Joe Jordan | Nebraska Watchdog
Lurking in the background of MECA’s controversial plan to extend its terms and add more members are the board’s “transparency” problems and spotty meeting record.
Meeting of MECA board members—the group’s public get-togethers could soon double following Nebraska Watchdog’s investigation
Now on the heels of a Nebraska Watchdog investigation it appears the Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority will be getting together—in public—twice as often as before.
Quizzed by Nebraska Watchdog, MECA Chairman John Lund says with its new seven-member board in the offing, “We may in fact be having regular monthly meetings.”
That would be a significant change given that when Lincoln’s brand spanking-new $186 million Pinnacle Bank Arena was opening last September—announcing new acts and generating talk that it might take a financial bite out of Omaha’s downtown arena—the MECA board which runs the $291 million CenturyLink Center never held a public meeting.
MECA didn’t meet in October either.
Unlike the vast majority of Omaha’s public panels, which meet monthly—such as 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—MECA’s sit-downs have been less frequent and more sporadic.
In 2012 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.
During MECA’s stormy Tuesday meeting several board members acknowledged that MECA suffers from a public relations problem, including as one member put it, “an image of secrecy.”
Prior to this week’s comment to Nebraska Watchdog that monthly meetings now appear likely, MECA had not responded to Nebraska Watchdog’s requests for answers or an interview regarding its lack of public powwows.
“We hold meetings as required,” MECA’s Roger Dixon told the Legislature in January.
“During construction of the facility we held monthly meetings, if not more,” said executive director Dixon. “After construction—again we’re dealing with volunteers that are our board members and (want) to make sure we don’t take advantage of their time—we only have meetings when there are issues to be discussed.”
Dixon did not elaborate on what those issues are and did not mention to lawmakers that dozens of Omaha’s other city boards are also comprised of volunteers.
So far this year MECA has met in January and March. Its next scheduled meeting is April 29.
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