ST PAUL, Minn. — A Ramsey County judge is pushing back against comments made by Governor Tim Walz about the Feeding Our Future scandal that took advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to defraud the U.S. government of at least $250 million.
On Thursday, Walz said the Minnesota Department of Education’s hands were tied by a court order for it to resume food program payments despite concerns the state had raised.
A spokesperson for the Minnesota Judicial Branch sent out a press release on Friday, saying Ramsey County District Court Judge John H. Guthmann never ordered the Department of Education to resume payments to Feeding Our Future.
The press release went on to say that the Department of Education "voluntarily resumed making payments," adding that in a later court filing that the Department of Education "advised the court that (Feeding Our Future's) serious deficiencies were resolved as of June 4, 2021."
"As the public court record and Judge Guthmann’s orders make plain, Judge Guthmann never issued an order requiring the MN Department of Education to resume food reimbursement payments to FOF," the press release reads in part. "The Department of Education voluntarily resumed payments and informed the court that FOF resolved the 'serious deficiencies' that prompted it to suspend payments temporarily. All of the MN Department of Education food reimbursement payments to FOF were made voluntarily, without any court order."
However, according to the Minnesota Department of Education, the court "made it clear" that it would incur legal penalties should the department continue its legal fight to withhold penalties.
“Feeding Our Future demanded that MDE make payments, and the court made it clear that if MDE were to continue the legal fight to withhold payments, MDE would incur sanctions and legal penalties," the statement reads. "The court held MDE in contempt for not processing Feeding Our Future Applications.”
Federal authorities on Tuesday announced charges against 48 people in Minnesota on conspiracy and other counts in what they said was the largest pandemic-related fraud scheme yet.
Watch more local news:
Watch the latest local news from the Twin Cities in our YouTube playlist: