MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO/AP) — With just two weeks before the contracts are supposed to be signed for the new Minnesota Vikings stadium, some lawmakers are now having doubts.
Brothers Zygi and Mark Wilf and their cousin, Leonard, committed fraud, breach of contract and fiduciary duty, and had violated New Jersey’s civil racketeering law, a judge ruled early last week in a 21-year legal battle.
Superior Court Judge Deanne Wilson said she will announce the rest of the ruling and the damages in the next two weeks.
Vikings vice president of public affairs Lester Bagley said any judgment will not influence the team’s payroll or the development of a new billion-dollar stadium in downtown Minneapolis that is scheduled to begin this fall.
However, the legal troubles are forcing the state — and Gov. Mark Dayton — to take a closer look at its deal with the team.
“We want an agreement that’s absolutely rock solid or there’s no escape valve,” Dayton said.
Larry Jacobs is a political science professor at the University of Minnesota.
“Willful, misleading and perhaps illegal behavior by the Wilfs has led Gov. Dayton to say it’s time to open up these negotiations and take a hard look at the fine print,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs said lawmakers are changing their original approach in stadium negotiations to make sure the Wilfs hold up their end of the bargain.
“The core question here is: can the Wilfs be trusted? Gov. Dayton is saying no,” Jacobs said.
Dayton says the stadium authority’s legal counsel will now be involved in the final weeks.
He has more than the stadium to protect. Jacobs says how he handles this last minute wrench in plans could impact his reelection.
“He certainly doesn’t want a bad deal to blow up on him in the closing weeks of his election campaign,” Jacobs said.
Dayton thinks that’s “extremely unlikely, but we don’t want any chance that this won’t proceed.”
There’s still some other key issues left to be decided, including who will oversee construction and therefore any cost overruns, how many seats in the stadium are going to have license fees and exactly what those fees will be to help offset the cost of the stadium.
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