- Associated Press - Friday, December 18, 2015

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Minnesota’s state lottery director resigned Friday amid questions about billing taxpayers for stays at his personal timeshares during work travel.

Ed Van Petten’s abrupt exit followed a Star Tribune report showing he was reimbursed for more than $7,000 after he and staff stayed at his personal timeshare units during conferences in Las Vegas, New Orleans and Atlantic City, according to expense records obtained by the newspaper.

Though Van Petten stressed to The Associated Press he did not own those units and insisted that using those timeshares actually saved the state money, he conceded that it may have violated a state policy that bans its employees from being reimbursed for stays at “personally owned property.”

“It didn’t cost the state a dime more. I didn’t see that it would be an issue,” he said, adding that he had not cleared the arrangement with others. “But there is a rule. There is no ownership interest whatsoever, but it appears that way.”

He said he was not asked to leave, but offered his resignation to Gov. Mark Dayton in an effort to spare the governor’s administration any embarrassment.

“It’s best just to nip it in the bud,” Van Petten said. The Star Tribune first reported his resignation.

Dayton said he would have asked Van Petten to leave had he not offered, calling it a “warranted” move given the questions about his expenses. And though he defended the state lottery as a well-run agency, Dayton said he’d welcome a broader probe into employees’ travel expenditures by the state’s legislative auditor.

The state will begin searching for Van Petten’s replacement immediately.

Dayton appointed Van Petten to lead the lottery in 2012, after he had an 11-year stint heading Kansas’ operation. Minnesota officials told the AP last month that there was no record of any investigations or discipline regarding the former director.

He was at the center of a prolonged fight with legislators over lottery ticket sales online, at gas pumps and ATMs. Van Patten led the expansion to those platforms but the Legislature balked, arguing that the lottery director had overstepped his bounds and eventually ordering the agency to stop sales this summer.

More recently, the state lottery was sued by a former top official who was fired after several instances of public intoxication while on the job, including a drunken driving crash that occurred within 30 minutes of participating in a conference call. Johnene Canfield alleged that Van Petten and others had encouraged her to drink before she was fired in May.

Van Petten has declined to comment, citing the ongoing case.

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