Yesterday news broke that five state officials working for the Department of Human Services – including department director Maggie Anderson who is a member of Governor Jack Dalrymple’s cabinet – are facing criminal charges related to the investigation into the death of a child at a Velva pool last year.
Four of the state officials – including Anderson, Jonathan Alm, Julie Leer, and Laura Gotvaslee – are charged with public servant refusing to perform duty, physical obstruction of a government function, and criminal conspiracy.
All are class A misdemeanors.
A fifth official, Jennifer Barry, is also charged with Public Servant Refusing to Perform Duty, but in addition to that faces felony tampering with physical evidence and criminal conspiracy charges.
Mike Nowtazki has a good summary of the case up, and below I can provide the affidavit produced by the BCI investigator supporting the charges.
It makes for some interesting reading, though we should be clear that these charges are only alleged, that the folks they’re aimed at are innocent until proven guilty, and that the affidavit only represents the state’s side of the story.
For one thing, it appears as though the daycare operator caring for the child who drowned – one Heather Tudor, who is facing felony charges relating to negligent homicide, neglect of a child, and operating a daycare facility without a license – had a hinky licensing arrangement for her facility. That business was called KidQuarters.
She actually had two licenses for two separate daycare operations, but both operated in the same facility. One in an upstairs area, and the other in a basement. The affidavit makes it sound like this was done in order to get around state law stipulating the ratio between the number of children at a daycare and the number of daycare workers.
As this excerpt from the affidavit indicates, it seems Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem – who was intimately involved in the investigation – was shocked to learn about that arrangement, all the more so because DHS was apparently going to allow the daycares to open up again even after the drowning:
Also problematic is that the license for the daycare responsible for the child when she drowned was expired, but Mary Hermanson who is the Director of McHenry County Social Services said it was common practice for DHS to backdate licenses to avoid daycare service interruptions:
A social service worker at McHenry County – one Cheryl Johnson – was charged in this matter back in September for the licensing issues.
So how did this reach up to the state level? The BCI investigator says that once he began in inquiry into how this daycare facility was operating with an expired license the officials at DHS tried to roadblock his investigation, with Anderson specifically accused of telling employees not to cooperate with him.
Jennifer Barry is facing the more serious felony charges apparently because she was actually instructing people to destroy email records, as this excerpt from an email the BCI obtained with a search warrant shows:
Yikes. Again. If you start at page 36 of the affidavit you’ll read more emails which really don’t reflect very well on the public officials sending them.
This is a pretty serious matter. I mean, we have a member of the governor’s cabinet facing criminal charges, and Stenehjem explicitly gave the go-ahead for the investigation to go there:
Here’s the full affidavit: