- Associated Press - Friday, March 10, 2017

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - The former chairwoman of the state agency that oversees the Minnesota Vikings stadium waived more than $55,000 in rent for event spaces without consulting agency staff or fellow board members.

Michele Kelm-Helgen said she used her discretion to waive rent to further the goal of marketing the building, the Star Tribune reported (https://strib.mn/2mIMynb ).

Among the 14 groups that got free use of luxury spaces at U.S. Bank Stadium were a local sports booster club and the PGA of America. Meanwhile, some 350 other groups paid thousands of dollars to rent such spaces.

Kelm-Helgen resigned from the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority last month amid criticism of her use of the luxury suites and her purchase of front-row season tickets.

Interim authority chairwoman Kathleen Blatz said a “public purpose” was stated for each free event and that presentations and tours were made at most events. But she said she hopes to “realign” the chair’s responsibilities so that the stadium operator handles club rental decisions.

Rep. Sarah Anderson, a Republican from Plymouth who heads the House State Government Finance Committee, said the waivers were “really disappointing.” Anderson is the lead sponsor of a proposal to reconfigure the authority, limit the role of its chairman and eliminate the six-figure salary.

Anderson said someone tipped her off about the waivers and that she sent a letter in early January to the authority, which responded with a letter detailing the waivers.

Some of the events, including Minnesota State High School League playoffs and monthly authority board meetings, were required to get free use of the building as part of the stadium’s public purpose.

“This is an asset and we need to have policies in place to make sure nothing is abused,” Anderson said.

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Information from: Star Tribune, https://www.startribune.com

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