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DHS commissioner Tony Lourey announces shock resignation

His department has been under increased scrutiny this past week.

After a week in which questions have been asked about leadership at the Minnesota Department of Human Services, DHS commissioner Tony Lourey resigned on Monday.

Gov. Tim Walz announced Monday that Pam Wheelock will serve as the acting commissioner, and thanked Lourey for his "dedicated service" as commissioner of Minnesota's biggest state department.

His resignation is effective at the end of Monday, with Wheelock officially being appointed Tuesday.

Lourey has been in the position for little more than half-a-year, resigning his state Senate seat to take up the role after being appointed by Gov. Walz. His Senate seat was then flipped Republican in a February special election.

In a note to staff, shared by MinnPost's Peter Callaghan, Lourey said he believes a "new leader is necessary to best execute your vision for human services and continue the critical work of improving health for Minnesotans across the state."

This past week has seen criticism of the DHS by Inspector General Carolyn Ham, who was placed on paid leave in March so a complaint could be investigated against her, shortly after a report critical of the DHS' handling of child care fraud was released.

Almost four months later, she said the investigation hasn't begun despite her still drawing income from the department.

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Then on Thursday, two high-ranking DHS officials resigned with no reason given for their departure, with deputy commissioners Claire Wilson and Charles Johnson signaling they will leave the department by Aug. 1.

"I would like to thank Tony Lourey for his dedicated service to the state of Minnesota as the Commissioner of the Department of Human Services," Governor Walz said. "Tony is passionate about improving the health care of Minnesotans, and I am proud of what we accomplished together this legislative session."

"I am grateful that Pam Wheelock has offered to step in to serve as commissioner while we find a permanent replacement," Walz continued. "With decades of experience in the public, private, and philanthropic sectors, I know the top-notch team at DHS will appreciate Pam’s leadership as much as I do.'

Among other things, the DHS is responsible for administering Minnesota's health care, child care, drug addiction and SNAP assistance programs.

House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt (R–Crown), who was planning to hold a press conference Monday morning about the 2 deputy commissioner departures, had this to say.

"The abrupt, unexplained departures of the top three officials at DHS in the past week is deeply troubling, and indicative of turmoil at our largest state agency. Minnesotans deserve answers and transparency from Governor Walz about what's going on."

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