Dayton: ‘Nothing to hide’ in extended hospital stay

Gov. Mark Dayton said he had “nothing to hide” about the fact that he remained in recovery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester for weeks longer than originally anticipated following two surgeries.

Dayton, 71, underwent procedures on Oct. 12 and Oct. 15 to deal with ongoing leg strength and back issues. Those surgeries were successful, he said, but he experienced post-surgery complications with his lungs, which became inflamed and damaged. He said his doctors at Mayo do not know what caused the complications with his lungs.

The governor was expected to return home several days after his surgery, but he’s remained at Mayo Clinic at the advice of his doctors for more than 40 days.

Last week, MPR News first reported that Dayton remained in the hospital. Dayton said he was not trying to keep it a secret that he had not returned from Mayo, noting that some communications from his staff include mention that he remained in Rochester. In one email dated Oct. 29, Dayton announced that he would not be at the governor’s residence to personally greet trick-or-treaters for Halloween. The release attributed a quote to Dayton, “who is recovering from back surgeries at Mayo Clinic in Rochester.”

“I stand by our veracity. I stand by the fact that we made available what was asked for and that was important,” Dayton said on a conference call with reporters Tuesday. “And most importantly the state has functioned, since I’ve been down here, in exactly the same way that it would have without me. And that’s to the credit of my senior staff, all my staff and my commissioners.”

He said the fact that no one noticed was due to “to a lack of probing interest” on behalf of reporters, who were focused on the Nov. 6 election and incoming administration of Gov.-elect Tim Walz. Dayton said he plans to meet with Walz after he returns to St. Paul.

The lung damage impacted his mobility, but it did not interfere with his “cognitive” ability to run the state, Dayton said. He’s been taking calls from Mayo and did not consider handing over power to Republican Lt. Gov. Michelle Fischbach.

He said he will return to the governor’s residence on Wednesday, just in time to celebrate his last Thanksgiving holiday as governor with his family. Dayton is retiring from politics in January after two terms.

He expects to return to Mayo for periodical check ups on his back, but not for several weeks.

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