Sides hone arguments in Minn. Vikings stadium case

Stadium construction
Work continues on preparation for demolition of the Metrodome and the eventual construction of the new Vikings stadium on the east side of downtown Minneapolis, Minn. Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014.
Jeffrey Thompson/MPR News

The government authority in charge of constructing the new Minnesota Vikings stadium claimed in a legal brief filed Thursday that the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit is trying to disrupt it with "endless litigation," and asked the state Supreme Court to shut him down.

Parties in the lawsuit over the stadium project are submitting a last flurry of briefs to Minnesota's high court as stadium backers are asking for quick action in order to avoid obstacles that could derail an already tight construction schedule and drive up the nearly $1 billion price tag. The lawsuit has already caused a delay in a $468 million bond sale.

Plaintiff Doug Mann "appears to be a serial litigant, determined to keep asserting meritless claims until this Court, the final arbiter of Minnesota law, definitely disposes of those claims," stated a legal memorandum from the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority. "Allowing Petitioners to continue to disrupt, delay and thread the Stadium Project ... by endless litigation does not further justice."

Mann, a frequent but unsuccessful candidate for office in Minneapolis, and two other plaintiffs sued late last week to block the bond sale, claiming the stadium's funding plan is unconstitutional. The same plaintiffs were previously unsuccessful with a Hennepin County lawsuit on similar grounds, a suit they're asking the Minnesota Court of Appeals to revive.

Mann and his fellow plaintiffs argue the stadium financing arrangements were designed to circumvent a Minneapolis charter provision that would have triggered a city referendum. The stadium funding plan splits construction costs between the Vikings, state and city taxpayers.

But stadium backers note the bonds have already survived similar legal challenges, and maintain that inability to sell bonds soon would imperil not just the stadium project but an adjacent $400 million public/private development that includes office towers, parking facilities and green space.

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The state Supreme Court "should dispose of the claims raised once and for all," stated the Sports Facilities Authority brief. The authority argued that the remedy sought by the plaintiffs, what's called a "writ of prohibition" against selling the bonds, is not even within the authority of the high court to order because such writs govern the exercise of judicial power. Selling bonds is administrative rather than judicial in nature, the authority argued.

David Tilsen, a former Minneapolis school board candidate and co-plaintiff, filed a brief arguing that state officials should not have started spending state money on the project before financing questions were settled. "Their mismanagement and poor decision making does not make a bad law good," Tilsen wrote.

The Supreme Court had set a Thursday deadline for filings in the case, and is expected to set a hearing or issue a judgment in short order.

State officials have said inability to issue bonds could start throwing off construction timelines by as early as next week. In another brief filed Thursday, Mann wrote that plaintiffs "are not opposed to a reasonably swift resolution to this case."