There’s clearly more behind this story of Tony Lourey suddenly resigning as commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Services this week. It was a job Lourey had told the News Tribune Editorial Board just five months ago he was “tremendously honored” to be chosen for. The native of Kerrick, about 40 miles southwest of Duluth, commented with appreciation then about the “phenomenal trust being placed in me.”
But Lourey’s departure now comes just days after a pair of deputy commissioners abruptly resigned from the department without any public explanation whatsoever. And it quickly followed serious and deserved scrutiny of the administration of Gov. Tim Walz for being slow to investigate an inspector in the same department. That inspector was in child care fraud and was placed on leave in March when news started breaking about allegations of fraud. The inspector was paid $42,000 while on leave, a story in the News Tribune reported this week.
Minnesota taxpayers want to know just what’s going on. We deserve to know. We have a right to know.
Lourey’s resignation letter to Walz offered few clues, however. "I believe a new leader is necessary to best execute your vision for human services,” blah, blah, blah, the respected former state senator wrote, hitting on mostly all the right words.
Walz was even less forthcoming, telling reporters, “There’s going to be a desire to find more drama than is there; those of you that know me know that I don’t do drama. … I will take Commissioner Lourey at his word that he felt he was not the right person at this time."
In only about half a year in office, this disappointingly wasn’t the first time Walz has sidestepped questions about his transparency — or lack thereof. And that was after the former congressman touted the quality to voters while campaigning to be governor.
Criticisms arose at the end of the legislative session when Walz, the DFL House speaker, and the Republican Senate majority leader were pretty much the only ones in the room — behind closed doors and in secret — for the final, nitty-gritty negotiating to get to a budget compromise. All three promised then to work on being more open.
But just last month, “transparency” and “Walz” were in the news again when the governor refused to release his daily calendars of events and meetings after media outlets requested to receive them. Walz had told a meeting of the Society of Professional Journalists he would release more of his calendars than other governors before him. But then came a memo, only about a week later, that his deputy general counsel considered the calendars classified under Minnesota law. So, nope.
And now there are these Department of Human Services resignations, largely dismissed by Walz.
But not by everyone, thankfully. Republican lawmakers said this week that the shake-up at the department that accounts for about one-third of state government spending signals a scandal. They called for more transparency and additional oversight.
"If there is no fraud, then prove it. If there is no scandal behind the resignations of these three people, then be transparent and prove it. Let's know everything that there is to know about why this is happening," House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said, according to the story in the News Tribune. "What we want to know now is what caused this so that we can prevent this from happening again.”
Lawmakers and Minnesotans alike want to know. Deserve to know. Have a right to know.