Court denies MDE request to recoup legal fees from defending against Feeding our Future lawsuit

A Dakota County judge on Wednesday denied the Minnesota Department of Education’s request to recover more than half a million dollars in legal fees spent defending a lawsuit against Feeding our Future, the now-dissolved nonprofit implicated in a $250 million fraud scheme.

Judge David N. Lutz denied MDE’s motion on the basis that Dakota County District Court would be the wrong venue to award such a payout considering the agency’s civil case with Feeding our Future is based in Ramsey County. However, Lutz noted that he is presiding over Feeding our Future’s supervised dissolution.

In his ruling, Judge Lutz made no mention of the merits of MDE’s claim, only stating that the action should be refiled in Ramsey County.

Feeding our Future is accused of fraudulently receiving millions in funds through the Federal Child Nutrition Program. Prosecutors say the organization acted as a sponsor for dozens of sites purporting to serve hundreds of thousands of meals to school children during the COVID-19 pandemic, but only a small fraction of those meals were actually served.

Meal reimbursement applications were processed through MDE. When MDE stopped processing Feeding our Future’s applications, the nonprofit filed a lawsuit in November 2020 claiming the state was discriminating because its sponsored meal sites served children from low-income families and minority groups.

Over time, MDE accumulated more than $583,000 in legal fees defending the lawsuit, which Feeding our Future agreed to withdraw in February after the organization became the subject of a federal fraud investigation.

MDE announced it was filing to recoup those losses right after federal prosecutors announced in September they had unsealed indictments against dozens of people connected with the Feeding our Future fraud scheme.

So far 50 defendants have been charged, including Aimee Bock, Feeding our Future’s founder and executive director. Four of those defendants have pleaded guilty.