Legislative Auditor looks at Vikings suites

Some public officials had better seats than this at recent Vikings games in U.S. Bank Stadium and the Legislative Auditor wants to know why. Madeleine Ringham for MPR News

Minnesota Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles says he's investigating the use by public officials of two luxury suites in the new Vikings stadium.

Nobles said a recent Minneapolis Star Tribune story raised questions and concerns about how the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority controls its 36 seats in the suites, as well as food and beverages provided to its guests.

He notified the authority about the investigation this week and requested documents. Nobles said he will insist the authority disclose who has been using those seats.

“Whether I accept their characterization of this as not public data is yet to be seen," he said. "I mean, they’re going to have to show me in law why this information should not be made public. But it certainly will be disclosed to me.”

Several public officials recently paid back the authority for tickets they received after the newspaper inquired about the suites. Nobles said he hopes to present his findings to legislators early next year.

A spokeswoman said the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority welcomes the investigation.

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"Over the past 36 years, the MSFA and its predecessor, the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission have been audited annually by the Legislative Auditor," said Jennifer Hathaway, who directs communications for the authority. "In the Metrodome, the MSFC had three suites with a policy much less focused on marketing, and the Legislative Auditor did not identify a problem with the suite use policy."

The U.S. Bank Stadium policy is based on policies that covered the Metrodome’s three suites and other Minnesota public stadiums, Hathaway said in an email.

Because the use of the suites involves marketing the stadium, Hathaway said data privacy law does not require disclosure of the names of specific entities and individuals who are engaged in marketing discussions with the MSFA.

Despite that, she said, from now on the authority will disclose the types of groups that are attending events at the suites (but not the name of the specific entities or their representatives) and the names of MSFA staff or commissioners who are in attendance, as well as any other individual who attends as an MSFA guest to support the marketing activity.