February 07, 2017 07:07 PM
The auditor behind an investigation into the use of two luxury suites at the new Minnesota Vikings' stadium says the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority leases a third suite from the team.
"We discovered during this review with some help from some legislative staff that the authority actually does have a third suite," Nobles testified. "I think this was a complete surprise to the legislature and legislators that they had in their budget this $300,000 of expenditure. I think that's frankly something they should have taken the initiative to bring to you."
Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles revealed the arrangement to state lawmakers Tuesday while discussing his report on the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority. He says the authority pays the team $1.5 million over five years for the third space. Kelm-Helgen says the suite lease was approved in a public meeting and nothing was done secretly.
It's separate from the two exclusive suites that have landed the authority in hot water with lawmakers. Nobles' report shows nearly half of the guests it invited to those suites were friends and family.
Authority chair Michelle Kelm-Helgen says commissioners don't use the third space. Instead, they sell tickets and rent the space for non-Vikings events. Although the $1.5 million investment will be paid off over five years, the authority will get to sell it for 30 years. After initially saying she didn't know how much revenue had been generated so far, she later said it's brought in $192,000 so far and will likely bring in much more than $1.5 million over 30 years.
"I just want to be clear we don't have a third suite," Kelm-Helgen told lawmakers, meaning it's not used by authority members or staff.
In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, Governor Mark Dayton stood by MSFA leadership, while saying he expects the group to respond quickly to the auditor's report and its recommendations.
Dayton's full statement:
“I welcome the findings of the Office of the Legislative Auditor, and the recommendations this report has provided. I am confident the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA), its Chair, and its Board will take care in responding to these recommendations, as they work to uphold the highest standards of accountability and public confidence in the stadium’s operations.
“Chair Michele Kelm-Helgen, Executive Director Ted Mondale, their administrative team, and the MSFA Board have already demonstrated their exceptional dedication and ability in completing this world-class stadium. They built for the people of Minnesota a multi-purpose stadium on-time and on-budget, while employing over 7,000 workers, 39 percent of whom were minorities.
“The MSFA’s successes have triggered over $1 billion in new business investments and several thousand new jobs in East Minneapolis. Today, the stadium’s daily operations employ 3,000 people, 60 percent of whom are men and women of color. And one year from now, the stadium will host the premiere international event of the year: the Super Bowl, which is expected to bring more than $400 million to Minnesota.
“Nonetheless, I expect a handful of legislators will ignore these accomplishments, and instead deride and impugn the dedicated public officials who made these successes possible. Their attempts to use this single episode to achieve their own political objectives do nothing to benefit the stadium’s operations or advance the public good."
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Updated: February 07, 2017 07:07 PM
Created: February 07, 2017 02:25 PM
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