An Open Letter to Sioux Falls City Councilor Greg Neitzert

Over the past year there has been many things said by our esteemed councilor at public council meetings, on Facebook and in the media. It all culminated last week with the special meeting to hire our new internal audit manager and a discussion on the Greg Belfrage show between councilors Stehly and Neitzert in which Neitzert called Stehly a bully and a ‘LIAR’ he also inferred that councilor Starr was a liar to (which is actually a violation of council ethics).

While this was all going on Neitzert kept trying to say that the character of the new city council employee was being questioned, assassinated and denigrated. I still don’t know what he is talking about. In fact if you watch the council meeting or listen to anyone talk about her in the meeting, NOBODY questions her character only her qualifications. Some even state they are NOT questioning her character. If you are questioning someone’s qualifications for a job, that is NOT questioning their character – those two things are polar opposites.

So here are the FACTS that Councilor Neitzert claims people are ‘Lying’ about;

• Nobody on the City Council or during public input questioned Mrs. Nelson’s character. (I can’t speak to random comments on FB)

• While Mrs. Nelson has extensive financial and business experience (12 years) she has NO internal audit experience or supervisor experience.

• Mrs. Nelson has broad conflicts of interest with the city, not just with her husband as a director, but with the finance department she currently works in and a very close family friendly relationship with one of the sitting city councilors.

• Mrs. Nelson was warned in advance (before her nomination was publicly noticed) that the city council wasn’t in full consensus of her employment. She knew there would be a high level of scrutiny. This of course is NOT Mrs. Nelson’s fault, this ‘doubt’ was caused because of a poorly executed hiring process by councilor Neitzert. She still chose to move forward knowing it would be a contentious debate.

• Councilor Neitzert denies he ramrodded the process. He says that most if NOT all resolutions are noticed on a Friday and Voted on a Tuesday. While there is a lot of truth to that, most resolutions are benign, and have full support of the city council. They include things like gifting old equipment to other communities, appointing city board members, allowing SculptureWalk, giving out awards, etc. They don’t usually involve hiring a city council manager of this importance. They also are NEVER brought forward in a special meeting that has a singular objective (ex; golf contract). It was noticed on a Holiday Weekend, with NO attached documents that explained who Mrs. Nelson was or why she was qualified. It was also during a special meeting at 5:30 PM the following Tuesday. Her appointment could have easily been postponed for several weeks so the public could vet her. Just the day after her appointment Neitzert said it would be a full month before she transitioned into her position. So what was the rush? Councilor Stehly had NO choice but to put out a robo-call to inform the public this was coming down the pipe – FAST. While you may have had issues with her verbiage and tone, she did NOTHING wrong, or made false statements. It was ‘ramrodded’ and the parking ramp debacle was ‘controversial’.

• The city’s legal team blew off the nepotism and conflict of interest concerns as being ‘legal’ and since they were legal, in their eyes there were no problems. South Dakota has an ‘F’ rating in government corruption, mostly because we have NO ethics, conflict of interest or nepotism laws (or very weak ones).

• Mayor TenHaken never said whether Mrs. Nelson would be missed or even replaced (this would have been nice to know during a longer vetting process). You would think an employee with this much experience in finance, a person who implemented key finance software, and an employee who won an award (from the past mayor) would be valued by the administration and asked to stay. (I’m hearing from my city hall moles that there was a discussion about it, but since it was a personnel issue, and Mrs. Nelson would be bettering her career, they just let her proceed. If all this happened, I’m not sure why any of that is confidential and couldn’t be shared at the special meeting by the HR department).

• Councilor Neitzert said since he had 6 councilors sign off on her nomination he didn’t feel the need to get a total consensus. Though, during the meeting, councilor Brekke pointed out that most city council employees have a consensus of the entire council before getting approved. In fact, in the 13+ years I have been blogging about the city, the last time I can remember there was NO consensus of the city council was when they voted to terminate City Clerk Owen, and that discussion was behind closed doors with a public vote.

• After 3 weeks of job employment ads mostly online without the assistance of a job recruitment agency, the city got 15 candidates in which NONE of them had audit experience and only ONE of them was a current city employee, with an obvious conflict, and she was chosen. Some people call that ‘inside baseball’ but I won’t speculate any further.

Councilor Brekke suggested to Councilor Neitzert (who is the audit chair) that a broader search be done to find someone with audit experience. Her request was either ignored or rejected.

Councilor Starr, who was part of the hiring committee suggested early on that they hire a recruiter. They said it would cost too much, though Starr pointed out you could get one as low as $5K, and in most cases you don’t pay unless they produce qualified candidates. In other words, no harm, no foul. His suggestion was also discarded.

I think ‘the fix was in’ as soon as Mrs. Nelson turned in her application, and there was no going back from there. Just listen to what Neitzert said on Belfrage, ‘Shana is a Rock Star!’ Great, but why not do a broader search for a qualified ‘Rock Star’? And why totally ignore the suggestions of your fellow councilors? Who is the bully?

