Bowing to public pressure created when it was learned that top officials of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority were bringing friends and family to the two 18-person complimentary suites for Minnesota Vikings games at U.S. Bank Stadium, the MSFA issued a new draft policy change stating that family and friends of MSFA would no longer have access to free tickets in the suites.
The saga brought MSFA Chair Michele Kelm-Helgen and Executive Director Ted Mondale into the eye of the storm after bringing into question improper benefits being received by public officials. Kelm-Helgen and Mondale have both defended their access to the luxury suites, claiming that having the ability to bring heavy hitters into the suites helps show off the facility for potentially booking it for future events – both in the sports realm and concert/entertainment events.
The draft policy will be part of the MSFA board’s meeting on Friday’s agenda and it is expected that it will be officially adopted then.
The furor over the admission of friends and families of MSFA officials started with state legislators who claimed Kelm-Helgen, Mondale and other top MSFA officials were abusing the practice of taking free perks to get the suite tickets, premium parking and access to food and beverage not available to the general public. It has gone to the point that Legislative Auditor James Nobles has begun an investigation.
In a statement released by the MSFA, Chief Attorney Jay Lindgren said, “To the best of my knowledge, this will be the most detailed and stringent policy governing the use of publicly owned suites for any similar Minnesota venue. The policy may also very well be one of the most stringent – if not the most stringent – for any stadium in the nation.”
To many, the infractions seemed minor and in keeping with many of the perks public officials receive as part of being state power brokers who deal with the moneyed elite on a regular basis. However, once the story got rolling, there was no controlling it. It gained a life of its own.
The MSFA has released the guest lists from the suites during events that were held at the stadium. Many of them have reimbursed the MSFA for the cost of the tickets, as well as amenities like complimentary food and drinks in the suite. Some of the reimbursement payments came months after the events took place, including Mondale’s father – former U.S. Vice President Walter Mondale.
To many, this is much ado about nothing. It isn’t that the MSFA was the first government agency to take perks as part of the job. It may, however, be the first to have a glaring spotlight thrown on it.
- The NFL announced its flex schedule Monday. The Christmas Eve game between the Vikings and Packers will remain at noon at Lambeau Field.
- The Vikings’ win over Jacksonville Sunday was their first road win since Sept. 25, when they won at Carolina.
- The Vikings are an early four-point favorite for Sunday’s game against Indianapolis.