may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Minnesota Department of Human Services,
Scott County Human Services,
Filed August 19, 1997
Reversed and Remanded
Scott County District Court
File No. C967287
Paul W. Onkka, Jr., Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services, Inc., 16174 Main Avenue, Prior Lake, MN 55372 (for Appellant)
Peter B. Hofrenning, Public and Human Resources, 445 Minnesota Street, 900 NCL Tower, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for Respondent Minnesota Department of Human Services), Thomas J. Harbinson and Brent S. Schafer, Scott County Attorney's Office, 428 South Holmes Street, Shakopee, MN 55379 (for Respondent Scott County Human Services)
Considered and decided by Peterson, Presiding Judge, Norton, Judge, and Amundson, Judge.
Appellant Pamela Weinberg challenges the termination of her food stamp benefits and citation filed against her for overpayment of food stamp benefits in the amount of $1,507. The Department of Human Services and the state of Minnesota terminated Weinberg's food stamp benefits because her personal property, specifically her motor vehicles and bank accounts, exceeded the asset limit to qualify for the food stamp program. We reverse and remand.
Weinberg appealed the determination to the Commissioner of Human Services (commissioner), arguing that her van should be excluded because it was used over 50 percent of the time in her daycare business. Weinberg also argued that the agency miscalculated her bank account resources. After the agency hearing, the commissioner issued an order affirming the agency's determination of overpayment.
Weinberg appealed the commissioner's decision to the district court. On November 26, 1996, a hearing was held and the agency introduced Weinberg's 1995 tax return for eligibility determination. The tax return, which was prepared by professional tax preparer Jim Speiker, represented that the Chevrolet van was used 32 percent of the time for business purposes. The agency argued that Weinberg's tax return was introduced into evidence as part of the court file or, in the alternative, pursuant to statute. On December 13, 1996, the district court issued an order affirming the commissioner's determination of an overpayment of $1,507 in food stamp benefits. This appeal followed.
(a) In violation of constitutional provisions; or
(b) In excess of the statutory authority or jurisdiction of the agency; or
(c) Made upon unlawful procedures; or
(d) Affected by other error of law; or
(e) Unsupported by substantial evidence in view of the entire record as submitted; or
(f) Arbitrary or capricious.
Minn. Stat. § 14.69 (1996).
In a letter to the court, Weinberg argued that her van should be excluded because the van is used in her daycare business for the production of income. Without the use of the van, Weinberg would not be able to distinguish her daycare business from competing daycare businesses in her area. With her van, Weinberg is able to offer activities that make her a more attractive choice as a daycare provider: transportation for the children to swimming lessons, trips to the park to feed the ducks, library trips, playground trips, trips to various beaches, trips to the theater, transportation to the McDonalds play area, trips to the zoo, and transportation to additional activities that without the van would be impossible. Weinberg asserts that these activities enhance her daycare's quality and ensure the business's success. Weinberg stated an additional use for the van in that she uses it "to transport everyone in case of an emergency. (I [Weinberg] just needed this on March 4 when my son fell and needed 3 staples in the back of his head.)"
Based on the testimony received, Weinberg's vehicle is used for the production of income as intended by 7 CFR § 273.8 (h)(1)(i) (1996). If the van were unavailable, the income flow might stop or at least be reduced.
The second criterion to qualify for the exclusion is that the vehicle must be used over 50 percent of the time in that income-producing capacity. Weinberg states that she used the van 75 percent of the time in her daycare business. But this statement is contradicted by Weinberg's 1995 tax return where Speiker, Weinberg's tax preparer, stated that the van was only used 32 percent of the time for her daycare business. Although the tax documents alone would place the van outside the parameters of exclusion, Weinberg did not have an adequate opportunity to respond to the tax return figures. See Minn. Stat. § 256.045, subd. 4(b) (1996) (recipient must have opportunity to respond to evidence presented by agency). There is confusion over the 1995 tax document preparation and source of the proper figures for the percentage of business use of the van. Speiker stated that he used estimated numbers from the previous year to determine the percentage of use for the 1995 tax return. In 1995, however, Weinberg received a second vehicle (the Mazda station wagon), thereby reducing her personal use of the van. It naturally follows that by having a separate, more economical, vehicle for her personal use, Weinberg would thereafter primarily use her van for her daycare business.
Neither the agency nor the district court accounted for the personal use of the additional vehicle. The agency's determination (that Weinberg's van was not primarily used for the production of business income) was unsupported by substantial evidence in view of the entire record. Weinberg's van clearly qualifies for the business exclusion.
Weinberg's bank statements establish that she retained income into the subsequent months of May 1995 through February 1996. The income, therefore, may lose the exclusion and may be required to be calculated as a resource for purposes of determining food stamp eligibility. Although this court will generally defer to an agency's statutory interpretation in a technical area in which the agency has expertise, see Conagra, Inc. v. Swanson, 356 N.W.2d 825, 827 (Minn. App. 1984), on remand, the district court should verify that the agency properly applied 7 CFR § 273.10 (1996).
Reversed and remanded.