MECA defends move to steer clear of NE’s public records law

Joe Jordan | Nebraska Watchdog

OMAHA—As expected the powerful arena board has tinkered with its house rules.

MECA runs the $291 million CenturyLink Center

Also, as expected, MECA failed to go as far as many of its critics hoped.

First and foremost the Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority has not tied itself to Nebraska’s public records law.

Mayor Jean Stothert and Common Cause Nebraska have been urging the move arguing without it taxpayers are left in the cold.

“We do not have to have a separate standard for every organization,” Jack Gould of Common Cause tells Nebraska Watchdog. “Either MECA is public or they are private. If they are public then they abide by all the rules.”

But in an interview with Nebraska Watchdog, MECA Chairman Dana Bradford defends the board’s Thursday decision to steer clear of the state’s public records statutes.

MECA Chairman Dana Bradford

Bradford says MECA has a “better solution” that goes “beyond public records.” Asked by Nebraska Watchdog for a specific example Bradford simply said MECA’s plan “is better for dealing with the city.”

MECA’s new rules, promises of more public meetings and fewer conflicts of interest, come in the wake of several exclusive Nebraska Watchdog reports.

Earlier this year Nebraska Watchdog detailed MECA’s sporadic public get-togethers—14 spotty meetings over two years— which set MECA apart from the vast majority of the city’s other public panels which meet monthly.

According to Bradford, MECA’s new schedule finds it meeting “about every month” with the public notified “well in advance.”

As for those potential conflicts of interest it’s not clear just how far MECA’s new conflict rules will go.

Last year 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.

Asked by Nebraska Watchdog if potential conflicts of interest facing board members will be made public under MECA’s new rules Bradford said, “Some of it will.”

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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