Some cry foul as MECA OK’s bigger board and longer terms


Joe Jordan | Nebraska Watchdog

OMAHA—As Nebraska Watchdog first reported fireworks were expected at Tuesday’s meeting of the city’s powerful arena board, in the end it looked more like the 4th of July with at least one member accusing others of running a “self-serving” operation.

MECA runs the $291 million CenturyLink Center

In its stormiest get together in memory the Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority OK’d a bigger board—going from five members to seven—and approved longer terms. Instead of the current five year appointment with possible re-appointments it’s now a “one and done” seven year stint.

But the changes aren’t written in stone and await possible legal challenges at City Hall.

Marty Bilek, Mayor Jean Stothert’s chief of staff, tells Nebraska Watchdog that Stothert likes the idea of a bigger board—it’s supposed to add diversity— but opposes longer terms.

MECA Chairman John Lund, who supports the seven-member board, fought the seven-year time limit.

“I don’t like it, it doesn’t feel right,” said Lund who argued that MECA already suffers from a “reputation issue.”

Board member Dana Bradford, who suggested the seven-year term, agreed that MECA needs to shore up it’s public image.

“We have an image of secrecy,” he said.

Board member Willy Theisen argued that longer terms will only make that image- problem worse. “We have to hit the reset button…this is self-serving,” insisted Theisen, over and over again.

In the end the board voted 3-2 for longer terms; Bradford, Jay Noddle and Jim Vokal voting yes. Vokal’s term was due up next month, now he’ll serve until 2016.

The vote to expand the board was 4-1 with Theisen voting no.

“This process is all faulted,” said Theisen.

One key issue that was left on the table involved a battle over “tranparency.”

With a bill forcing MECA to open up some of it’s records apparently going nowhere in the legislature, all board members said they could do a better job of policing themselves.

It’s not clear which records now under lock and key might someday be made available to the public.

Contact Joe Jordan at and listen to Joe every Monday morning at 7:40 on KFAB radio in Omaha.

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