Sunday, June 24, 2012

New Minn Stadium Authority continues "sour taste" in public's mouth


When the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority picked Ted Mondale for the top job of the group many people were surprised.  The public thought would there would be a process similar when the executive director was selected for the Baseball Authority for the building of Target Field.  As I wrote  in a previous post that candidates for such an important position should be granted "on worth, excellence, and caliber through a process that is legitimate, impartial, open, and transparent."

It is clear based by comment by Chairperson of the Authority,  Ms.Kelm-Helgen, Mondale's appointment was done with no clarity and answerability to the public.  In other words, "behind closed doors".

As Chair Kelm-Helgen points as reported in the Star Tribune "she had talked with fellow authority members and other officials and business leaders in recent days about whether to conduct a public search for candidates. But she said the tight project timeline dictated a quick decision. "My biggest concern is to get this project moving and to get it out on time and under budget," she said.  Kelm-Helgen said that Mondale, a former DFL state senator and Metropolitan Council chairman, was a logical choice, and that his name "came up everywhere" in discussions she had involving the position. She said hiring him "made sense" given his experience with the project, his knowledge of its details and his history with the sports commission".

When I read the story, several questions came immediate to mind.  Who did Ms Kelm-Helgen have conversations with in regards to whether or not to have a "public search" for candidates?  Did she have one on one conversations with other members of the Authority?  How did they come to the consensus of no "public search"?  Where is the "public record" that documents the choice of how Mr. Mondale was selected and decision not to do a "want ad" for the head person position?  There isn't any.

The public now knows no other individuals were considered for the position other than Ted Mondale.

Consider the facts as much as the public knows, five Authority members and a hodgepodge "of other officials and business leaders" made a decision to name a person to direct a multi-hundred million dollar public project without the public knowing who had the input.  Also the view of "Damn the torpedoes Full speed ahead'? seemed to permeate and direct the fastrack/greased slide for the selection of the Authority's head..  Who was pushing the "We're not going to look at the risks, we're just going to do it."  Was it the Vikings organization?  Who?

The process of "birth' for the Vikings Stadium bill and the Authority was not pretty as many media reports have reported.  There was at the Legislature and currently now a division of opinion about public financing of the Viking Stadium.  I thought the new Authority members would have the moxie and leadership to understand the "black eye" that the public process took over it.  I was expecting a "public search" for the head position.

Even with the announcement of Ted Mondale I thought the Authority would be clear and explicit how they chose him and why. Our tradition of open government over the past forty years in Minnesota wants and pursues transparency with its public bodies.  This was not the case with the Minnesota Sports Facility Authority in this situation.

The Facilities Authority has its helmsman, there's a burning desire to go ahead, but there needs to an attitude with clear public statements and policy with no obfuscation by Authority members and its head person that the public can be assured that what they are doing is legitimate, impartial, open, and transparent.

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