Court wants more info on Vikings case

Published 9:43 am Wednesday, January 15, 2014

ST. PAUL — The Minnesota Supreme Court gave the sides in a Vikings stadium funding lawsuit until Thursday to answer two key questions, opting against immediate dismissal of a case that has tied up money needed for construction.

In an order Tuesday, the high court said it wants clarity on whether justices have jurisdiction to intervene and whether people seeking to stop the stadium’s construction have grounds to do so. Justice Alan Page, a former NFL player, recused himself in the initial ruling.

The court didn’t say if it will call a full hearing into the lawsuit, which has already led state officials to postpone a $468 million bond sale. Stadium authority officials warn a drawn-out process could lead to crippling delays.

A former Minneapolis mayoral candidate and two other people sued late last week, saying the funding plan was unconstitutional.

The state agency that was set to sell public bonds said in a legal filing earlier Tuesday that the lawsuit was flawed.

Department of Minnesota Management and Budget lawyers pressed the state Supreme Court to dismiss the case. It was filed Friday, a few days before a scheduled bond sale was to occur. The lawyers argue the lawsuit has cast a “material cloud” in the minds of investors and needs to be resolved quickly.

“The existence of an unresolved lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a pending bond issue not only disrupts the timing of a bond sale and closing, but also creates an investment risk that translates to reduced market demand and higher interest costs for the state,” lawyer Thomas Klosowski wrote in the brief.

Former Minneapolis mayoral candidate Doug Mann and two others are arguing that the stadium financing arrangements were designed to circumvent a city charter provision that would have triggered a referendum. The stadium funding plan splits construction costs for the $1 billion facility between the team and the public.

“The Stadium Authority has a problem: They started building a stadium before they secured the financing. There is no money in their bank account to pay the bills coming due this month,” Mann said in a statement Tuesday. He accused the stadium authority of trying to intervene and said the authority should not be added as a party to the lawsuit.

Officials overseeing the stadium’s construction in Minneapolis warn a prolonged delay could leave bills unpaid and push out a planned summer 2016 opening.

As part of the state’s filing, it has asked that the plaintiffs post a $50 million bond to cover potential damages from delays if they don’t prevail in their case. Mann said the plaintiffs should not be required to post that bond.