Critics less than impressed with MECA’s possible changes.

Joe Jordan | Nebraska Watchdog

OMAHA—Following an exclusive Nebraska Watchdog report detailing the powerful arena board’s sporadic get-togethers—irregularly scheduled public meetings, some with short notice—MECA appears ready to button down its dance card.

MECA runs the $291 million CenturyLink Center

It’s one of several moves the Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority is set to consider at its Thursday meeting but the internal changes, aimed at ending months of outside criticism, don’t go nearly far enough for some.

For starters there is no indication MECA plans to abide by the Nebraska public records law, a move backed by both Mayor Jean Stothert and Common Cause Nebraska.

MECA, which runs the CenturyLink Center and TD Ameritrade ballpark, continues to hold itself “above the law,” according to Common Cause’s Jack Gould.

“As long as they’re accepting tax dollars we don’t have to have special rules for them,” Gould tells Nebraska Watchdog.

The 5-member MECA board has been criticized for its refusal to abide by the Nebraska public records law.

MECA does appear ready to broaden its conflict of interest rules which were put under the gun last year when Nebraska Watchdog reported the curious case of Jaime Gutierrez Mora.

While sitting on the five-member board —she eventually resigned—Mora ran a maintenance company that landed MECA’s lucrative janitorial contract.

Because MECA is not subject to the state’s conflict of interest rules, the Mora-MECA deal went hidden for months.

It’s not clear just how far MECA’s new conflict rules will go and if they will make public any possible conflicts before they occur.

As for its new meeting schedule it appears the board is ready to sit in public once a month.

That follows at least two years of spotty meetings which set MECA apart from the vast majority of the city’s other public panels.

The Planning Board, Library and Zoning Board, Airport and Housing Authorities, or the lesser known Electrical Examining Board, Building Board of Review, and Air Conditioning and Distribution Board—to mention just a few—all meet monthly.

In 2012 though MECA met seven times: but not in March, June, July, September and December.

In 2013 it held another seven meetings but went dark in March, June, September, October and December.

Those dates are according to the minutes of MECA’s meetings.

Arena officials granted Nebraska Watchdog access to the minutes, which are held inside MECA’s CenturyLink headquarters, but only to read them: no copies or photographs of the records were allowed.

When Nebraska Watchdog tried to question MECA officials as to why they meet less often than most other city boards there was no response.

Contact Joe Jordan at joe@nebraskawatchdog.org.

Joe can be heard on Omaha’s KFAB radio every Monday at 7:40 a.m. and KHAS-AM in Hastings every Wednesday at 7:30 a.m. and 12:45 p.m.

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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