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MN's top investigator of child care fraud paid about $42k since being put on leave

Saint Paul Pioneer Press - 7/11/2019

Jul. 11--Minnesota's top investigator of child care fraud has been paid about $42,000 since she was put on leave nearly four months ago.

Inspector General Carolyn Ham was put on paid leave March 18 after an audit singled her out in detailing a rift within the ranks of those responsible for rooting out fraud. She makes $132,880 a year, according to the Department of Human Services.

Ham had been put on leave while DHS officials investigated a complaint against her. The department said Wednesday that the investigation is still going, and refused to elaborate further. State laws require officials to acknowledge the existence of a complaint against a public employee, but the details of the complaint are not disclosed unless a worker is disciplined.

A March report from the Office of the Legislative Auditor found "pervasive" fraud in a state-administered child care program. The audit painted a picture of a team of 14 fraud investigators who seemed on a different page than their boss, Ham, who oversees some 250 employees charged with oversight of human services programs.

The report noted that fraud investigators said they worked closely with Ham's predecessor, but none of them had any interaction with Ham since she was appointed in 2017. Some investigators said they felt Ham tried to undermine them when they raised concerns about the potential extent of the fraud.

Ham fired back after she was put on leave and said the allegations against her were "completely without merit."

"The results of this investigation will show that there was no failure of leadership on my part," Ham said in a statement in March.

State Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria, questioned the length of the investigation. She criticized DHS and the administration of Gov. Tim Walz for not firing Ham earlier.

"I'm not exactly sure where this investigation is going," Franson said. "The fact that she is sitting at home, doing nothing, getting paid for her incompetence, is only going to enrage taxpayers further."

Ham could not be reached for comment.

The governor's office has not yet responded to requests for comment.

DHS Deputy Commissioner Chuck Johnson is in charge of the Office of the Inspector General for the time being, according to a department spokeswoman.

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