All of the players in a legal drama over funding for the $1 billion Vikings stadium agree that the Minnesota Supreme Court has jurisdiction in the dispute, but there’s no common ground over whether the state can issue bonds to pay for it.
A week ago, three Minneapolis residents — former mayoral candidate Douglas Mann; his wife, Linda; and onetime city School Board member David Tilsen — filed a lawsuit with the state’s highest court claiming that the impending bond sale is unconstitutional.
The state abruptly canceled its scheduled sale of $468 million in bonds this week due to the legal cloud cast by the trio’s last-minute challenge.
On Tuesday, the court requested that the Manns and Tilsen, the Minnesota Department of Management and Budget, and the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, state their respective cases by Thursday afternoon.
Specifically, they were asked to weigh in on whether the high court has jurisdiction in the matter, and whether the Manns and Tilsen can obtain the relief they’re seeking through their legal challenge.
The three are representing themselves — Mann is an unemployed nurse who says he has paralegal training, and his wife is a nonpracticing attorney.
In court filings, the Manns and Tilsen said they absolutely have a right to lodge their legal protest. “The state of Minnesota and its taxpayers have a vested interest in the state’s creditworthiness and the compliance of public officials with the law,” they wrote. “[We] have a right ... to restrain a public official from the unlawful use of public funds.”
But the Minnesota Department of Management and Budget, the issuer of state bonds, argued in its filing that the stadium legislation does not give disgruntled citizens the “authority to determine the validity of the stadium bonds.”
The most-pungent legal commentary came from the stadium authority, which was permitted by the court to intervene in the case.
The challenge threatens “to disrupt the delicate timing of the bond issue and related transactions, creating delay and added costs, through meritless arguments that cause harm not because they are valid, but merely because they have been asserted,” the authority said in its filing.
Any pronounced delay in the bond issue could not only imperil the stadium’s scheduled 2016 opening, but it may also threaten a nearby $400 million mixed-use development that is depending on bond proceeds for a parking ramp, the authority said this week.
“Mr. Mann appears to be a serial litigant, determined to keep asserting meritless claims until this court, the final arbiter of Minnesota law, definitely disposes of those claims,” the authority’s brief said.
Mann’s earlier challenge in Hennepin County District Court, which called for a voter referendum on stadium funding in Minneapolis, was thrown out.
Allowing the Manns and Tilsen “to continue to disrupt, delay and threaten the stadium project and the Downtown East development project by endless litigation does not further justice,” the authority said.