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Judge, Gov. Walz administration clash over Feeding Our Future payments

Saturday September 24, 2022

Judge John Guthmann speaks in this file photo from 2018, at the Ramsey County Courthouse in St. Paul. The judge through a statement from the courts disputes assertions by the governor and the Minnesota Department of Education that he ordered payments to Feeding Our Future.Renee Jones Schneider | Pool via Star Tribune

A Ramsey County judge late Friday chided Gov. Tim Walz for saying the judge had ordered state education officials to continue making payments to Feeding Our Future, the organization federal prosecutors say defrauded taxpayers out of $250 million in COVID-19 funds.

In an extraordinary statement, the Minnesota Judicial Branch said Judge John Guthmann “never ordered the Department of Education to resume payments to FOF in April 2021, or at any other time” and called Walz’s statement on the matter “inaccurate.”

A Walz spokesperson responded later saying Guthmann had found the Education Department in contempt and that's why they resumed payments.

“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 said. “The court held MDE in contempt for not processing Feeding Our Future Applications.”

Dozens of people, including the nonprofit’s founder, were charged this week with diverting federal funds for child nutrition for their personal gain, including properties, luxury goods and travel.

Guthmann had presided over the lawsuit Feeding Our Future filed against the Education Department in 2020, alleging the Minnesota agency was delaying approval of meal sites.

Walz on Thursday blamed the judge’s ruling for forcing his department to continue making payments to Feeding Our Future. MDE suspended payments to the nonprofit in 2021. In response its leaders asked Guthmann to order the department to resume payments.

The court system’s statement Friday said the payments were continued voluntarily and not the result of a court ruling.

“The Department of Education suspended payments to FOF based on a ‘serious deficiencies’ letter it issued to FOF on March 30, 2021. As a result, FOF filed a motion asking Judge Guthmann to order the Department of Education to resume payments and to pay sanctions,” the courts’ statement said.


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