Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, and Rep. Ryan Haynes, R-Knoxville, have both written reimbursement checks to state government after billing both taxpayers and their campaign accounts for out-of-state trips to legislative conferences.
Ketron, who chairs the Senate Republican Caucus and for years was chairman of the Fiscal Review Committee that oversees state government spending, wrote the state a check for $17,553 covering six trips over the past six years, according to Nashville’s WTVF-TV , which initially reported on the development.
Haynes, who recently became the Tennessee Republican Party chairman, said his check was for $4,775 and that is actually an “over-reimbursement” for virtually all of his state-paid travel as a legislator. WTVF reported finding three trips where Haynes had billed both taxpayers and his campaign account over a four-year period.
Reporter Phil Williams described the practice as “double-dipping.” Both legislators characterized the matter as an inadvertent error, promptly fixed after it came to their attention. The same held true for Rep. Antonio Parkinson, D-Memphis, who was found to have covered one motel stay by billing it to both the state and his campaign account.
In Ketron’s case, the station cited a trip to Anchorage, Alaska, for a meeting of the Council of State Governments last year as an example. His campaign paid the $1,300 hotel bill, then the state reimbursed Ketron personally for the very same room, the report said.
“His campaign paid the $673 airfare, then the state paid Ketron the exact same amount. His campaign also paid for food, while Ketron pocketed his daily expense allowance of $1,316 from the state.”
Ketron said the mistake was a “miscommunication” between his legislative assistant, who was filling out a form for payment of expenses by the state, and his campaign treasurer, who was paying him for credit card charges he ran up while on the trips.
“As a small-business owner and legislator, it’s probably my fault for not being more diligent keeping my eye on that ball,” he said.
In Haynes’ case, the report says “an anonymous letter began circulating accusing the Knoxville lawmaker of double-dipping on at least three trips” after he announced his campaign to become chairman of the state Republican Party in late March. He was elected to the position by the state GOP executive committee on April 11.
In an interview, Haynes said that he had discovered the error on his own while collecting materials to do his federal income tax returns, before the anonymous letter or an inquiry from WTVF reporter Phil Williams.
At that point, Haynes said, he asked Connie Ridley, director of the Office of Legislative Administration, to pull all his travel records and provide a figure for covering all his travel expenses.
That took some time with the hectic windup of the legislative session underway, he said, and the check was for the amount Ridley came up with — and it was written promptly after she did so.
“I over-reimbursed the state because I didn’t want taxpayers to finance my travels,” Haynes said.
Note: This expands, updates and replaces original post.
Note II: Mike Hart, a former Franklin County Republican chairman, advises via email that he sent an email reporting Haynes’ billing to both the state and his campaign finance account — and that it was non anonymous. His email cites two trips by Haynes, both American Legislative Exchange Council events — one in Washington, D.C. and the other in New Orleans.