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It was pretty unethical for officials to invite friends to U.S. Bank Stadium suites, audit says

Some legislation is already in the works.

People who are in charge of U.S. Bank Stadium gave suite tickets to friends and family, and that's not very ethical, a legislative audit found.

Lawmakers had called for an audit after it was reported by the Star Tribune members of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority – which manages the publicly-funded stadium – invited people to watch a Vikings game for free in the authority's two suites. Those suites included complimentary food and beer, among other perks.

The suites are supposed to be used to market U.S. Bank Stadium to potential customers, the audit says. But instead, members of the authority "gave a significant number" of free tickets – about 45 percent (totaling 158 tickets), among the 12 events reviewed in the audit – to people who had no connection to marketing the stadium, most of them family and friends.

This isn't against the law, but the audit says it violates a "core ethical principle." The audit also found the authority failed to comply with state law because it didn't keep track of who received free suite tickets.

Suggesting changes

As a result of the audit's findings, it made the following recommendations to the Legislature:

  • Lawmakers should pass a law that controls the authority's use of these free tickets.
  • They should consider passing a law that would allow the two suites to be used for nonprofit charitable purposes.
  • Lawmakers should have more oversight of the authority.
  • They should consider a law that would control the use of these free tickets at all facilities that are built with public money, not just U.S. Bank Stadium.

Legislation regarding the use of these suites is already in the works. State Rep. John Lesch, a Democrat from St. Paul, said Monday he plans to introduce a proposal soon. It would ban lawmakers from getting free tickets to events that are held in stadiums or venues that were publicly funded.

Lesch cited House Speaker Kurt Daudt and his chief of staff being guests in one of the suites as reasoning behind the proposal. Daudt has said he paid $176 to go to the game.

There will be a joint meeting of the House and Senate State Government Finance committees Tuesday at 1 p.m. to discuss this audit.

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