For more information contact: Chad Urdahl 651-296-5520
Even though the Legislature is not in session, meetings at the Capitol continue during the “off” months, often to conduct oversight hearings that are directly related to stewardship of tax dollars.
That was the case last Thursday, when the State Government Finance Committee convened in St. Paul to ask some difficult questions regarding business contracts at U.S. Bank Stadium – a $1.1 billion public facility.
This issue came to the forefront after SMG – which manages the stadium – fired Chicago-based Monterrey Security over questionable practices related to training, background checks, record keeping, billing and more.
From my perspective, the testimony we received was disturbing in terms of how some government operations do not always receive the same oversight scrutiny as those in the private sector. My concern was driven by things such as reviews of background checks which revealed dozens of Monterrey employees had disqualifying records, and one who even had an active warrant. There was another instance of a security officer who was wearing an ankle bracelet because he made threats to the FBI.
The Monterrey situation only came to light because, thankfully, a whistleblower brought information to the public. My simple question to representatives of SMG during the hearing was this: If not for the whistleblower, how would you ever have caught Monterrey’s wrongdoings, and what are your audit policies and procedures?
The answer I received could be best categorized as gibberish. From that answer, all I can do is assume there apparently are not effective internal audit procedures in place to head off the kind of mismanagement we have seen with Monterrey – which is just one of the many vendors SMG is managing at the stadium.
This is where legislative oversight comes in, and has me looking forward to future meetings on this subject where we can discuss problems and possible reforms to the system. My goal going forward is to determine if SMG is adequately monitoring all its vendors and, if not, then we need to turn our attention to the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority – the public body which was established by the Legislature in 2012 and heads U.S. Bank Stadium – to see how they intend to correct the issues.
The MSFA hired Pennsylvania-based SMG to handle on-the-ground operations of the stadium, which is a very significant part of its duties. What I’m not sure of at this point is if the MSFA has a system of policies and procedures to monitor performance, ensure tax dollars are being used appropriately and, most importantly, fulfill their fiduciary duties to the taxpayers of Minnesota.
As part of the committee charged with the oversight of the MSFA, I and the entire committee need to continue asking difficult questions. Next time, I want to know from the MSFA what it is doing in respect to oversight of contracts and control functions. Is MSFA doing its roll as a board to fulfill its fiduciary duties, and ultimately are they fulfilling their roll to ensure the stadium’s operations are accountable to taxpayers.
From the above you can tell the apparent ineffectiveness taking place is unsettling to me, especially as a business person. As a state representative, I plan to keep looking into this via our State Government Finance Committee. As a business person, I plan to use my experience in governance and accountability to help in that effort. I will pass along more as this situation develops.
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