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Auditor ends look into ex-Corrections Department official

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A dark haired woman laughs in a prison gymnasium.
Former Minnesota Department of Corrections Deputy Commissioner Sarah Walker at Shakopee women's prison in March 2019. After opening a preliminary inquiry, the legislative auditor says his team won’t delve deeper into allegations against Walker.
Evan Frost | MPR News file

Minnesota’s legislative auditor has decided against a further review of a former Department of Corrections leader, officials said Friday.

The Office of the Legislative Auditor had opened a preliminary inquiry into whether former Deputy Corrections Commissioner Sarah Walker misused government resources to help a charity overseen by her husband. Some lawmakers had asked for the investigation.

Walker resigned in July. She was facing internal scrutiny over text messages and files on her work computer tied to the Veterans Defense Project, a nonprofit that had received state grant money.

Walker and charity officials have denied that she lobbied for the group while on the state’s payroll. Walker has said she left the agency because she felt marginalized by other high-ranking officials there.

Auditor Jim Nobles said in an email that his team decided not to move ahead with a fuller investigation because significant time had passed, and Walker no longer works in Minnesota government. He said other pressing assignments before the auditor also factored into the decision.

“This is not giving anybody a clean bill of health, but we just have other things that are more pressing at the moment so we’re not planning to take a further look at what happened,” said Joel Alter, the director of special reviews under Nobles.

Alter said auditors had reviewed some materials from the agency but didn’t deeply examine whether anything illegal occurred.

“This just didn’t rise to the top and seem as relevant today as it did seem at one time,” Alter said.

Walker wasn’t interviewed by officials from the auditor’s office during their preliminary inquiry. She had no comment on the decision to forego an investigation.

Lawmakers also asked for an inquiry into the charity. Alter said that since the Veterans Defense Project no longer receives state money, an examination of grants to that entity is low on the priority list.