Judge Guthmann vindicated in Feeding Our Future scandal

A hitherto obscure Ramsey County judge, John Guthmann, has received much of the blame for the Feeding Our Future debacle. He has now been vindicated.

The fault lies in this untrue sentence published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune back in January. The sentence reads,

In April 2021, Ramsey County District Judge John Guthmann told MDE that it didn’t have the authority to stop payment and would need to continue to pay Feeding Our Future.

I quoted that sentence myself in this earlier piece I wrote on Guthmann. It turns out that the Star Tribune obtained that “fact”, not from any ruling made by the judge, but from the state Department of Education (MDE) itself. There is not one aspect of that sentence which is true. In fact, the real story is closer to the opposite.

The Star Tribune is now reporting a much different story,

The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE), which oversees the federal nutrition program, said in a statement in January that a judge had told the department “that it does not have the authority to stop payment to Feeding Our Future and must continue to pay Feeding Our Future’s claims.”

No such attribution or quotation marks were included in the Star Tribune‘s original January story. The judge himself explains his actions in this statement released yesterday. John Hinderaker covers the extraordinary statement in this PowerLine post.

The Star Tribune now reports,

A rare state Judicial Branch statement, authorized by Guthmann on Friday, said Guthmann never ordered the department to resume payments, however. The statement said that the Star Tribune, other news media and MDE officials had inaccurately described him doing so. MDE voluntarily resumed payments, the statement said. Guthmann never issued a written order to do so.

The judge is correct. A careful reading of the transcript of the court hearing, and the judge’s subsequent written order, tell a much different story than the one told by MDE back in January. To its credit, the Star Tribune is now reporting the entire story.

To explain its past falsehoods, the Department is now trying to conflate two different aspects of the Feeding Our Future litigation, one involving applications for new food distribution sites and another involving the payment of past invoices. The judge never ruled on the payment issue because, by that time, the Department had voluntarily and inexplicably resumed payments to Feeding Our Future.

I covered this aspect in a Twitter thread yesterday,

In fact, the judge reminded the Department that it had the power, and the obligation, to request additional documentation before authorizing payment. As the Star Tribune now accurately reports,

MDE elected to pay those claims after the judge told the agency that it was entitled to request receipts, attendance records and other documents from Feeding Our Future to ensure those were valid claims. 

It’s clear in hindsight that the Department intentionally misrepresented the Judge’s work to shift blame away from their own failures to act.

For its part, the Department is now trying to shift the blame to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Federal agency in charge of the free-food programs.