Partners In Nutrition files third lawsuit against the Dept. of Ed.

Suspended large free-food charity moves ahead on the litigation front.

The St. Paul-based Partners in Nutrition, d/b/a Partners in Quality Care, was suspended by the state Department of Education (MDE) in the wake of the Feeding Our Future raids in January 2022, despite not being the subject of the FBI search warrants.

Partners has filed three appeals against MDE in the state Court of Appeals in 2022. In July, Partners appealed MDE’s decision to deny payment on some 250 invoices submitted by the nonprofit covering November and December 2021. This appeal is scheduled to be heard on February 1, 2023.

In November, Partners filed an appeal seeking to be reinstated to the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP).

On December 9, Partners filed a third lawsuit, appealing MDE’s decision to refuse payment on hundreds of additional invoices submitted covering the period from January through May 2022.

A fourth lawsuit, in federal court, was filed and withdrawn earlier this year.

Through a public data request, we obtained the brief filed by MDE in the original appeal, involving the November/December 2021 invoices. The other two lawsuits are in the pre-briefing stage.

Two things to highlight from the Department’s brief in the case. MDE mentions the role of former Partner’s board member Julius Scarver. (Brief, beginning paragraph D, page 8).

Scarver is mentioned in some later FBI search warrants and indictments in the Feeding Our Future case. Scarver himself has not been indicted or charged with any crime.

Scarver founded a nonprofit, The Free-Minded Institute, in late July 2021. The Institute operated five food distribution sites under the sponsorship of Partners in Nutrition. The sites were located in five different cities and had the capacity to serve nearly 5,000 children per day.

In this instance, “Dem Con” refers to a road named after a local demolition and construction company. The Free Minded Institute billed the program for $2.5 million during its short history.

MDE mentions another nonprofit, Wise Resource Center, founded in late August 2021. This nonprofit has not been named in any FBI or Department of Justice documents. It was included in MDE’s brief to illustrate the record-keeping problems typical of the unpaid invoices.

Wise Resources purchased food on behalf of six location, sponsored by its group and others.

Collectively, these locations had the capacity to feed more than 11,000 children per day. MDE claims that the six sites submitted invoices for more than $300,000, but provided receipts for only $145,000 worth of food (Brief, p. 29).

It’s now up to the Court of Appeals to sort it all out.