Daily Digest: Working to protect others in government
Good morning and welcome to Wednesday. Here's the Digest.
1. Sexual assault victim working to improve bureaucracy she says failed her. Safia Khan had lined up behind colleagues for a group photo when she suddenly froze: someone had taken this moment to come up behind her and grope her over the back of her dress. It was last February, and Khan was at a Breezy Point bar and restaurant during a social hour following the first day of a state-sponsored conference. She was stunned when she realized the person behind her was Andrew Lieffort, a staffer at the Minnesota Department of Corrections whom she had met for the first time that day. "He assaulted me in what I deemed to be the safest place I could be," Khan said later in a victim impact statement. "He did this to me while I stood next to my fiance and other leaders and colleagues working to end domestic and sexual violence." What followed was a maze of state bureaucracy that left Khan feeling "completely lost" and in the dark about what, if anything, happened to Lieffort in his job with the state. And it happened just weeks after state officials conducted a major review of how two dozen government agencies handle sexual harassment complaints. (MPR News)
2. Opioid deaths dropped last year. State health officials say new numbers suggest progress is being made in the opioid epidemic with preliminary data released Tuesday showing a significant drop in opioid overdose deaths from 2017 to 2018. According to the preliminary numbers, 134 Minnesotans overdosed and died last year using prescription opioids a 32 percent drop from 2017. Eighty-five people OD'd and died using heroin, a 23 percent drop.Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm stressed that last year's numbers are still preliminary. The final numbers released this fall will likely increase as death certificates of Minnesotans who died from opioid overdoses in other states are tabulated. Still, Malcolm said health officials are pleased with what they're seeing. "This seems to be an indication that Minnesota's attempts to really take a comprehensive approach to this problem clearly seem to be having an effect although we want to be equally clear that one year does not necessarily create a new trend," she said. (MPR News)
3. Klobuchar among those calling for Acosta resignation. Sen. Amy Klobuchar is calling on U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta to step down over his role in a previous plea deal for accused child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein. “Since when do underage girl sex traffickers get to go to their office every day while they serve their time?” Klobuchar, a Democratic presidential candidate from Minnesota, tweeted Tuesday morning. Epstein, a billionaire financier, was indicted in federal court on Monday on sex trafficking charges. The charges are similar to previous charges that Epstein faced in Florida in 2007; as U.S. attorney in Florida at that time, Acosta negotiated a plea deal that gave Epstein 13 months in county jail — and allowed him to work from his office six days a week. Epstein’s alleged victims were not notified of the deal. “The victims should have had a say,” Klobuchar tweeted. (Star Tribune)
4. Ramsey County deputies to don body cams. Ramsey County sheriff's deputies will start wearing body cameras by the end of this summer, according to sheriff Bob Fletcher. The Ramsey County board on Tuesday approved $1 million for the cameras and another $300,000 for four new full time employees in the sheriff's office. Fletcher said the cameras can provide transparency in instances where deputies use deadly force. "It's important that we have the best available information when a critical incident happens, so that the community can weigh in, you can weigh in and we can judge our practices — where they need to be — and did we err or not," said Fletcher. "So this is really a way to hold us accountable as well." (MPR News)
5. State's newest general is a trailblazer. Stefanie Horvath was promoted Tuesday from colonel to Minnesota National Guard brigadier general in a ceremony in Rosemount. Her wife, Christy, and her mother stood on stage with Horvath while pinning the insignia of her new rank on her shoulders in front of the governor, fellow Guard leaders and other invited guests. Horvath, a decorated officer, is the Guard's first openly lesbian general. A 30-year veteran of the armed forces, she is married with two daughters and lives in Eagan. "The path to this moment was not a path of perfection," Horvath said. "But it was really a path of persistence, resilience fostered by this organization that has provided opportunities and acceptance." (MPR News)
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