Dispute on Sports Facilities board leads to sudden resignation

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The treasurer of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority resigned Friday, saying he could no longer work with the authority's chair.

Duane Benson, a former Republican legislator and Oakland Raiders linebacker, made the announcement at the end of the group's meeting Friday.

Multiple reports indicate that Benson claimed authority chair Michele Kelm-Helgen called him "untrustworthy" and a "liar."

Benson's resignation appears to be related to a continuing dispute over Kelm-Helgen's pay.

MPR News notes that a recent state report shows Kelm-Helgen is paid more than $35,000 less than her male counterpart Ted Mondale. According to the report, Kelm-Helgen is paid $127,000 annually, while Mondale is making just over $162,000.

According to the Star Tribune, Benson said he fails to understand why the board has two people – Kelm-Helgen and executive Director Ted Mondale – acting as CEOs on the project.

The Republican-controlled House moved to strip away Kelm-Helgen's salary during the legislative session, but that prompted an angry response from the governor and the in the end her salary was left unchanged.

The dispute had gone public a few months ago and had lingered during the last few MSFA board meetings.

Kelm-Helgen acknowledged to MPR News there has been a mistrust between her and Benson, which has made it difficult to work together.

"I don't believe I called him a liar," Kelm-Helgen told MPR. "I did have a conversation with him telling him that I'm very disappointed, that what happened at the meeting was very different from what he told me his position would be the night before."

A fellow commissioner, John Griffith, told the Star Tribune after the meeting that Benson's decision was disappointing – an opinion the newspaper says was echoed by Vikings vice president Lester Bagley.

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