Minnesota Department of Human Services File No. 98460
Ogechi Faith Charles, St. Paul, Minnesota (pro se relator)
Lori Swanson, Attorney General, Marsha Eldot Devine, Assistant Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Schellhas, Presiding Judge; Hudson, Judge; and Ross, Judge.
The Minnesota Department of Human Services disqualified nurse Ogechi Charles from providing direct-contact services in caregiving facilities after she was convicted of wrongfully receiving public assistance, defrauding Ramsey County of more than $49, 000. Charles requested that the commissioner of human services review her disqualification and grant her a set-aside that would allow her to continue working. The commissioner concluded that Charles is a threat to the vulnerable persons she would work with and denied her request. Because the commissioner properly considered Charles's request and did not violate her constitutional right to substantive or procedural due process, we affirm.
Ogechi Charles was studying nursing at Northwest Technical College-Bemidji when she began receiving public assistance from Ramsey County to support her children. Charles sent her children to stay with relatives in Africa, but she continued receiving public assistance provided ostensibly for their care. The state charged Charles with six counts of theft of assistance for payments she received between March 2009 and August 2011. She pleaded guilty to one count.
Three programs that provide caregiving services soon requested background checks on Charles to certify her for positions providing direct care to patients. The checks revealed Charles's criminal conviction. The conviction automatically disqualified her from providing services through programs licensed by the state. See Minn. Stat. §§ 245C.14, subd. 1, 245C.15, subd. 3(a) (2012). The department of human services therefore informed Charles that she was ineligible to become employed in the positions to which she had applied and in multiple other facilities and organizations. The department told Charles that she could challenge the disqualification decision or seek to have it set aside.
Charles submitted a request for reconsideration. She admitted having the conviction, but she claimed that her unlawful receipt of public-assistance funds was unintentional, and she emphasized that she planned to repay them. Charles stated that she always treated her patients with respect and never violated any of their rights. Her request also included three character-reference letters. She acknowledged that she had not undergone any training or rehabilitation after her conviction. And she did not provide any arrest or probation records, claiming that she did not have an arrest record and that the court had not assigned a probation officer or ordered her into a rehabilitation program.
The commissioner concluded that Charles continues to pose a risk of harm to those she proposed to serve, denying her request for a set-aside. Charles now appeals by writ of certiorari.