Gov. Mark Dayton chose a professional turnaround man Thursday to get U.S. Bank Stadium’s oversight panel on firm ethical and governance ground.
Mike Vekich, a CPA and veteran of many boards, commissions and public agencies, will succeed interim Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) Chairwoman Kathleen Blatz, a former state Supreme Court chief justice. Blatz took the interim position in February after the resignations of Chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen and Executive Director Ted Mondale. Kelm-Helgen and Mondale had faced a backlash for using two taxpayer-owned luxury suites to entertain their friends and family.
Vekich, a Republican, is the CEO of Vekich Chartered, a CPA firm specializing in turning around companies beleaguered by bad governance and financial problems. He described the troubles with the former MSFA leaders as “unfortunate” and praised Dayton’s move to bring Blatz in to “stabilize” the operation.
Saying he wants to focus on the positive, Vekich said of the stadium, “What got actually accomplished and built is world class.”
Dayton also appointed Laura Bishop, a politically connected executive at Best Buy, to fill the vacant seat on the board. She was traveling and unavailable for comment.
Vekich will take over following the July 21 board meeting.
Self-described — with a laugh — as “fair, firm and friendly,” he has led sticky transitions before. Twice he stepped in as interim director of the Minnesota Lottery in the aftermath of trouble. Dayton brought him on in 2016 as did former Gov. Tim Pawlenty in 2004. In 2011, the state GOP turned to Vekich to help investigate the party’s finances.
State Rep. Sarah Anderson, R-Plymouth, called Vekich a “very good” choice. She had pushed legislation in the recent session to tighten the state’s control over the MSFA. Vekich “will ask the right questions and push to make sure this asset is being protected properly,” she said.
Vekich has sports experience. He was vice chairman of the Minnesota Ballpark Authority board, which oversees Target Field, from its inception in 2006 to 2011. Ballpark Authority Executive Director Dan Kenney said Vekich “works hard and is always well-prepared.”
Anderson said the MSFA must continue to push out from under the cloud left by Kelm-Helgen and Mondale.
Stadium security contractor Monterrey Security is still under investigation by a state board, she noted. Anderson and Vekich also await two reports from Legislative Auditor James Nobles regarding MSFA finances and suite use.
Vekich said flatly that the suites are “not for personal use” by the board, and ensuring their responsible use is “of the highest priority.”
Kelm-Helgen’s salary also was an issue because she earned more than $130,000. The board has since voted to make the chairman’s position part-time and set a salary ceiling of $60,000.
Vekich, 69, is a native of Nashwauk on the Iron Range. He recently became a member of BNCCORP’s board of directors and serves as president of the National Association of Corporate Directors-Minnesota. He has served as chairman of the Minnesota State Board of Trustees since 2015 and as a board member since 2010. He had previously served from 1996 to 2002, including four years as chairman.
Vekich’s term on the MSFA board runs until Jan. 7, 2019.
Bishop is chief corporate responsibility and sustainability officer for Best Buy. Her MSFA term expires in 2020.