Powerful arena board meets while ‘sunshine’ rules remain cloudy

Joe Jordan | Nebraska Watchdog

MECA runs the $291 million CenturyLink Center

OMAHA—The head of the city’s powerful arena board believes some MECA records currently under lock and key will soon be open to the public—he just doesn’t know which ones.

In the ongoing battle between City Hall and the Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority—MECA has called a special meeting for Thursday (today)— the board’s decade long ducking of the state’s public records law remains on the table (see Nebraska Watchdog’s exclusive report on MECA’s spotty public meeting record here).

MECA Chairman John Lund

Mayor Jean Stothert says she’s looking to amend the city’s contract with MECA to guarantee more “transparency.”

In a recent interview with Nebraska Watchdog, MECA Chairman John Lund agreed. But as always the devil is in the details:

Nebraska Watchdog: Do you see MECA opening up any more of its records?

John Lund: We are currently working with the city to figure out a way that we can create more opportunities for (city officials) to be more aware of what we do.

Nebraska Watchdog: Could you give me an example of a record that could be made public today that isn’t made public right now?

John Lund: Well certainly when we compete to bring in performances and we compete with other arenas in the region that is a piece of information that we can’t let go because we don’t want to lose to our competitors.

Nebraska Watchdog: I understand. Give me one you could share.

John Lund: I would have to see what we currently do not share with you and with the City of Omaha and I would deal with that. In fact that is what I think is going to happen, Joe.

Lund says his push to open more records also includes possible conflicts of interest involving MECA members.

“I feel very strongly that there cannot be any conflicts of interest,” said Lund. “We have no conflicts of interest that is crystal clear.”

It was just last year when an apparent conflict involving former MECA member Jaime Gutierrez Mora surfaced in a series of Nebraska Watchdog reports.

Before resigning in an unrelated residency flap, Gutierrez Mora sat on the 5-member board while her janitorial company held a million dollar plus contract with MECA.

The deal didn’t come to light until the residency squabble boiled over.

Contact Joe Jordan at joe@nebraskawatchdog.org Omaha.

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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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