After critical report, House committee seeks U.S. Bank Stadium security answersBy Mike Cook
It didn’t show up in the National Football League transaction report last month, but the group that oversees the Minnesota Vikings’ home stadium cut its contracted security firm and signed two others.
Following release of a scathing performance report, Chicago-based Monterrey Security Consultants, Inc. did not have its state license renewed and was ousted from its three-year contract at U.S. Bank Stadium Sept. 25 and replaced by Whelan Event Services and G4S.
Members of the House State Government Finance Committee wanted answers about the change at a Thursday hearing. No action was taken; however, Rep. Sarah Anderson (R-Plymouth), the committee chair, said more hearings will be held.
“This is a very serious matter,” said Rep. Mark Uglem (R-Champlin). “We don’t want to repeat the same mistake twice.”
Lawmakers heard how security companies and their employees are licensed in Minnesota, and how SMG, which operates the stadium, found out about issues with Monterrey and initiated an investigation.
Greg Cook, executive director of the Minnesota Board of Private Detective and Protective Agent Services and Rick Hodsdon, the board chair, said enough problems arose during the board’s investigation of Monterrey that stadium leaders should have been more proactive.
“It’s clear Monterrey Security needed to be given the boot,” said Rep. Sheldon Johnson (DFL-St. Paul).
According to the performance report:
“Monterrey has failed to comply with state laws and regulations for private security companies. Examples include failure to conduct required background checks, employment of individuals with disqualifying criminal records, failure to comply with state training requirements and failure to accurately respond to inquiries from state security industry regulators.”
The report was “limited to issues of regulatory compliance,” and did not address security or safety issues at U.S. Bank Stadium. “That being said (investigators) did not uncover any incident in which a Monterrey employee’s conduct caused harm to a Stadium guest or created a risk of such harm.”
Some members wondered aloud how the company had been hired in the first place. They noted, for example, Monterrey’s troubled activity in Chicago, including one employee trying to sell an admittance wristband to undercover officers at Soldier Field.
An April 2016 story in the Chicago Sun-Times noted Monterrey was previously “put on probation by state regulators for infractions that included operating without a license and employing an armed guard who wasn’t licensed to use a firearm.”
Rep. Steve Green (R-Fosston) said that hiring a company with a “jaded past” is concerning.
Patrick Talty, general manager at U.S. Bank Stadium, noted Monterrey had positive reviews from operations at other NFL facilities, including SMG-operated facilities, and had good track records of minority hiring in underserved communities and employee training standards.
“I believe that we have a very safe and efficient building,” he said, adding stadium leaders are looking at more audits to ensure security contract conformance. He also said “nothing is off the table” when it comes to the possibility of seeking restitution from Monterrey for billing irregularities.
Hearing that Monterrey is still the security company of choice at Soldier Field, Uglem said, “Really?”
The Super Bowl is scheduled to be played in U.S. Bank Stadium Feb. 4, 2018. Security for that event is coordinated by the NFL.
Latest stadium controversy
The issue is another black eye for stadium overseers.
A nonpartisan report released in February on the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority found family and friends of government officials had benefited from free football, soccer and concert tickets, and the authority sidestepped state law requiring keeping a record of who gets free tickets.
According to the report, the authority gave free suite tickets to several people with connections to the DFL Party. Some hold political office, while others have worked for DFL candidates and officeholders. This includes Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Myron Frans, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and her husband, and Minneapolis City Council Member Jacob Frey.
“As we were doing our work at these events, it was definitely, from my position … it always had a marketing focus,” former Authority Chair Michele Kelm-Helgen told the committee in February.
Kelm-Helgen and Executive Director Ted Mondale each resigned the following week.
Republican lawmakers also accused previous authority leaders of violating state law by signing contracts valued at more than $250,000 without full board authorization. Authority officials said the board previously given permission for the chair and executive director to sign larger contracts to help finish stadium construction without delays.
Two people rappelled from the roof during the final Vikings’ home game last season and hung a banner protesting the Dakota Access oil pipeline.
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