A day after Mayor Betsy Hodges called on the City Council to halt city-funded trips to Indiana, two Meet Minneapolis employees flew to the Hoosier state Thursday morning – after the agency consulted with her.
Seven people traveled to Indianapolis to observe the city's NCAA Final Four activities in preparation for Minneapolis' 2019 hosting of the games. Among them were two employees of Meet Minneapolis, a non-profit tourism agency that derives most of its funding through the city.
Travel to Indiana has come under scrutiny from public leaders -- including Gov. Mark Dayton -- due to passage of a law that some worry could allow for future discriminatory policies against the LGBT community.
On Wednesday, Hodges asked the city's fire chief to cancel plans to attend a conference there in late April. The council is expected to vote Friday on a ban of city-funded travel.
Meet Minneapolis CEO Melvin Tennant wrote in a letter to the agency's executive committee that they discussed the trip with Hodges, the city coordinator and NCAA officials.
"We recognize that this is a complex and multifaceted issue and acknowledge that we risk the potential of criticism with either decision," Tennant wrote. "It has been noted that both the mayor of Indianapolis and the NCAA have strongly criticized the legislation and worked to ensure that no one attending the Final Four would be subject to discrimination because of the legislation."
Agency spokeswoman Kristen Montag wrote in an e-mail that the local organizing committee for the Final Four is covering the costs and "there are no public dollars paying for it."
Hodges said in an interview Thursday afternoon that city coordinator Spencer Cronk was planning to attend but opted not to make the trip. She said that unlike the fire chief's trip, this one had already been paid for and without city funds.
Asked whether she gave the trip her blessing, Hodges said: “I said that I wasn’t going to ask them not to go. That is not the same thing as giving a blessing.”
Other travelers include Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority chair Michele Kelm Helgen, Patrick Talty with Vikings stadium operator SMG and David Mortenson of Mortenson Construction.