Other’s Opinion: Transparency: Auditor duty to examine Walz appointment vetting

Published 5:29 pm Friday, October 13, 2023

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Mankato Free Press. October 4

Good government is transparent government. And transparent government can be embarrassing for those who govern.

So it’s important that the legislative auditor examine the vetting process used by Gov. Tim Walz’s administration that allowed a significantly unqualified candidate be appointed as the state cannabis director in charge of a regulatory agency. Erin DuPree had been in the cannabis business but a report of publicly available information by the Star Tribune and Minnesota Public Radio revealed she had sold illegal cannabis, had money problems with other businesses and unpaid taxes.

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The auditor opened a preliminary investigation into the matter on Monday saying it may be weeks before it decides to open an official inquiry. Walz has owned the problem saying his administration “got it wrong” and will be reviewing the vetting process. That review won’t be pretty. Someone or some group dropped the 10-ton ball and the mistake will ultimately lie with Walz.

Walz makes 300 to 500 appointments a year to some 130 state commissions and boards, so there are likely to be a few misses. In July, Walz had to rescind the appointment of Jerald Loud to the Governor’s Task Force on Broadband after finding out a judge granted his ex-wife a restraining order 30 years ago, saying he had “battered” her.

Several candidates for the cannabis job were vetted by state officials and finalists were interviewed by Walz, who now says he will look not for an entrepreneur, but more of a regulator for the position. That’s probably best. Cannabis is an industry like no other. The recreational drug can have serious public safety consequences if left without guardrails.

Legislative Auditor Judy Randall’s review will be public and the governor’s own investigation should be also.

The public deserves to know how these missteps can happen in such a critical position and a critical new regulatory agency. The public should have the information in order to judge Walz’s culpability in this matter. And it deserves to know how a new process will be better than the old.