Senate leader calls on Walz commissioner to resign over Feeding Our Future scandal 

"After reading Judge Guthmann’s statement, if it is true MDE was under no obligation to continue to pay Feeding Our Future, and Commissioner Mueller was dishonest before a Senate Committee about the Judge's actions, I have no choice but to call for the Commissioner to resign," Miller said. 

Left: Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller/Minnesota Senate. Right: Education Commissioner Heather Mueller/Department of Education.

Minnesota’s Senate majority leader on Monday called for Education Commissioner Heather Mueller to resign for what he described as “dishonest” statements she made about her agency’s efforts to prevent an estimated $250 million in pandemic fraud.

Minnesota’s political world was turned upside down Tuesday when U.S. Attorney Andy Luger announced charges against 48 Minnesotans for allegedly defrauding the federal government’s child nutrition programs of $250 million in a little over 20 months.

“These 47 defendants engaged in a brazen scheme of staggering proportions,” Luger said during a press conference, describing the $250 million total as just the “floor” because the federal investigation continues.

At the center of the case is Aimee Bock and her nonprofit, Feeding Our Future, which functioned as a sponsor organization for hundreds of subsidiaries, called “meal sites,” across the state.

In total, Feeding Our Future opened more than 250 sites throughout the state of Minnesota and fraudulently obtained and disbursed more than $240 million in federal child nutrition program funds, according to Luger’s office.

In Minnesota, these federal funds are overseen and disbursed by the Minnesota Department of Education, which has repeatedly claimed that it was ordered by a judge to continue paying Feeding Our Future and its associates.

Commissioner Mueller said as much during an April hearing before the Senate Education Committee, according to Sahan Journal.

Gov. Tim Walz repeated these claims during a press conference Thursday, even suggesting that the judge who ordered the payments to continue should be investigated.

But then that judge, John Guthmann, issued a statement Friday saying he “never ordered the Department of Education to resume payments to [Feeding Our Future] in April 2021, or at any other time.”

The statement, issued by the Minnesota Judicial Branch on Guthmann’s behalf, continued:

“On February 26, 2022, the Star Tribune reported on a federal investigation of FOF. The article included the following false statement: ‘In April 2021, Ramsey County District Judge John Guthmann told the department it didn’t have the authority to stop payments and ordered the department to resume payments.’ Since February, that Star Tribune quote has been repeated or paraphrased on many occasions by many other media outlets. The same media sources reported that, in her April 4, 2022, testimony to the Minnesota Senate, the Commissioner of the Education stated that the MN Department of Education tried to stop payments to FOF, only to be ordered by Judge Guthmann to resume payments.  That is false. Then, when federal indictments were announced this week, many new reports were published. On September 22, 2022, Governor Tim Walz told the media that the Minnesota Department of Education attempted to end payments to FOF because of possible fraud, but that Judge Guthmann ordered payments to continue in April 2021. That is also false.”

Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, called for Mueller’s resignation in response.

“When it comes to fraud, waste, and abuse, there is no political or partisan take. As Minnesotans, we expect accountability for public officials who fail to protect the taxpayers’ dollars. After reading Judge Guthmann’s statement, if it is true MDE was under no obligation to continue to pay Feeding Our Future, and Commissioner Mueller was dishonest before a Senate Committee about the Judge’s actions, I have no choice but to call for the Commissioner to resign,” Miller said.

“Based on Judge Guthmann’s statement, Governor Walz and Commissioner Mueller have been dishonest with the public about the legal proceedings and failed to protect taxpayer dollars from the biggest instance of COVID-related fraud in the country. That’s not the kind of leadership the citizens of Minnesota expect of their government. The Senate will continue to hold state government accountable to its people,” he added.

The Walz administration responded to the judicial branch statement in a statement of its own later Friday.

“Feeding Our Future demanded that MDE make payments, and the court made it clear that if MDE were to continue the legal fight to withhold payments, MDE would incur sanctions and legal penalties,” the statement said. “The court held MDE in contempt for not processing Feeding Our Future applications.”

 

Anthony Gockowski

Anthony Gockowski is Editor-in-Chief of Alpha News. He previously worked as an editor for The Minnesota Sun and Campus Reform, and reported for The Daily Caller.