerns at the hearing on Tuesday morning.
“When you have six layers of management and nobody’s checking, that’s not because resources weren’t available, it’s because people didn’t know how to do their job,” Senator Benson said.
Sen. Benson criticized Commissioner Jodi Harpstead for other issues too.
Commissioner Jodi Harpstead had already made this presentation on her first ninety days as Commissioner to a Democratic-controlled House Committee, but the Senate is controlled by Republicans, and the grilling here before the Senate Committee was tougher.
“There are people who are still afraid and I know you are trying to change that and you take it seriously,” Sen. Benson said.
Commissioner Harpstead says she is changing the culture.
“I have heard reports from many people in the department that it’s a more comfortable place to work already and I think it will get that way more as we go forward,” Harpstead said.
Senator Benson was also sharply critical that Carolyn Ham, the former Inspector General of DHS, is still working at the Department.
“How are we going to rebuild trust when it doesn’t appear that there’s accountability?” Sen. Benson asked.
Harpstead says she supports Ham staying at DHS. Ham was investigated for her handling of fraud investigations and cleared of wrongdoing.
One of the issues that remains undecided here at the Capitol is whether or not to break up the Department of Human Services. The thinking being that if it were broken up into smaller departments it would be easier to monitor.
Commissioner Harpstead says she is neutral on this, but she says she can see pros and cons to both sides.
Governor Tim Walz has said he would be open to the idea of breaking Human Services into smaller departments.