Partners in Quality Care drops lawsuit against MDE after panel approves move to withhold funds

A three-person panel has upheld the Minnesota Department of Education’s (MDE) decision to withhold Child and Adult Care Food Program funding from Partners in Quality Care (PIQC), court records filed late last month show.

A letter submitted to the court by the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office says, in September, an administrative appeal was heard before a three-person panel, which later affirmed MDE’s decision to stop payments to PIQC.

“Based on Partner’s pattern of non-compliance with program regulations and its ties to the federal fraud scheme, the panel affirmed the May 27, 2022 decision to terminate Partner and withhold payments,” the letter states.

Wednesday, the St. Paul-based nonprofit voluntarily dismissed its lawsuit against MDE, according to court records.

Partners in Quality Care (PIQC) filed the lawsuit in September, claiming the agency cut off PIQC’s funding from the Child and Adult Care Food Program.

The lawsuit was the latest in a back-and-forth between the nonprofit and MDE. The agency told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS in February it had suspended PIQC’s food program funding after the nonprofit’s name surfaced in FBI search warrants during an investigation into alleged fraud under the Child and Adult Care Food Program. That investigation has so far led to charges against 50 people, five of whom have pleaded guilty thus far.

Feeding Our Future Coverage

In May, PIQC had its funding reinstated following its appeal.

While Partners in Quality Care was mentioned in warrants tied to the Feeding Our Future scheme, the nonprofit maintains that it has not been accused of doing anything illegal and hasn’t been told that it is a target of the federal investigation.

The findings of the investigation that have been revealed in charging documents connected to Feeding Our Future have drawn criticism, especially from Republicans, about the state’s failure to stop the alleged fraud sooner.

State officials, including Gov. Tim Walz, have defended their actions and said they did all they could to stop it, adding that they’d welcome an audit of the situation that Republican lawmakers have called for. Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Jensen also called for a special investigation and the resignation of MDE’s commissioner.

However, Walz defeated Jensen in Tuesday’s election to win a second term as governor and Democrats also took control of both legislative chambers, limiting Republicans’ ability to hold hearings on the state’s handling of the situation in the upcoming session.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS has reached out to Partners in Quality Care for a statement on this story and is awaiting a response. Reached by email, a spokesperson for the Minnesota Department of Education declined to comment.