By Brian Johnson
BridgeTower Media Newswires
Michele Kelm-Helgen is resigning as chair of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, the public governing body responsible for construction and operation of the $1.1 billion Minnesota Vikings stadium.
Kelm-Helgen, who was appointed by Gov. Mark Dayton to chair the authority, said in a statement Thursday that she’s stepping down effective March 8.
The resignation comes at a time when the authority is under scrutiny for allowing friends and family members to use luxury stadium suites that are intended for marketing purposes. The U.S. Bank Stadium opened last year in downtown Minneapolis.
Kelm-Helgen said in a statement that she was “honored” to work on a stadium project that was delivered “on time and on budget,” but she added that the suite controversy has become “a distraction to marketing the stadium.”
The state’s Office of the Legislative Auditor concluded in a recent report that the MSFA’s “use of the tickets violated a core ethical principle,” and recommended that the Legislature “exercise stronger control over the authority and, specifically, its use of complimentary tickets to stadium events.”
Legislation introduced by state Rep. Sarah Anderson, R-Plymouth, calls for the MSFA’s board chair to be selected by the board instead of being appointed by the governor. The bill would also change the chair’s compensation to be the same as other board members, among other changes.
Kelm-Helgen noted in her statement that the MSFA passed 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 State Auditor’s report. Their proposal also fails to hold all publicly owned and operated sports venues to the same set of standards,” she said in the statement.
“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,” she said. “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.”