Better late then never, I guess. I’m sure he thought his name would save his corrupt ass. The arrogance of self identified important people never ceases to amaze me. Will they be prosecuted? You or I sure would be…

After ethics breaches, two top execs resign from U.S. Bank Stadium panel
His resignation comes amid legislative pressure.

By Rochelle Olson Star Tribune FEBRUARY 16, 2017 — 3:02PM

GLEN STUBBE, STAR TRIBUNE

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Ted Mondale and Michele Kelm-Helgen responded after Minnesota Legislative Auditor James Nobles delivered a scathing report to the House and Senate State Government Finance committee on Feb. 7.

 

The two highest profile public officials on the U.S. Bank Stadium oversight committee lost their jobs Thursday amid public and legislative pressure after revelations that they used two luxury suites to host friends and family at games and concerts.

Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) Chair Michele Kelm-Helgen announced her resignation early in the day, saying the decision was her own. By early afternoon, executive director Ted Mondale resigned too.

“I feel good about my work, but it is time to move on,” Mondale said in a brief statement. “I have given the Governor my resignation, and appreciate the opportunity to have been a part of this amazing project.”

Their ousters came as state legislators appeared eager to overhaul the MSFA amid questions about lax management and oversight by the politically connected pair.

House Government Finance Chair Sarah Anderson, R-Plymouth, was pushing for their removal and reconfiguration of the board. “I don’t know why you would want to continue with an operation where there’s a culture of not doing things right,” she said.

Combined the two made nearly $300,000 in public salary and have been in charge of overseeing construction of the $1.1 billion building. The building opened Aug. 3, but has remained controversial because of the $498 million public subsidy to build it.

Anderson said the suite misuse was just the “tip of the iceberg” in terms of questionable management of the stadium. She said she’s receiving calls and e-mails about problems with MSFA oversight continue to flood her office. She wouldn’t detail tips before investigating them but did say the board had illegally given Kelm-Helgen and Mondale authority to enter contracts above $200,000 without board approval. The action was taken in a public meeting, but Anderson said the board had no authority to convey that power.

MSFA spokeswoman Jenn Hathaway issued a written response saying the allegations are “untrue, inaccurate, and must be based on a misunderstanding.”

The statement said Anderson had falsely claimed the MSFA wasn’t aware of changes made by Mondale and Kelm-Helgen. The votes are on the board’s website and board members were briefed on all actions between monthly meetings, Hathaway wrote.

In her resignation statement, Kelm-Helgen said “it is apparent that I have become the focus of the legislation that is being considered. Therefore, I believe it is in the public interest to remove myself from this discussion. I want to be clear that this is my decision, and my decision alone.”

Mondale and Kelm-Helgen have face a maelstrom of criticism and scrutiny since the Star Tribune reported in November that the two and other commissioners had used two 18-person luxury suites at the stadium to host many friends and family for Minnesota Vikings games and concerts. Although the two said the state-owned suites were needed to market the building, legislative auditor James Nobles’ investigation revealed they were used mostly for entertainment by MSFA staff.

Nobles’ 100-page report faulted Kelm-Helgen and Mondale’s leadership of the MSFA, saying they had violated a core ethical principle by using public office for personal gain, by handing out free tickets, VIP parking, food and drink to friends and allies.

The now-former chair, a former aide to Dayton, was nowhere near contrite in her resignation letter. She accused legislators of overzealously going after her and requiring the new stadium’s operations be conducted at a higher level.

“It is clear to me that the Legislature wants to make changes in the governance structure of the stadium authority that go beyond the recommendations included in the legislative auditor’s report. Their proposal also fails to hold all publicly-owned and operated sports venues to the same set of standards,” she wrote.

Anderson’s bill would overhaul the structure of the MSFA and eliminate the paid position formerly held by Kelm-Helgen. The bill also would slash the pay for the executive director, the position formerly held by Mondale.

The bill received a 17-1 bipartisan endorsement from a House panel Tuesday, a signal that DFLers were ready for change.

Anderson stopped short of calling for Mondale’s ouster, but said the entire board needed to go given that no one questioned the practice of using the suites for friends and family. Under her bill, the next executive director would answer directly to the board and come with experience managing a major venue.

Currently, Dayton appointed three of the five members of the board, including Kelm-Helgen. The Minneapolis mayor appointed the other two.

Dissent on the board was not tolerated. Two board members who publicly and privately questioned Kelm-Helgen’s role either resigned or were not reappointed to the board.

Former Board Member Duane Benson stepped off the board in the summer of 2015, publicly criticizing Kelm-Helgen’s management and her treatment of him.

Board Member John Griffith, who expressed support for Benson at the time and subsequently raised questions, was not reappointed by Dayton when his term ended in December. Griffith said he wanted to stay but Dayton told him he had seen reports of “friction” on the board.

Mondale did not respond to requests for comment.

Board Members Tony Sertich, Barbara Butts Williams and Bill McCarthy were reliable allies of Kelm-Helgen and Mondale. When they attended meetings, they rarely asked questions. All three were frequent users of the suites.

Dayton appointed Sertich to replace Benson. McCarthy was reappointed by Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges to another two-year term in late December. Butts Williams also is a Hodges appointee.
raolson@startribune.com 612-673-1747 rochelleolson

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