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Minnesota Department of Human Services accused of ‘blatantly racist’ work environment

Plus: Winona State University quarantines itself for two weeks; Rochester man dies after falling from cliff in northeastern Minnesota; fired Hagedorn staffer’s audio recordings shed more light on mail controversy; and more.

Jodi Harpstead
MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan
Human Services Commissioner Jodi Harpstead
In the Star Tribune, Glenn Howatt writes: “People of color and Native Americans working at the Minnesota Department of Human Services are sometimes the targets of racial slurs and harassment, denied promotions and raises and are isolated without support from senior management, several current and former employees say. … ‘The atmosphere there is so blatantly racist,’ said Shirley Cain, a Native American who left the DHS in June after six years. … DHS, the state’s largest agency, employs 7,300 workers and serves more than 1.1 million Minnesotans with public health insurance programs, services for the elderly and people with disabilities, cash assistance and other social services.”

The Associated Press writes: “Winona State University quarantined itself for two weeks starting Tuesday amid increasing spread of the coronavirus on the southeastern Minnesota campus. …The school said its self-imposed quarantine will reduce the number of people physically present on campus for the next two weeks. Classes taught face-to-face will either shift entirely online or, if absolutely necessary, continue in-person with increased precautions. Employees who don’t need to be physically present on campus will shift to remote work.”

MPR’s Brian Bakst reports: “Minnesota’s Department of Public Safety advertised Tuesday for an outside evaluator to independently review the role of state entities in responding to civil unrest and riots after the killing of George Floyd as more details emerged about what was happening behind the scenes. The comprehensive report, which would be due next year, is expected to cover collaboration between several state agencies and local entities that dealt with many days of upheaval.

The Forum News Service reports: “A 29-year-old Rochester, Minn., man was killed after falling approximately 100 feet from a cliff to the Caribou River in northeastern Minnesota on Monday, according to the Lake County Sheriff’s Office. Around 9:30 p.m., Daniel Allman was hiking with a friend when he fell approximately 100 feet from a cliff on the North Shore river, landing in the water below.”

The Star Tribune’s Briana Bierschbach and Patrick Condon report: “U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn told his former chief of staff in a phone conversation last month that ‘I don’t believe there’s any problem’ with taxpayer-funded mail to constituents that was produced by two companies with ties to his congressional office. Peter Su, the former chief of staff, gave the Star Tribune an audio recording of the conversation, which he said occurred on Aug. 7. Hagedorn, in an interview, did not dispute that it was an authentic recording. … Su said the phone call he recorded — about six weeks after his departure from the office — shows that Hagedorn’s concerns as depicted in the internal review are being inflated in retrospect as he faces a tough re-election battle.”

At MPR, Brandt Williams reports, “Homicide tallies that began inching above normal in the spring skyrocketed in the summer. From Memorial Day to Labor Day [Minneapolis] recorded 41 homicides, more than double the number in the same period in 2019.  City officials and police say the uptick is likely due to the usual summer spike in violence combined with the unprecedented economic downturn brought about by the pandemic. The number of shootings increased following the killing of George Floyd by police in May. Next Step is one of several efforts by the city of Minneapolis to treat violence as a contagious disease. But during one of the most violent years in more than a decade, these public health initiatives to prevent retaliatory violence have been constrained by efforts to contain the outbreak of COVID-19.”

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Also in the Star Tribune, Megan Ryan says, “Two Minnesota legislators have joined other lawmakers from states with Big Ten universities, asking the conference to overturn its decision to cancel fall sports. Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, and House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, were two of 10 legislators signing a letter written by Michigan House of Representatives speaker Lee Chatfield. All are Republicans from six states — including Ohio, Pennsylvania, Iowa and Wisconsin.”