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Investigation concludes at Veterans Home in Hastings

The two administrators at the Minnesota Veterans Home who were recently put on leave will not be going back to their old positions.

The Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs just concluded its investigation of the home, prompted after residents came forward expressing concerns of retaliation against them if they spoke up about their care.

In the end, the investigation concluded that residents were not retaliated against, but staff members at the home were.

Administrator Chip Cox and director of nursing Connie Ball were both placed on paid administrative leave when the investigation began. According to a press release, both have "recently left state service." The Star Gazette asked for clarification on this point, but all the department could say was that the two no longer are employed by the state.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press is reporting that Ball had recently retired.

The investigation concluded that the following allegations were substantiated:

• That Ball retaliated against staff members;

• That staff members worked in a fearful environment;

• That Cox had knowledge of or should have had knowledge regarding Ball's actions and that he did not take action;

• That Cox's actions and decision making were responsible for the state of the veterans home here.

The investigation concluded that the allegation shared by residents that Ball retaliated against them was unsubstantiated.

Allegations that Ball acted as a barrier or roadblock to resident care was substantiated in part.

Also substantiated in part was the allegation that Ball and Cox were directing human resources at the home to conduct investigations on staff members.

Veterans Affairs deputy commissioner Gilbert Acevedo released the following statement Wednesday:

"The Hastings Veterans Home has addressed or is addressing each of the areas identified by the findings of the recent internal investigation. The administrator and director of nursing have recently left state service. However, it will take time, effort, training and strong leadership to make permanent and positive changes to the atmosphere at the Home. Through all this, I want to say that I am incredibly proud of the staff at the Hastings Veterans Home. They have had to work under difficult conditions, and I am committed to putting new leadership in place that will improve morale and the overall work environment.

"The Minnesota Veterans Homes have zero tolerance for this type of behavior. We take all offenses of this nature very seriously and remain committed to providing the highest care possible for Minnesota's Veterans.

"In addition to making temporary staffing changes during this interim period, we have implemented an aggressive corrective action plan and are working closely with our Residents and staff to create an atmosphere of open dialogue and feedback.

"Our focus remains on improving operations and making the Hastings Veterans Home a place of honor for this nation's heroes."