Minneapolis, MN – The two leading officials of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority resigned Thursday in the face of public pressure and a legislative investigation into their inappropriate use of two luxury suites the MSFA controls.
MSFA Chair Michele Kelm-Helgen resigned in the morning, and Executive Director Ted Mondale followed suit in the early afternoon, reports the Star Tribune.
The organization directly controlled two luxury suites, as well as leasing out a third suite from the Minnesota Vikings. That third suite went unreported by MSFA until it was discovered by the legislative investigation.
“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.”
The first two suites were to be used to showcase the capabilities of US Bank Stadium for other prospective uses. The problem arose with Kelm-Helgen and Mondale bringing family members, friends, and political figures such as Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges along for free admission.
“The ongoing discussion on the use of MSFA suites has become a distraction to marketing the stadium,” Kelm-Helgen wrote in a statement, “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.”
Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles’ report specifically faulted Kelm-Helgen and Mondale’s leadership of MSFA. Nobles said that they had violated a core ethical principle by using public office for personal gain.
The two positions together also earned $300,000 in salary. As part of the investigation and other fallout in the state legislature, House Government Finance Chair Sarah Anderson (R-44A) is pushing for an overhaul of the board, and had called for Kelm-Helgen and Mondale’s resignations.
“I don’t know why you would want to continue with an operation where there’s a culture of not doing things right,” Anderson told the Star Tribune.
Kelm-Helgen’s resignation letter was far from contrite and had harsh words for the legislature’s push for a reevaluation of the board.
“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,” said Kelm-Helgen, “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.
Until such time as the positions are filled, MSFA is without its two heads leading up to Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis next year.