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Ex-chief justice takes over stadium board leadership

Her new voluneer job as chairwoman of the U.S. Bank Stadium governing body is just an interim position, former Minnesota Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz said on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017. Don Davis / Forum News Service1 / 2
Former Minnesota Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz reacts after Gov. Mark Dayton named her interim chairwoman of the U.S. Bank Stadium governing body. Don Davis / Forum News Service2 / 2

ST. PAUL — A former Minnesota Supreme Court chief justice drew the assignment of repairing the U.S. Bank Stadium governing board's tarnished image.

"I want to build on that good and not lose sight of it," Kathleen Blatz said Thursday, Feb. 23, about Gov. Mark Dayton's comments that most of what the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority has done is good.

Dayton named Blatz interim authority chairwoman after Michele Kelm-Helgen resigned as chairwoman amid a controversy in which authority officials took family and friends to Minnesota Vikings games and other events in luxury suites it has as a place to take potential stadium clients.

Thursday's appointment is temporary, Dayton said, as legislators look at ways to restructure the authority.

"Emphasize interim," Blatz told reporters. "I have no desire to continue on. I want to do a really good job now."

Blatz, a former Republican legislator before being appointed to the courts, said she will serve as chairwoman without pay. Kelm-Helgen received about $130,000 annually.

Dayton earlier appointed Blatz to the board, but it was so recent that she has not attended a meeting. Dayton said that he will not immediately fill her regular board position because legislators are examining the board's future.

Blatz said she is undergoing orientation and did not want to discuss specifics about what actions are needed to restore the authority reputation.

The Democratic governor restated his feeling that until the luxury box issue arose most of the authority did a good job, including making sure the $1 billion facility was completed on time and on budget. "People deserve to know that."

The governor said that getting work done on time was important and he mentioned the state Capitol building, in which he stood, that remains under construction after its Dec. 30 planned multi-year renovation completion date.

The luxury suite controversy has bogged down the authority's work, Dayton said.

"It is time we turn the page on this matter and deal with the totality of this project," the governor said.

Blatz runs her first authority meeting Friday, when the board is to consider what to do about an executive director vacancy. She said she did not expect anyone to be appointed Friday.

Ted Mondale resigned as executive last week, hours after Kelm-Helgen.

Blatz and Dayton avoided telling lawmakers how to redesign the authority.

But as a former lawmaker, Blatz said she would tell legislators: "Keep your eye on the public. Do it for the public's benefit. A lot of these things can get into partisan politics."

An authority critic, Republican Rep. Sarah Anderson of Plymouth, praised the Blatz appointment.

"This appointment is a good step forward toward fixing the problems with the management of the MSFA," Anderson said. "I have immense respect for ... Blatz and believe she will be a partner in reforming how the MSFA operates. Minnesotans deserve transparency and accountability so the breaches of public trust by the MSFA board are not repeated."

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.