Sep 27, 2022 - News

Feeding Our Future: Republicans call for Minnesota education commissioner's resignation over fraud case

heather mueller testifies

Education commissioner Heather Mueller testifies at a Senate hearing. Screenshot: Senate Media Services

Top Republicans are calling for the resignation of Department of Education commissioner Heather Mueller over the agency's response to the Feeding Our Future fraud allegations.

Driving the news: In a statement issued Monday, Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller (R-Winona) cited a judge's statement disputing assertions by Mueller and Gov. Tim Walz that the court ordered the agency to keep paying the embattled nonprofit last year.

  • "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.
  • GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott Jensen renewed his own call for Mueller's resignation at a Monday news conference.

The other side: The MDE has said the judge's actions forced its hand — while he did not issue an order on the payments, he did find the state in contempt of court for not processing site applications quickly enough in June 2021. A spokesperson for the governor defended Mueller and the agency's actions on Monday.

  • "MDE blew the whistle on this fraud scheme. They detected it early and worked diligently to stop it," she said in an email.

Between the lines: The Senate has the power to confirm or reject the governor's agency heads, but the Legislature isn't scheduled to be back in session until January.

Zoom out: Prosecutors say Feeding Our Future was at the center of a "brazen" scheme to defraud the government of $250 million meant for needy kids.

Situational awareness: Fallout over the scandal is fueling attacks on the campaign trail.

  • Two other Republicans running for statewide office — attorney general nominee Jim Schultz and auditor candidate Ryan Wilson—held their own events criticizing their rivals over their office's roles in the case.
  • DFL Attorney General Keith Ellison responded with a lengthly statement defending his office's actions, which included representing MDE in court and pressing the embattled nonprofit to register as a charity.
  • His office is conducting a civil investigation into potential violations of state charity regulations.
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