Kelm-Helgen resigns from stadium authority

She described scrutiny of MSFA’s use of luxury suites as a “distraction”

UPDATE: Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority Executive Director Ted Mondale announced his resignation hours after Michele Kelm-Helgen made plans to leave her post public. In a brief statement, Mondale said, “I feel good about my work, but it is time to move on.”

Michele Kelm-Helgen announced her resignation from the chair of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority on Thursday.

Kelm-Helgen cited the scrutiny of MSFA’s use of U.S. Bank Stadium suites in a letter announcing her decision. On Feb. 7, the Legislative Audit Commission released a report concluding that, by giving away more than 150 luxury suite tickets to family and friends, MSFA members “violated a core ethical principal.”

Legislative Auditor James Nobles launched an investigation into use of the suites after the Star Tribune published a series of stories examining their use last fall.

In her letter, Kelm-Helgen wrote that she was “honored to serve” as MSFA chair, and touted her role in keeping the $1.1-billion stadium project on time and on budget. She also noted the MSFA’s role in attracting the 2018 Super Bowl, this year’s NCAA Men’s Final Four and the 2018 X Games to the stadium.

“Despite these successes, the ongoing discussion on the use of MSFA suites has become a distraction to marketing the stadium,” she wrote. “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 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.”

Even before the release of the Legislative Audit Commission’s report, Republican state Rep. Sarah Anderson of Plymouth introduced a bill that would modify the MSFA, giving the legislature more power to appoint its members and limiting the role of the governor and mayor of Minneapolis. Kelm-Helgen was appointed to her post by Gov. Mark Dayton, for whom she previously served as deputy chief of staff for legislative affairs.

In her letter, Kelm-Helgen wrote that Anderson’s bill goes beyond the recommendations in the commission’s report and “fails to hold all publicly-owned and operated sports venues to the same set of standards.” Recognizing herself as the target of the legislation, she said it was “in the public interest to remove myself from this discussion.”

Kelm-Helgen’s resignation is effective March 8.