- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 24, 2014

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - State Senate Republicans on Wednesday announced an ethics complaint against a powerful Democrat, questioning whether he and his wife were among the beneficiaries of a Minneapolis nonprofit that spent more than $800,000 in taxpayer dollars on trips and personal expenses.

At question is Sen. Jeff Hayden’s spot on the board of Community Action Minneapolis, which was found in an audit to have misused state grants meant to help low-income people in Minneapolis. Hayden’s wife, Terri, served on the board as his designee.

Republican Senate Minority Leader David Hann said he and his colleagues asked for an investigation to determine if Hayden used his position for personal gain and violated Senate ethical rules. Hann also criticized Hayden and other board members for failing in their oversight as the nonprofit’s frivolous expenses ballooned.

“Either it’s incompetence or it’s corruption,” he said.

In a statement responding to the complaint, Hayden said he’s confident any ethical review will “demonstrate clearly that my conduct was lawful and ethical and in no way violated the rules or norms of the Senate.”

Hayden, the Senate’s deputy majority leader from Minneapolis, resigned from the Community Action board this week as fallout continued from the nonprofit’s spending. The audit was first reported by the Star Tribune.

Though the Haydens attended several Community Action retreats highlighted in that audit, Sen. Hayden said in a statement Tuesday only his wife’s trip was paid by the nonprofit. He said his wife was not aware of any of the “questionable spending” such as trips to the Bahamas or a personal car loan of $36,000 made to the group’s CEO, Bill Davis.

“To be clear, neither Terri nor I accepted compensation for any cruises, spas, vacations to the Bahamas, or any other inappropriate, non-board activities,” he said.

Republicans’ complaint also references a separate report that Hayden and fellow Democratic Sen. Bobby Joe Champion improperly pressured Minneapolis public school officials to award a grant to their favored organization. The two senators have denied those claims.

Once the complaint is formally filed, the Senate Subcommittee on Ethical Conduct - 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.

Between the two events referenced in their complaint, Hann said he’s confident there’s enough evidence for the committee to start an investigation.

Senate DFL spokesman Amos Briggs said other party leaders won’t comment on the complaint until they’ve seen it.

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