GOP seeks 2nd probe of Democrat’s role at nonprofit

Published 3:39 pm Saturday, April 11, 2015

ST. PAUL — State Senate Republicans lodged a second ethics complaint Friday against a powerful Democrat with ties to an embattled nonprofit, after obtaining documents they say show the Minneapolis lawmaker benefited financially from the organization.

A previous ethics complaint against Sen. Jeff Hayden stalled last year for a lack of proof that Hayden was among the beneficiaries of the mounting misspending at Community Action Minneapolis. A state audit revealed that organization redirected more than $800,000 in taxpayer dollars meant to help low-income Minnesota residents with heating costs to personal expenses and trips.

In a complaint expected to be formally filed Monday, Senate Republicans will present documents obtained through a Data Practices Act request showing the nonprofit paid for a personal trip in 2012 to New York City for Hayden and his wife, Terri, who served on the group’s board as his designee.

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The complaint also alleges Hayden lied under oath to the Senate Subcommittee on Ethical Conduct last year about his knowledge of any misspending at Community Action. MPR News reported Hayden had attended meetings about the group’s financial problems well before the scathing audit was publicized in September.

“Today we stand here with the facts,” Republican Senate Minority Leader David Hann said. “This deserves an investigation. Not stonewalling, not shutting it down.”

Hayden declined to be interviewed by The Associated Press, but he issued a statement Friday afternoon saying the new allegations mischaracterize facts and are politically motivated. He maintained his innocence.

“While I am disappointed that Sen. Hann decided to continue his unfounded personal attacks, I will not allow it to distract me from my duty to represent my constituents and to help build a better and stronger Minnesota,” Hayden said.

Once the complaint is formally filed, the ethics subcommittee — composed of two Democrats and two Republicans — has 30 days to decide whether to proceed with an investigation or determine it has no probable cause. The committee could also choose to push any action back to a future date.

It’s just the latest chapter in the fallout since a state audit revealed years of misspending taxpayer dollars on luxuries ranging from a cruise to a personal car loan for the nonprofit’s chief executive. Hayden and other politicians promptly resigned from the board and the group is being investigated by both the Internal Revenue Service and the FBI.

But Hann said it’s up to the Senate to keep its members in check to determine if there was any wrongdoing. He rejected any suggestion that the complaint was politically motivated.

“We have to do that. It’s a duty that we have,” he said.