Senate leader looking into legality of commissioner’s attempt to rally support for Walz’s mask mandate

Minnesota's DEED Commissioner distributed a series of pre-written letters to be sent in support of Gov. Walz's mask mandate.

Image credit: Twitter via @paulgazelka

Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) Commissioner Steve Grove faced backlash last week after he distributed pre-written letters for Minnesotans to use to voice their support for Gov. Tim Walz’s mask mandate.

The letters are designed to be submitted to newspapers as letters to the editor, sent to schools from parents, or delivered to Walz himself as messages of support.

Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-East Gull Lake) said the move is, at the very least, poor form, but possibly illegal.

This is a screenshot of the DEED commissioner’s sample letter designed to be submitted to newspapers.

“Using state resources to solicit support for the governor is at a minimum, a very poor decision and we are inquiring to see if there is a violation of state law or ethics principles from this request,” Gazelka said in a press release.

“The average Minnesotan understands that businesses and individuals should never be directed or pressured to publicly support the governor by one of the governor’s own commissioners. The public needs to see a reprimand and explanation of this abuse of power,” he added.

Gazelka also wondered if the state will keep a record of which businesses use Grove’s letters and which businesses speak out against the mandate.

“I have to ask: What will these letters be used for? Will those who submit a letter to the governor or their newspaper have an easier time interacting with DEED? Is there going to be a list in the governor’s office of which businesses wrote to him — or which didn’t — for future press conferences and publicity stunts? Is it possible some businesses are pushing back on the mask mandate and the commissioner is trying to flood the governor’s desk and our newspapers with letters of support using state resources for a taxpayer-funded PR campaign?” Gazelka said.

“The commissioner should worry less about cheerleading the administration and focus more on safely reopening Minnesota businesses as soon as possible,” he concluded.

Walz ordered Minnesotans to wear face coverings “in all indoor businesses and indoor public spaces” on July 22 via an executive order. Acceptable face coverings include a “paper or disposable mask, a cloth mask, a neck gaiter, a scarf, a bandanna, or a religious face covering.”

The mandate also stipulates that while medical masks are among the best protective equipment available, “members of the public who do not work in health care or an occupation that requires medical-grade protective equipment (e.g., certain construction professions) are discouraged from wearing them” in order to protect supplies for hospitals.

The Upper Midwest Law Center, founded in 2019, told Alpha News that it’s currently seeking clients for a legal challenge to the mandate.