Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz will lead the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) as the interim chair of the beleaguered U.S. Bank Stadium oversight panel, Gov. Mark Dayton announced Thursday, saying it's time to move past the problems with luxury suite misuse.
Blatz, who started her public career as a Republican legislator from her native Bloomington in 1979, will bring "fresh perspective" to the MSFA, Dayton said.
"It's time to turn the page on this matter and deal with the totality of the stadium," Dayton said.
With the "exception" of suite misuse, Dayton said the $1.1 billion stadium project was well-managed. MSFA Chair Michele Kelm-Helgen and executive director Ted Mondale announced their departures from the MSFA last Thursday under firm pressure from the legislators. The Star Tribune in November revealed the two — along with three other commissioners — were using two taxpayer-owned luxury suites and VIP parking to entertain their friends and family for free during Minnesota Vikings games and concerts.
Republican leaders vowed to overhaul the MSFA to restore public trust. That plan is still on track and Blatz said she has no interest in serving on the committee beyond the interim role, which she is doing for free. Kelm-Helgen and Mondale's six-figure salaries also had been criticized by legislators.
State Rep. Sarah Anderson, R-Plymouth, who is a leader of the overhaul effort, said she has "immense respect" for Blatz, calling her appointment a "good stop forward toward fixing the problems."
"Minnesotans deserve transparency and accountability so the breaches of public trust by the MSFA board are not repeated," Anderson said.
Throughout her career, Blatz has carried an impeccable reputation. She served in the House until her appointment to the Hennepin County bench in 1994. Gov. Arne Carlson appointed her to the state Supreme Court in 1996, elevating her to chief in 1998. She recently has led the Robina Foundation.
One of her signature accomplishments was a push to open child protection cases to the public, allowing oversight of the system that has led to improvements in helping abused and neglected children.
Blatz, who was appointed to the MSFA as a commissioner by Dayton last month, will attend her first meeting Friday. One agenda item: finding an interim successor to Mondale. Although she said she has a shortlist of potential candidates, lightning would have to strike to name an appointee Friday.
She thanked Dayton for his confidence in her and said she was well aware of the "erosion in public trust" of the MSFA in recent months.
"Hopefully over time, the confidence will come back," she said.
Dayton said he won't appoint another board member to replace Blatz right now so the board will have four instead of five commissioners.
The remaining three were all frequent users of the suites. They are Northland Foundation President Tony Sertich, Minnesota AFL-CIO President Bill McCarthy and Capella University Executive Dean Barbara Butts Williams.
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