February 07, 2017 12:23 PM
The state legislative auditor released the results of a months-long investigation into the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) Tuesday morning.
The report states that while 350 suite tickets were available, 158 went to family and friends of MSFA officials.
The review surrounds tickets to two luxury suites at U.S. Bank Stadium.
The state's legislative auditor Jim Nobles launched a priority investigation after it was revealed in November that the MSFA invited 200 friends, family and politicians into the suites.
That upset many lawmakers who wanted answers.
The two suites in question are supposed to be used to help market the stadium to advertisers, promoters, or people who could generate revenue using the stadium.
Just last month, the MSFA revealed it spent about $32,000 in public money on food service used by family and friends.
That has since been prohibited. Additionally, the cost of many of those free tickets has since been re-paid.
The U.S. Bank Stadium Chairwoman Michelle Kelm-Helgen defended the use of two luxury suites before a panel of state lawmakers, saying it's been a common practice for years. She said she accepts that standards of suite use have changed.
However one lawmaker says it was a waste of money.
"This is a job by the commissioners and the authority that they're getting paid for,” Sen. Julie Rosen (R-Vernon Center) said. “The commissioners get mileage and a per diem a day. They do not need to have an extra perk, such as free games."
Nobles released the investigative report during a joint House-Senate hearing on the issue Tuesday.
In the report itself, Nobles stated, "We concluded that the Authority's use of the tickets violated a core ethical principle. For the twelve events we examined, we found that Authority officials and staff provided 158 tickets to family members and friends. We also found the use of another 35 tickets questionable."
The report recommends enacting a law to control the MSFA's use of complimentary tickets to U.S. Bank Stadium events. Additionally, a suggestion is made to draft a law that would allow one or both of the stadium's suites to be used for nonprofit charitable purposes.
In a response section of the report, the MSFA reportedly claims it was continuing past procedures in providing free tickets and suite access to friends and family.
"I believed that this (the Authority's stadium suite ticket policy) was appropriate because it had been done - family and friends were allowed to come to our suite at the Metrodome for 32 years ... So from my perspective I didn't think that there was anything unusual about what we were doing," Kelm-Helgen said in a statement included in the report.
Representatives of the MSFA also claimed suite access and free tickets were a practice that has been implemented at other public facilities and that suite use and free tickets were an "appropriate benefit for people working for the Authority and serving on its board."
MSFA representatives also claimed having friends and family in the suites created a "congenial atmosphere." Representatives denied inviting individuals on the basis of their political connections.
The MSFA has since drafted a new suite use policy.
Updated: February 07, 2017 12:23 PM
Created: February 07, 2017 05:29 AM
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