The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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February 8, 2011

Altered sex offender report irritates area legislators

State lawmakers representing St. Peter denounced a Pawlenty administration official for altering a report aimed at finding ways to reduce costs of confining sex offenders at state facilities there and in Moose Lake.

The Legislature ordered that the Department of Human Services prepare a report — and deliver it by January — on alternatives for reducing the skyrocketing cost of the Minnesota Sex Offender Program. The $64 million program currently treats more than 600 offenders in locked facilities in the two cities, but that number is projected to grow to more than 1,100 over the next decade.

The report was put together by mental health experts and delivered on time, but lawmakers learned from a Minneapolis Star Tribune story Monday that former Human Services Commissioner Cal Ludeman modified the report before it was delivered.

“It appears that Commissioner Ludeman edited it to take out options that he didn’t think were politically acceptable to the governor,” said Rep. Terry Morrow, DFL-St. Peter. “... We didn’t know that it had been edited and we didn’t know he’s taken options off the table that the experts recommended.”

Ludeman, an appointee of Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, saw his tenure as commissioner end with the inauguration of Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton. The unedited version of the report was quickly produced by the new human services commissioner and showed that Ludeman made more than 30 redactions, including eliminating the option of community-based treatment for certain offenders rather than the extremely expensive MSOP, said Sen. Kathy Sheran, DFL-Mankato.

“It answers more thoroughly the questions we asked the experts to answer,” Sheran said of the original report.

Attempts to reach Ludeman Monday afternoon were unsuccessful, but he told the Star Tribune that the changes were vetted by Pawlenty’s senior staff and that they approved the edited report. He said he made the changes to better fit the administration’s political philosophy and its position that longer prison terms were the preferred option for dealing with chronic sex offenders.

Sheran said longer prison terms might be the best choice, but that’s a decision that needs to be made after all the options are presented and considered by elected lawmakers.

“That’s the arrogance that he brings to his position, that he should decide ...,” she said.

“That’s for the Legislature to decide, not Cal Ludeman in the isolation of his office.”

Morrow said Ludeman’s actions also call into question whether other information presented to lawmakers about the St. Peter Regional Treatment Center, including issues of public safety and security, was forwarded in its entirety “or was information omitted for political reasons?”

Sheran said lawmakers are also left wondering how many times over the past eight years, when the Legislature asked agencies to provide data, a similar editing was done by political appointees at the top.

“The administration’s moved on,” she said. “The best we can do now is ask for a finding on what other reports have been modified.”

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