High school league flip flops on youth athletes wearing masks outdoors
After strictly enforcing Gov. Tim Walz's mask mandate in order to play youth sports indoors and out, the Minnesota State High School League has gotten religion. Sort of.
For months Minnesotans have been waiting to find out what’s wrong at the anti-fraud unit at the Department of Human Services. The agency’s former inspector general Carolyn Ham was put on paid leave after the release of a legislative auditor’s report finding rampant fraud in the state’s child-care assistance program and disarray among DHS investigators in charge of uncovering it. Coverage in the Star Tribune and other media at the time led to high expectations of the critical importance of the internal investigation.
The Office of the Legislative Auditor said it couldn’t specify the amount of fraud in the Child Care Assistance Program but said it is likely higher than the $5 million or $6 million that has been documented by county prosecutors who investigated a handful of child-care providers.
The report also cited a rift between Ham and the team of anti-fraud investigators within the agency. Most of the 14 investigators told the auditor’s office that they had never met Ham, and several described her as unwilling to speak to them as they passed in the hallway, according to the report.
In the meantime, the spotlight on DHS has only intensified with numerous scandals and exposes of extraordinary dysfunction and tens of millions of wasted taxpayer dollars at the state’s largest agency.
Yet as with so much else that happens at DHS, the details of the investigation into the agency’s top investigator will remain a mystery. It turns out that Carolyn Ham has quietly been reassigned to another six-figure salary post within the agency. No corrective measures were taken and virtually no further explanation was given for the outcome of the personnel matter, according to the Star Tribune account.
DHS Commissioner Jodi Harpstead told a Minnesota House health committee this month that the internal investigation had been completed and that no disciplinary action would be taken against Ham.
Ham will be an administrative officer for a DHS division that provides services to seniors on Medicaid, according to an internal DHS announcement. Ham will retain her $132,800 salary.
The lack of transparency in the handling of the controversial former inspector general’s case looks like business as usual at the behemoth social services agency. But DHS remains in the cross hairs of several powerful legislators with oversight authority.
House and Senate Republicans expressed frustration this month after hearing that Ham would not be disciplined.
“The decision to retain her … raises questions,” said Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake. “She did not do top-tier work as she was running the Office of Inspector General.”
Ham pointed out that the investigation found no wrongdoing on her part. But the episode serves to remind observers that any serious reform of the out-of-control agency will come only from outside the Walz administration.