DHS confirms resignation of executive

Maureen O'Connell, the assistant commissioner for the Minnesota Department of Human Services' Chemical and Mental Health Services Administration, will resign tomorrow, a DHS spokesperson confirmed Thursday.

O'Connell oversaw mental health programs and played a key role in the controversial hiring of David Proffitt to head the Minnesota Security Hospital.

"During her time as assistant commissioner, Maureen has shown dedication to our mission and a strong commitment to the people we serve," DHS Commissioner Lucinda Jesson wrote in an email announcing the resignation sent to DHS employees this week.

Jesson appointed O'Connell to serve as assistant commissioner in January 2011.

O'Connell led several mental health programs, including the department's massive State Operated Services division, until April 2012, when Jesson transferred oversight of State Operated Services to DHS deputy commissioner Anne Barry. O'Connell remained in charge of several other areas within DHS.

In an interview in April, Barry said the restructuring was intended to provide greater oversight of the Minnesota Security Hospital and other state-operated mental health services, as well as provide a clear separation between employees who work on policy issues and employees who provide direct care to patients.

O'Connell also oversaw the hiring of Proffitt, who was ordered to resign from the Minnesota Security Hospital in March after a report found he belittled employees and make sexually-charged jokes. An MPR News investigation found O'Connell and other top DHS officials did not conduct a thorough investigation of Proffitt's background. MPR News found Proffitt misstated his educational background on his resume and had been arrested for domestic violence.

O'Connell did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Dave Hartford, the administrator of adult mental health for State Operated Services, will serve as an interim assistant commissioner while DHS conducts a national search for a permanent replacement. O'Connell "has agreed to stay on until Oct. 5 to continue to co-chair the Olmstead Planning Committee, which is developing Minnesota's plan for advancing community-based services for people with disabilities," the email said.

Hospital at Risk:
Danger and Dysfunction at the Minnesota Security Hospital
State facility for the mentally ill risks losing license over turmoil
―Published: Feb. 28, 2012
Data: Violence, restraints common at Minnesota Security Hospital
―Published: Feb. 28, 2012
David Proffitt, head of Minnesota Security Hospital, resigns at state's request
―Published: March 27, 2012
Former Minn. Security Hospital leader's 'extremely assertive' style rankled some
―Published: March 28, 2012
State failed to review troubled past of ousted Minn. Security Hospital administrator
―Published: March 30, 2012
Auditor to look at agency's hiring practices in wake of Proffitt dismissal
―Published: April 2, 2012
Former Security Hospital head still getting paid
―Published: April 12, 2012
After complaints, MN Security Hospital inspected
―Published: April 13, 2012
Plan gives DHS more oversight in state mental health services
―Published: April 20, 2012
Funding for St. Peter hospital renovations in doubt
―Published: April 27, 2012
Security hospital worker 'emotionally abused' patient
―Published: May 1, 2012
Security Hospital in line for fraction of funding request
―Published: May 4, 2012
State investigating Security Hospital's handling of missing patient, stabbing
―Published: May 9, 2012
Investigation shows complexity of caring for the state's most violent and mentally ill adults
―Published: June 8, 2012
DHS confirms resignation of executive
―Published: Aug. 23, 2012
More injured employees, fewer doctors at Minnesota Security Hospital
―Published: Aug. 29, 2012
Minn. moves mentally ill patients to avoid legal action
―Published: Dec. 14, 2012