The woman who leads the U.S. Bank Stadium governing board has resigned after she became the center of a controversy about allowing friends and family into stadium events free.
Michele Kelm-Helgen released a statement Thursday, Feb. 16, saying that while she disagrees with some of the criticism, her resignation is best for the state.
“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 about bills to rework stadium governance. “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.”
Lawmakers are considering bills that would change how the stadium is run as well as banning family and friends use of stadium suites without charge.
The controversy began when the Star Tribune of Minneapolis reported that members of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority board took guests to Minnesota Vikings games and other events. The authority uses two suites as marketing tools for potential clients. Many of the guests paid for the events after the story broke.
Kelm-Helgen said she is proud that the stadium has attracted the Super Bowl next year, along with other events such as the college basketball Final Four and X Games.
“Despite these successes, the ongoing discussion on the use of MSFA suites has become a distraction to marketing the stadium,” she said. “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.”
She complained that legislation does not hold other sports venues to the same standards that would be placed on U.S. Bank Stadium.
For Rep. Sarah Anderson, R-Plymouth, the problem was not just about suite use.
“Chair Kelm-Helgen’s resignation comes days after we learned that the MSFA, without proper authority, entered into million dollar contracts that continue a disturbing pattern of Democrats using this board to help their political allies,” Anderson said. “This is the people’s stadium, not the people closest to the DFL Party’s stadium. House Republicans will continue to investigate the MSFA’s activities and ensure that they are held accountable for breaching the public’s trust and violating ethical principles.”