As you may already know, the SF Ethics Board has been reprimanded (only as a board, not individually) for wrongfully accusing councilor Staggers of ethics violations.
Here is a list of the actual board members;
Mike McKnight (lawyer), Howard Paulson (lawyer), Bill O’Connor, Mari Robbennolt, and Bob Swanhorst. Â Please note that two members of the board are lawyers by profession. This information is available on Siouxfalls.org.
R. Shawn Tornow was the lawyer from the City Attorney’s Office who advised the Ethics Board when the Board was dealing with his case.
The case began when two union leaders from the Fraternal Order of Police filed a ethics complaint against him with the Board of Ethics on April 8, 2010, five days before the first mayoral election on April 13th. The Board eventually determined that there was no merit to the accusations. They were truly frivolous claims.
This should have been the end of the matter, but it wasn’t because now the Ethics Board on their own and with the assistance of Tornow came up with two of their own ethics claims against him which he first learned about at the Ethics Board meeting of May 4th. Â Kermit had his lawyer with him and they were both surprised how baseless these allegations were.
The first allegation was that Kermit was soliciting city employees in a letter that he sent to city employees. The sentence that they supposedly got him on read as follows: Â â€œAs a citizen, any suggestions that you may want to communicate to me can be done in the absolute strictest confidence by contacting me at my home phone, 332.0357.â€ Â In the letter he never asked for money or for them to even vote for him. Â The purpose of the letter was to simply inform city employees about his views on city government.
The second allegation contended that by serving as a Republican committeeman while a member of the City Council was a violation of a provision against holding another publicly elected office.
In a nine page-brief to the Board of Ethics Kermit’s lawyer demolished these allegations by saying that the act of soliciting deals with asking for money which he never did and that the holding of another elected office by the Board’s interpretation would have prevented him from serving as an elder in his church because he was publicly elected to that office. Obviously, the prohibition on holding another elected office deals with holding another publicly elected government office.
Despite Kermit’s lawyer’s brief, two days before he ceased being a city council member he received a confidential letter in the mail saying that he had been privately reprimanded by the Board of Ethics because of soliciting city employees and holding another publicly elected office. Kermit was instructed to keep this letter confidential. The Board’s issuance of a private letter of reprimand was an abuse of power because the Board of Ethics does not have this power; this power belongs to the City Council.
Eventually, he was successful in demonstrating that the Board of Ethics had violated the state’s open meetings laws, and for that the Board received a letter of reprimand. Â Now he is trying to get the Board of Ethics to retract their illegal letter of reprimand against him.