- Associated Press - Thursday, October 8, 2015

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Travel expense claims submitted by a Democratic state senator and his wife were called “improper” Thursday by a court-appointed receiver examining the finances of a Minneapolis nonprofit group that was shut down last year.

Roughly $3,400 in conference travel expenses paid to state Sen. Jeff Hayden and wife Theresa by Community Action of Minneapolis are flagged in a court document that receiver Michael Knight filed with a Ramsey County judge. Knight is tasked with trying to recoup hundreds of thousands of dollars for public agencies and other creditors.

The expense payments coincide with travel to Community Action Partnership conferences in New York and San Francisco. Hayden has said he paid his own way, but the filing said Theresa’s travel and lodging costs should have been disallowed because the organization restricted payments to board members who don’t qualify as low-income. The report said the Haydens have refused to repay the money.

Community Action of Minneapolis was abruptly closed after allegations of misspending of state and federal grant dollars. The group’s mission was to help low-income people with nutrition services, housing and heating bills.

Hayden was a board member for the nonprofit but had designated his wife as his proxy.

The Haydens’ attorney, Charlie Nauen, said he would fight the request for reimbursement.

“They have never received improper benefits while volunteering their service to the Community Action of Minneapolis,” he said. He added that Knight had a “inaccurate reading of bylaws” to suggest the Haydens weren’t eligible for travel reimbursement.

The former chief executive of the nonprofit, Bill Davis, faces federal fraud charges over the group’s spending. His son, Jordan, was also indicted on federal charges. Both have pleaded not guilty and are due to go on trial next year.

The new filing draws scrutiny to other ties Hayden had, including his service on an advisory board for a connected nonprofit known as Mad Dads. The receiver has made a claim for almost $40,000 from that group, though there is no evidence the senator is liable for it.

Other Community Action board members, including U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, are referenced in the latest report. But Knight underscored that his investigation has “not revealed any improper benefits” directed to the Democratic congressman. Still, Knight said, all past directors for the group could be exposed to claims against them for failing to exercise proper oversight.

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