Gov. Mark Dayton’s campaign committee has agreed to reimburse the state $1,688 for the use of a state airplane to two events deemed by the Office of the Legislative Auditor to be political.
An audit conducted by Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles, released Friday, said Dayton’s office should have considered two events in Duluth and Grand Rapids political — requiring reimbursement to the state.
Use of the state’s airplanes is allowed for official state business. Any use of the state’s resources for political events should be reimbursed, the audit said.
The trips in question occurred in October 2013 and were to annual conventions by local councils of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees labor union. They were in addition to other stops in Brainerd and Mankato that the audit said involved official state business. A review of documents, video and audio recordings by the auditor’s office found the conventions to be political in nature, the report said.
The governor addressed “several key campaign issues, such as raising taxes on the rich and increasing the minimum wage. In addition, at each convention, the AFSCME council announced its endorsement of the Governor for re-election in 2014,” the report said.
In a response to the audit, Dayton’s chief of staff Jaime Tincher disagreed with the findings, but said the campaign, Mark Dayton for a Better Minnesota, would reimburse the state.
“This office carefully delineates political vs. official travel,” Tincher wrote in the response, contained in the audit. “We have protocols in place to ensure that the State does not incur costs for political travel, and we reimburse the State for all additional travel costs incurred as a result of political travel. In these two instances, the Governor attended the annual conferences of two public employee organizations, as he had in every previous year as governor. In our judgment, the fact that last year was an election year did not change the nature of the events, the invitations for the Governor to appear or our decision to accept them.”
She added: “While we do not deem the trips identified in this finding to be political in nature, we recognize that the Office of the Legislative Auditor believes otherwise. To resolve any question of inappropriate use, his campaign committee, Mark Dayton for a Better Minnesota, will reimburse the state for the costs identified in the finding.”
The legislative auditor has previously dinged the governor’s use of the state’s airplane. Last year, the governor acknowledged he erred by allowing a campaign employee on the plane on three trips in 2012.
He said then: “It was a technical violation of the state law. It won’t happen again.”