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$32K of Public Money Used on Food in US Bank Stadium Suites, Lawmakers Asking Questions

January 11, 2017 06:28 PM

There are some new developments in the U.S. Bank Stadium suite controversy.      

For the first time, state lawmakers are addressing the use of two luxury suites with stadium officials.

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The suites are supposed to be used for marketing. Instead, the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority gave free tickets to people who some of its board members invited to Vikings games.            

RELATED: Minnesota Lawmakers Hold Meeting on US Bank Stadium Operations

 On Wednesday, 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS learned that game tickets are not the only concern, and it's outlined in a recent letter sent to lawmakers.

"Commissioners will not bring any friends or family to the suites, and that's how we ended the year,"said Michelle Kelm-Helgen, chair of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority.

In November, the MSFA modified their suite policy to exclude friends and family. But Authority Chairwoman Kelm-Helgen stresses their purpose for the suites hasn't changed since the team was in the Metrodome.

"These suites had been used at the Metrodome, no one ever asked. The auditor had looked at it for 30 years. It's always been looked at as a marketing expense," Kelm-Helgen said.

"I can't imagine what a commissioner or a mayor is doing for a marketing purpose there and their hesitancy to disclose it,"Representative Jim Nash of Waconia said.

In a 27-page letter from the Authority to lawmakers, it reveals new details from the suites. Specifically, it shows for the 12 different events last year, more than $32,000 of public money was spent on food.

"There's a lot to look into here and I think the people of Minnesota want a square answer," Nash said.

Additionally, documents show at one game, "there was a quorum of commissioners at one suite."

"It was unintentional, we never intended for it to happen, however there was no business discussed," Kelm-Helgen said.

"If it's a business meeting or a social meeting it doesn't matter, the open meeting law still applies,"Nash added.

"We do not want the public losing faith in us," Kelm-Helgen said. 

The Authority said that guests have reimbursed them for nearly $23,000 worth of public money that was spent on food. Meanwhile, they're waiting on the legislative auditor to finalize his report, and they plan to make any additional changes if need be.

During Wednesday's hearing, lawmakers also brought up the recent incident at the stadium when two pipeline protesters climbed into the trusses, and lowered a banner protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline.           

Kelm-Helgen says the stadium is now working with an outside consulting group to review that and other parts of the facility that may be vulnerable.

She also addressed panels peeling away from the outside of the building. The Stadium Authority is working on different ways to make sure that the panels stick, especially during all weather conditions.

Credits

Brett Hoffland

Copyright 2017 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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