Feeding Our Future v. Minnesota Department of Education: Correcting Media Reports and Statements by Governor Tim Walz Concerning Orders Issued by the Court
Posted: Friday, September 23, 2022
Due to inaccurate statements by the Governor, the Commissioner of Education, and the media regarding the investigation of Feeding Our Future (FOF) and resulting federal indictments, Ramsey County District Court Judge John H. Guthmann has authorized the issuance of this news release.
Since the investigation of Feeding Our Future (FOF) by law enforcement became public in January 2022, numerous media outlets have reported on the investigation and the events leading to federal criminal indictments. Many of the reports commented on the civil lawsuit filed in Ramsey County District Court by FOF against the MN Department of Education in November 2020. The original lawsuit was based solely on claims that the Department of Education violated federal regulations and laws prohibiting race discrimination, by failing to act on FOF’s applications for new food-distribution sites as part of its administration of the federal Child and Adult Care Food Program. Judge Guthmann was initially assigned to the case. The lawsuit included a motion by FOF for an order to require the Department of Education to act on pending site applications. Before the court could rule, the parties reached an agreement in which the Department of Education agreed to handle these federally regulated site applications “reasonably promptly.” A consent order approving the settlement was issued on December 22, 2020.
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. Judge Guthmann never ordered
the Department of Education to resume payments to FOF in April 2021, or at any other time.
Thereafter, the Department of Education voluntarily resumed making payments to FOF. The Department of Education was not ordered by the court to do so. After the Department resumed voluntary payments, counsel for the Department of Education wrote the court asking that FOF’s motion for sanctions based on non-payment be denied as moot because the Department voluntarily resumed payments. In a later court filing related to FOF’s separate motion for sanctions based on the failure to approve or deny 144 applications for new food delivery sites, the Department of Education advised the court that FOF’s serious deficiencies were resolved as of June 4, 2021
. Of the 144 applications, 143 were denied, resulting in FOF’s separate administrative appeal.
On February 26, 2022, the Star Tribune reported on a federal investigation of FOF. The article included the following false statement: “In April 2021, Ramsey County District Judge John Guthmann told the department it didn't have the authority to stop payments and ordered the department to resume payments.” Since February, that Star Tribune quote has been repeated or paraphrased on many occasions by many other media outlets. The same media sources reported that, in her April 4, 2022, testimony to the Minnesota Senate, the Commissioner of the Education stated that the MN Department of Education tried to stop payments to FOF, only to be ordered by Judge Guthmann to resume payments. That is false. Then, when federal indictments were announced this week, many new reports were published. On September 22, 2022, Governor Tim Walz told the media that the Minnesota Department of Education attempted to end payments to FOF because of possible fraud, but that Judge Guthmann ordered payments to continue in April 2021. That is also false.
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 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.