Gov. Mark Dayton came out firmly against proposed changes in how U.S. Bank Stadium is run, calling a legislative proposal a “one-person vendetta” and problems with the management of the $1.1 billion building an “aberration.”
He didn’t mention her by name, but the person pushing for changes is House State Government Finance Chairwoman Sarah Anderson, R-Plymouth.
Anderson has rekindled her push for more oversight of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA). She wants more control over who is appointed to the five-person board, plus quarterly reports to the Legislature regarding the authority’s spending and contracting. A similar, much-discussed proposal fell through in the final hours of the 2017 session.
Anderson said she wants to make sure the board isn’t “hiring friends and cronies” or approving expenses outside of public board meetings.
Dayton, who isn’t seeking re-election and will be out of office next year, said the Legislature can “muck around” with the MSFA structure all it wants next year when he’s “tweeting from Bolivia.”
Anderson’s proposals are part of a much larger government finance bill debated at length on the House floor Thursday. The Senate hasn’t considered any similar provisions this year.
The MSFA, the citizens panel that oversees the two-year-old stadium, became a flash point in the 2016 Vikings season when legislators and the public learned the top state employees overseeing the building had used two 18-person luxury suites to entertain family and friends for concerts, soccer and football games at taxpayer expense. The revelation led to the resignations of Executive Director Ted Mondale and Chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen, who also used her position to jump the seniority line to buy licenses for premium 50-yard-line seats for herself and to help friends and family do the same.
The MSFA has since adopted new rules about who can sit in the stadium’s luxury suites. The names of those who use them also are recorded and publicly released. In the past year, those records show, the suites have been used exclusively for marketing by SMG, which is responsible for booking the building.
Dayton said that previous problems with the suites were “rightfully criticized and corrected,” but that the MSFA doesn’t need structural changes now.
In another veiled reference to Anderson, the governor described the proposals as one person “looking for something to get publicity about.”
On one thing, he and Anderson agreed: Chairman Mike Vekich is doing a good job.
But, Anderson said, “He’s not going to be there forever.” She would like to have permanent “safeguards in place” that include legislative confirmation for MSFA appointees.
Of the five members on the MSFA, the chair and two others are appointed by the governor. The remaining two are appointed by the city of Minneapolis. Only the chairman receives a salary. The others receive a small per diem for attending monthly meetings.
Lester Bagley, Vikings executive vice president of public affairs, didn’t have much to say on the problems under the previous leaders. “They seem to have addressed it and it seems to be working,” he said.
MSFA spokeswoman Jenn Hathaway declined to comment on the bill.