On Tuesday, the Minnesota Supreme Court dismissed a petition seeking a writ of prohibition to block the sale of bonds that would cover the state's portion of the funding for the Vikings stadium.
The ruling came more than a week after the petition was filed, and officials with the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority warned that a delay of even a few days could cause a significant disruption in the construction schedule and possibly delay opening day.
State officials opted to delay the sale of the bonds while the state's highest court considered the petition rather than offer them amid legal uncertainty. It is not yet known when the state will revive the sale; however, Minnesota Management and Budget commissioner Jim Schowalter released a statement on Tuesday night saying the state's financial team is preparing to do just that.
"We are confident we will be able to move forward very quickly to get the financing in place from the bond sale to keep things on track," Michele Kelm-Helgen, chair of the MSFA, told Fox 9 News.
Just hours before the dismissal, Gov. Mark Dayton admitted he was very concerned about the project, telling reporters the entire stadium could be "seriously jeopardized" without quick action from the court.
"This project could be destroyed if this isn't resolved," Dayton stated. "The financing could be destroyed and therefore the project -- and then we're left without thousands of construction jobs for the stadium and land development next to it."
Within an hour of the Supreme Court's decision, Dayton issued a statement thanking them for resolving the matter expeditiously.
"Although I felt it had no merit, I was extremely concerned that this lawsuit would delay the financing of the stadium, and the progress of the $400 million development adjacent to it," the statement read in part. "Today's decision clears the way for thousands of Minnesotans to get to work on these two important projects."
The petition, filed by Minneapolis residents Doug and Linda Mann as well as David Tilsen, argued the bond sale was unconstitutional because it utilized Minneapolis tax revenue to repay $150 million despite a $10-million cap in the city's charter and there was no a referendum vote on the plan.
WHY WAS IT DISMISSED?
In the order to dismiss, the state's highest court offered no stipulations as it threw out the entire case on the grounds that the petitioners did not demonstrate that they had an adequate remedy under existing law.
District courts have jurisdiction over constitutional challenges regarding taxes, and the petitioners did file an action through that court system. They also had a suit pending with the Minnesota Court of Appeals -- until Tuesday afternoon, that is.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
Doug Mann told Fox 9 News he does not plan to give up the fight against the stadium despite the setback, but his options to derail the stadium project appear to be dwindling.
"I kind of expected it," Mann admitted when asked whether or not he was frustrated by the dismissal. "I just didn't expect them to turn it around so fast. I figured they would at least wait another day or two."
Mann was back at the Minnesota Court of Appeals shortly after the Supreme Court delivered its decision; however, that court also delivered a decision against him on Tuesday by finding he filed the wrong type of appeal and has missed the window to file a proper one.
With the legal obstacles apparently eliminated, the $468-million bond sale seems to be back on the table. Previously, officials warned that missing a Thursday deadline could have catastrophic consequences, but it remains to be seen whether officials can organize a sale in the next 48 hours.
No construction or bill payment delays have resulted from postponing the bond sale. Yet, Mann told Fox 9 News he still believes he may have one last shot with the Minnesota Supreme Court.
FULL STATEMENT FROM MANN
This afternoon, the public relations office of the Supreme Court of Minnesota announced the dismissal a petition for a writ of prohibition to restrain Jim Showalter, commissioner of Minnesota Management and Budget, from issuing and selling appropriation bonds to build a new Vikings stadium. The Court dismissed on jurisdictional grounds, saying that this is a "tax issue" that should originate in District Court. The constitutionality of the law and statute authorizing the sale of appropriation bonds was not addressed at all.
Shortly after 4 p.m. came the announcement of an order dismissing the petition for a writ of mandamus challenging the order of Nov. 12, 2013 by Hennepin County District Court Judge Phillip D. Bush in Hennepin County District Court, dismissing a petition for a writ of mandamus to command the City Council to refer approval of the use of city resources in excess of $10 million on a professional sports facility. The City challenged the petition on procedural grounds, stating that I had the option of appealing with writ of error rather than a writ of mandamus. The Court of Appeals decision dismissed the petition on that narrow procedural issue.
Just before the Court of Appeals decision was announced by the appellate courts public relations office, I had filed a response to the City's answer to my petition in the Court of Appeals, a "Demurrer" to the City's answer. The Minneapolis City Attorney, the honorable Phillip D. Bush, and Attorney General Lori Swanson were personally served prior to the filing. The Demurrer to the City's answer addresses the objection to granting mandamus relief on procedural grounds, as well as the substantive issues in the case, and is attached to this message.
Motions for surety bonds in both cases were dismissed as being moot.
I will consider my appeal options in the lawsuit against the city and decide whether to take further action within a few days. Given the stance taken by the Supreme Court on the writ of prohibition, and amazingly quick action by both the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals, a request for review by the Supreme Court seems unlikely to be granted. The ruling by the Court of Appeals on the procedural issue is questionable, as my Demurrer to the City's answer might suggest. Also, I reviewed mandamus petitions filed in the Court of Appeals within the past year challenging legal errors by District Court judges in their orders dismissing mandamus petitions, the same procedure that I used, as part of my research into appeal options.
I have not been formally notified of today's actions of the Courts. I did get a test email message from the Appellate Courts' email notification system that indicates the Court's could have notified me before the press. I got notification via phone and email from members of the press corp.