Accountability for past mistakes at the state Human Services Department is on Republicans’ minds as Commissioner Jodi Harpstead gives Minnesota Senate lawmakers a progress report this morning (10am), 90 days after taking the helm at that troubled state agency. Last week Harpstead told a committee in the Democrat-controlled House that no one in her department has been disciplined for decisions made many years ago. Republican Senator Michelle Benson from Ham Lake responds that’s “just shocking” to the average Minnesotan. Benson says, “They know if they did it in their job, they would be held accountable. Maybe it’s because the department doesn’t hold anybody accountable — people just keep moving from position to position.”
Harpstead says new procedures mean the department going forward will know who made every decision.
And Harpstead will likely get pushback again today from Senate Republicans, one week after statements to a House panel that some saw as pooh-poohing the seriousness of her department’s payment errors. Harpstead noted this year’s 100-plus million dollar figure is only a tenth-of-a-percent of total department payouts. Ham Lake Senator Michelle Benson responds, “I think it *is* a big deal, because if we cut their budget a tenth of a percent, they would have a fit.” Harpstead said last week she does not minimize 100-plus million dollars: “Every dime matters. I’m not suggesting in any way that these are small issues and don’t deserve our full attention.” But she says the state Human Services Department has made billions of dollars in payments which *are* appropriate.