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Former DOC deputy commissioner responds to investigation

Former DOC deputy commissioner responds to investigation Photo: DOC

Updated: July 30, 2019 10:58 AM

A former Department of Corrections deputy commissioner has released a new statement in response to a recent investigation.

Sarah Walker, who resigned from her position earlier in July, responded to recent accusations via a statement posted to her LinkedIn page Tuesday.

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Days after she resigned, the DOC confirmed Walker was under an internal investigation.


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Documents detailing the allegations leveled against Walker included an anonymous letter from a state employee accusing Walker of helping funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars to a nonprofit that does business with her husband.

Another letter accused Walker of leaking the identity of a sexual assault survivor to a reporter.

Walker denied the allegations and stated the investigation was not the reason for her departure.

In a lengthy statement issued Tuesday, Walker said she lobbied pro bono for the Veterans Defense Project (VDP), "a non-profit organization co-founded by my husband." She said the VDP collaborated with national experts as well as state justice stakeholders to develop the Veterans Restorative Justice Act (VRJA).

"Prior to my appointment to the DOC, Governor Walz publicly announced his 100% support of the VRJA and the Walz administration, through the MN Department of Veteran Affairs, continued to actively support the bill throughout the legislative session," Walker said in the statement.

Walker added a separate appropriation bill was drafted to provide funding to help support the VRJA. It was initially drafted as a direct appropriation to the VDP, Walker said. However, she said the bill was then amended to include a competitive grant process to distribute the funds.

"Contrary to the concerns raised in the DOC complaint against me, the funding for the appropriation bill came from the Veterans Affairs budget and had no impact on the Public Safety/Judiciary budget," Walker wrote.

Walker went on to state that upon the release of the anonymous letter from a state employee accusing her of helping funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars to the nonprofit, it was shared with the Department of Veterans Affairs "to ensure transparency." Walker said the Minnesota Legislative Auditor conducted an investigation into the VDP's activities and "found no concerns."

In response to an allegation she leaked the identity of a sexual assault survivor to a reporter, Walker stated, "the assault and the victim's identity were well known amongst the victims' rights advocacy community, as well as employees within the DOC's Victim Services and Restorative Justice Unit. In fact, Commissioner (Paul) Schnell shared the victim's identity with me well before my appointment as deputy commissioner. the picture painted through selective redaction is misleading, though I cannot respond in more detail without the consent of the victim of that assault."

Walker also stated she was "unaware of the nature or origins of these complaints" until after her resignation and reiterated that she decided to leave the DOC of her own volition.

Earlier this month, Schnell said copies of the investigative documents filed by the DOC were also handed over to the state's Office of the Legislative Auditor. Additionally, Schnell said it would be up to law enforcement to decide whether Walker broke any laws and whether she would face charges.

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Rebecca Omastiak

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