Chair of Minnesota Stadium Oversight Panel Resigns
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The chairwoman of the authority overseeing the Minnesota Vikings' stadium has resigned after weeks of criticism over questionable use of luxury suites by family and friends.
Michelle Kelm-Helgen announced her resignation Thursday in a letter in which she said it was "in the public interest" to step down.
A recent legislative audit found that nearly half of the tickets for a pair of suites controlled by the stadium authority were issued to friends and family of top officials.
No state laws were broken, but Republican legislators have been pursuing major changes to the authority structure.
Here’s Kelm-Helgen’s statement in full:
I have been honored to serve the State of Minnesota as chair of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, working to build and open the largest construction project in state history – on time and on budget. I am also proud to have led MSFA’s effort with other partners, that secured next year’s Super Bowl, the upcoming NCAA Men’s Final Four and the 2017 and 2018 ESPN’s X Games that will be held in U.S. Bank Stadium.
Despite these successes, the ongoing discussion on the use of MSFA suites has become a distraction to marketing the stadium. If I could go back and start over again, MSFA would have had a public discussion on the use of these suites and forbid the use of them by family and friends from the start. When questions about the suites use were raised, MSFA took responsibility, and then passed and implemented a new policy in December that no longer allows family and friends in the suites.
But 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.
As a public servant, most concerned about the public interest, 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.
I hope that public oversight of the stadium and its operations continues. Perhaps better legislation will result, if my role is no longer part of the discussion and focus. Therefore, I am resigning my position as chair of the authority, effective March 8, 2017. I will make myself available to answer questions and provide for an orderly transition.
Again, I want to extend my heartfelt gratitude to the people of Minnesota for allowing me to serve you in delivering a world-class stadium that Minnesotans will enjoy and benefit from for decades to come. Lastly, I want to thank the Governor for entrusting me with this enormous responsibility, and for the work we have done together to achieve these significant accomplishments.