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Vikings stadium secrecy target of one of the "message" bills of special session

Posted by: Jim Ragsdale under Gov. Mark Dayton, Minnesota legislature Updated: September 9, 2013 - 2:36 PM

Rep. Mary Liz Holberg, who has long argued against the secrecy involved in construction of a publicly-funded stadium for the Minnesota Vikings, introduce a "message" bill in Monday's special session to open up the process.

Holberg, R-Lakeville, took the action to make a point, not to pass a bill, because the half-day session was limited to passage of a single bill to provide disaster relief.

Her bill would address a problem she spoke of at the time the bill was passed in May -- exempting the project and the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Authority, which is building the stadium, from much of the state's data practices act. It would apply the law to the authority and to the project.

She said this exemption was written into the bill in a conference committee late in the process, without prior approval by either the House or Senate. It has become an issue lately because the authority is conducting a further "due diligence" review of the Wilf family, the team's majority owners, following a decision against the family in a New Jersey real estate case.

She said even with more "sunshine" on the process so that taxpayers would know the details, the team and the Wilfs "would still have the benefit of keeping trade secrets and certain financial information private...." Currently, she said, the authority is exempt from the law, "so they are not required to disclose anything."

"We've never seen this level of expenditure to benefit a private business in the history of the state," Holberg said, "and we have virtually no sunshine on the process -- that's wrong."

The state and city of Minneapolis are responsible for $498 million of the $975 million stadium, and the team is responsible for $477 million.

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