MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — One week after embattled U.S. Bank Stadium chair Michele Kelm-Helgen resigned from her position, Gov. Mark Dayton has named her replacement.
Kelm-Helgen’s resignation came after controversy arose over the use of luxury suites at the facility.
A scathing report from the Minnesota legislative auditor this month found that Kelm-Helgen and members of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority acted unethically, but not illegally, by distributing free tickets in stadium luxury suites to political friends and family members.
Executive director Ted Mondale also resigned from his position on the same day as Kelm-Helgen.
On Thursday, Dayton named the highly respected former Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz as the interim chair for the MSFA. Blatz currently serves as a member of the MSFA. She will begin work as interim chair on March 8.
“I’m actually looking forward to this. That may be surprising to some people,” Blatz said. “We have this fantastic facility, this new stadium. It is second to none in this country. It didn’t just come out of nowhere.”
The stadium shakeup comes as state lawmakers move to overhaul stadium operations.
Gov. Dayton was highly critical of their investigations, calling them politically motivated and harmful to the stadium’s reputation just before next year’s Super Bowl.
“The Authority needs to succeed. The stadium needs to succeed,” Dayton said. “We need to present to the people of Minnesota and the nation and the world the true and accurate picture of this operation.”
But the lawmaker spearheading the overhaul says her committee investigation into stadium operations will continue.
“I want to make sure that the Sports Facilities Authority is never questioned again,” Rep. Sarah Anderson (R), Chair of the Government Operations Committee, said. “Whether it is year one that we are talking about, or year 10 — we want to make sure the structure is in place to protect the people’s stadium.”
Blatz was the first woman in state history to serve as chief justice on the Minnesota Supreme Court. She is also the widow of former Vikings co-owner Wheelock Whitney Jr.
At a news conference Thursday, she acknowledged that regaining the public’s trust in the Authority was crucial, especially ahead of the Super Bowl next year.
“I’m very well aware of some of the erosion in the public trust and confidence in the Authority, but maybe it’s my judge training, I can hold two pieces of evidence in my head, you have to when you’re in court,” Blatz said. “I’m very well aware of how important the public trust and confidence is in the Authority. We have this fantastic facility, this new stadium. I think it’s second to none in this country ”
Blatz will not be paid for her work for the Authority. She said that she was emphasizing the word “interim,” regarding her appointment.