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Demoted St. Paul VA executive moved to Phoenix

– Embattled former St. Paul veterans benefits director Kim Graves is being moved a lesser job in Phoenix, senior House Veterans Affairs Committee officials said Tuesday.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs said last week that they demoted Graves to assistant director after the department’s Inspector General found she orchestrated a move to Minnesota from the East Coast and received $130,000 in moving expenses. She also kept her high $173,949 salary, even though her responsibilities in St. Paul were greatly diminished.

After the inspector general’s findings, Graves was forced to testify in Washington. She pleaded the Fifth Amendment in front of the committee, in order to avoid making any self-incriminating statements.

The inspector general’s report, which uncovered similar instances of potential misconduct from other administrators, drew intense and bipartisan criticism in Washington, where VA officials have been scrambling to correct the problems.

Top VA officials in Washington reassigned Graves to the assistant director position in Phoenix, a much larger organization, VA officials told the House Committee.

Graves will take a pay cut, too, though will likely make more than $100,000 a year.

Kay Anderson, the current assistant director in St. Paul, has taken over the helm of the regional benefits office.

The VA has not commented on the shuffling and has not taken steps to make Graves pay back her relocation allowance to St. Paul. It was not clear whether she would get another relocation stipend to move to Arizona.

Graves and other administrators identified in the inspector general’s report could still face criminal prosecution.


Allison Sherry • 202-383-6120

Daudt, other state lawmakers in Turkey as part of U.S. group

House Speaker Kurt Daudt and two other Minnesota state representatives are in Istanbul, Turkey this week on a trip sponsored by a nonprofit organization. 

International tension in the region spiked on Tuesday after Turkey acknowledged that it shot down a Russian warplane along its border with Syria. 

Daudt, R-Crown, is part of a small Minnesota delegation that also includes Rep. Ron Kresha, R-Little Falls, and Rep. Paul Rosenthal, DFL-Edina. The trip was put together by the Niagara Foundation, a Chicago-based nonprofit that "strives to promote social cohesion by fostering civic conversations and sustained relationships between people of different cultures and faiths," according to its website. 

Spokespeople for the House GOP and DFL said no taxpayer funds are being spent on the trip. Susan Closmore, spokeswoman for House Republicans, said Daudt and Kresha covered their own travel expenses. DFL spokesman Mike Howard said Rosenthal also covered his own travel costs to and from Turkey. 

A spokesman for the Niagara Foundation did not immediately respond to a request for more details about the trip. 

(This post has been updated.)

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