Minnesota DHS inspector general placed on leave, faces investigation

The Minnesota inspector general tasked with overseeing how tax dollars are spent on child care is on leave and facing an investigation after an audit revealed problems within her agency.

A legislative auditor’s review found a "serious rift" between Department of Human Services Inspector General Carolyn Ham and investigators looking into fraud within the state's child care assistance program. That audit was triggered by a FOX 9 investigation.

Monday afternoon, a DHS spokeswoman gave a series of vague answers about Ham’s job status before acknowledging that Ham had been placed on leave amid an investigation.

“Carolyn Ham is on leave. Reasons for being on leave are not public under the data practices act,” said the DHS spokeswoman, who asked not to be named and for the statement to be attributed to her agency.

Asked if a complaint had been filed against Ham, the spokeswoman later confirmed it.

“There is an active complaint under investigation. Under the Minnesota Data Practices Act, only the existence and status of a complaint are public information,” the DHS spokeswoman said.

Efforts to reach Ham via telephone were not successful.

Republicans, who have called on Ham to resign her position, said the agency did not handle Monday’s update in a transparent manner.

“I think it just goes to show another example of the Department of Human Services, when being pushed, is either unwilling or incapable of providing taxpayers with the truth,” said state Rep. Nick Zerwas, R-Elk River.

Last week, the head of DHS’ investigative unit said 50 percent of the $217 million paid to child care centers every year could be fraudulent. The legislative auditor was not able to confirm that number and said it could not reliably say how much fraud existed in the program.

The legislative auditor said Ham distanced herself from her investigators and didn't meet with them.

Ham was in the state Capitol on the day the audit became public, but brushed past questions from FOX 9 about the report.