Minnesota's legislative auditor decided Monday to open a preliminary inquiry into the governor's failed hiring of Erin DuPree as the state's first cannabis director.
State Legislative Auditor Judy Randall said she will request information about the appointment process from the governor's office. DuPree, a self-described cannabis industry entrepreneur and hemp shop owner, stepped down a day after Gov. Tim Walz appointed her after a Star Tribune report revealed she had sold illegal products at her hemp store.
The Walz administration appeared to be blindsided by reports of DuPree's illegal product sales, federal liens and past lawsuits filed against her — raising questions of how thoroughly the governor's office vetted her background.
"We just have some questions about the process," Randall said. "I would classify it as a preliminary inquiry."
Walz has taken responsibility for the debacle, saying his office got its first pick for cannabis director wrong and will review its vetting process. The governor also said he now wants to hire an experienced regulator for the job. DuPree had no government experience, and her resume did not appear to match many of the expected qualifications sought for the role.
Candidates who applied to be cannabis director went through multiple interviews with panels of state officials before finalists were forwarded to the governor's office, which coordinated checks of their backgrounds, references and potential conflicts of interest. Finalists interviewed with the governor after those checks were complete.
Randall said her office's inquiry could take weeks or months, noting there is no set timeline. Her office's findings will determine whether it launches an official investigation into the matter, she said.
Minnesota's nonpartisan Office of the Legislative Auditor is the state's top government watchdog agency. The office receives hundreds of complaints per year, Randall said. Few complaints lead to a preliminary inquiry and even fewer prompt an official investigation, she said.
Meanwhile, the search for a director to lead Minnesota's new Office of Cannabis Management continues. The office will oversee the creation and regulation of Minnesota's recreational marijuana industry.
State government veteran Charlene Briner continues to lead the Office of Cannabis Management as interim director, and she has said Minnesota is still on track to meet its goal of having dispensaries open by early 2025.