Scrutiny of Sen. Jeff Hayden, DFL-Minneapolis, intensified Thursday after new revelations that he took a trip to New York in 2012 using money from a state-funded organization that serves the city's low-income residents.
Community Action of Minneapolis paid $749 for airfare to New York for Hayden and his wife, Terri, according to records obtained by the Star Tribune.
The revelation raises new doubts about Hayden's earlier statements that he paid for all of his own expenses relating to the group. Hayden has a seat on the board, but appointed his wife to serve on his behalf.
Hayden declined to comment Thursday, referring to previous statements.
Hayden is now at the center of a state Senate ethics complaint that alleges he benefited financially from the organization and failed to oversee the group's finances, after a state audit concluded leaders misspent $800,000 in taxpayer money on trips, alcohol and celebrity cruises.
"If there are documents that show that the organization paid for him and he didn't reimburse them, then it contradicts what he said in the hearing and what he said publicly," said Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie.
The audit first raised questions about a New York trip earlier this summer, noting that a board member and their spouse attended. Auditors did not name Hayden and his wife by name.
The Star Tribune obtained a copy of a receipt showing that Community Action of Minneapolis paid for the Haydens' round-trip Sun Country flight to John F. Kennedy International Airport. Hayden and his wife left Minneapolis on Aug. 19, 2012, and returned five days later.
According to Facebook posts by Patricia Banks, fiancée of Community Action's chief executive Bill Davis, the couples went to see the Broadway musical "Wicked" on Aug. 22.
An Internet search reveals there was a Community Action Partnership conference in New York in 2012 from Aug. 19 through Aug. 22. It is unclear whether either couple attended the conference and how many other board members were in attendance.
It is also unclear whether Community Action paid for any of Hayden's other expenses on the trip. Auditors noted Hayden's flight among a long list of spending by the group that "did not have a valid business purpose."
Hann and other Republicans are pressing for detailed financial information from state auditors to see whether Hayden has financially benefited from his role with the agency, a charge Hayden denies. They want the information before the next ethics hearing on Nov. 5.
Community Action provided heating assistance, weatherization and career counseling until the state abruptly cut off funding after the release of the audit. The board suspended Davis indefinitely earlier in October, and the state is trying to appoint a receiver to oversee the organization's finances.
At the recent ethics hearing and in previous statements, Hayden provided conflicting accounts regarding his role with the organization and how much money Community Action spent on him.
Hayden has said he attended the organization's annual retreat at the Arrowwood Resort in Alexandria, Minn.
"Terri did attend the annual strategic planning retreats at Arrowwood Resort with the rest of the board, and while family members could come along, it was strictly at their own expense," Hayden said in an earlier statement. "As my designee on the board, the only costs that were covered by Community Action were for Terri, and I paid my own way."
At a previous hearing, Hann testified that he spoke to an auditor at the Department of Human Services (DHS) who said Hayden had traveled to New York with his wife. The auditor said "there was a trip to New York that [Hayden] and his wife were a part of that was being questioned by the auditors in terms of its propriety and in terms of the expense," Hann told the committee.
But at the time there were no records to back Hann's claim.
Hann also testified that a DHS auditor told him the organization had no reimbursements from Hayden to the organization. Hayden said that's because he paid his own expenses.