While I could care less if Councilor Neitzert wants to act like a Crazed Man-Child in the media, I am truly asking him to stop calling his fellow councilors liars, bullies, self-appointed victims and disrespecting and ignoring their opinions. If you disagree, you simply state that, and move on. If they have good suggestions about the hiring process, you try them. It’s really that simple.

As I have pointed out above, there is only one reason why this process when to Sh*t, and that person needs to take a hard look into the mirror. The only one who truly let down Mrs. Nelson through this process was the one leading the process, City Councilor & Audit Chair, Greg Neitzert.



33 comments ↓

#1 Matthew Paulson on 04.28.19 at 6:48 pm

Can you stop disingenuously saying Mrs. Nelson is unqualified? The job description did not require candidates to have previous audit experience or be a certified auditor. She met the qualifications of the job description. If you don’t think the qualifications listed in the job description are sufficient, you should question the job description, not the person that applied based on the posted requirements.

If the city had required someone to be a certified auditor or have significant prior auditing experience, they probably wouldn’t have gotten any applicants because auditors that work for private companies can likely command much higher salaries from Eide Bailly/RSM/other firms.

#2 D@ily Spin on 04.28.19 at 7:12 pm

It’s obvious Stehly, Starr, and Brekke are the patriotic public representatives on the council. Neitzert was too but his Trump is showing. The narcissist faction of the council gets name recognition from boisterous egotistical nonsense. It’s good entertainment showing how desperate they seek higher office. Actually, they prove how unqualified they are. The 5 Mouseketeer councilors should try some Trump antics so they’ll not disappear and become answers to political trivia questions. Wave your arms, make faces, or use childish names like Rocket Man or Fake News. Misspell some tweets or make your hair look like cotton candy. Try something so we not only pay attention to you when you rudely pass gas.

#3 Sierra broussard on 04.28.19 at 7:18 pm

I’m goona stay mutual on this cause its over said and done and we as citizens and as a city must move on there was 3 council members on the hiring committee Greg curt and pat if they thought there was a conflict of interest etc then why did they sign there signature on the dotted line so it’s not all on Greg it’s all 3 that signed on the dotted line example if just 2 signed on the dotted line and the other didn’t guess what she wouldn’t of went through with the hiring process so fault all 3 council members that’s signed not just one

#4 l3wis on 04.28.19 at 8:11 pm

“they probably wouldn’t have gotten any applicants”

MP, you know what they say about those that ASSume?

It was recommended by those in the minority to have a qualified auditor in the job description, they were ignored. Besides, I even said at the podium I wouldn’t have an issue with hiring Shana without that experience, the REAL issue is her conflicts.

#5 anonymous on 04.28.19 at 8:40 pm

Watching how the Councilors interact is like watching a train wreck.

It will be interesting to see how they move forward from this.

#6 Matthew Paulson on 04.28.19 at 8:40 pm

Scott – Even Google’s advertisers know that you’re talking out of your rear-end on this one. 🙂

https://imgur.com/a/Egz6WUS

On a more serious note, has Pat explained why he voted in committee to recommend hiring Shana and voted to add her hiring to the agenda of the special meeting only to vote against her in the final vote? Seems like if he had actual concerns and didn’t think she was the right fit that his earlier votes would have reflected those concerns. From the outside, it really looks like Theresa co-opted his vote at the last minute.

#7 l3wis on 04.28.19 at 8:52 pm

MP – I did have to laugh, because I am not sure why the cookies on your device are directing prostrate problem ads to it. Are we having some issues with the Willy standing at attention? I would be concerned at your age.

#8 Auditor on 04.28.19 at 8:58 pm

Paulson is right. Auditor experience is not needed to be an auditor or for the advertised position. A background in business finance or accounting is preferred for auditors. I’m guessing based on her job she was doing audit like work which gave her experience. An accounting degree alone makes her qualified. They read her experience. She also has a Masters. She is overqualified to work in an internal audit position.

Most auditors who working internal audit DO NOT have a CIA. I mean most = the majority do not. Just like most accountants do not have a CPA, but they are still accountants. Those that do have CIA designation command a significantly higher salary. If you want a CIA, pay up l, six figures +.

#9 Lemming on 04.28.19 at 9:56 pm

Just a few things on this Detroit. Her husband is not a Director as you mentioned. He actually is a few links down the chain in the PD. (Though Director sounds much better for the attacks!)
Things worked out as I imagined. Neitzert did the deep dive and was correct on many issues.
Stehly played the “But Pat Starr and I” card as always.
Brekke can kind of be normal sometimes and was trying to be in this meeting but has to realize Stehly is always on the wrong side of the vote and Starr just plays games to make himself look like the surprised victim. She needs to pick better allies.
Starr played the “Someone should have done this right” card…then when reminded he had a chance…he did like he always does…”Ooops, I guess I did, but we were all wrong”. How many times on how many issues have we heard this from Stehly’s right hand Man?!
In the end, a good candidate got the job. There will be more crying in Mudville and accusations of unfairness, but in the end – we ended up with the right person for the job

#10 Theresa stehly on 04.28.19 at 9:59 pm

Matt Paulson, just to be clear, I had nothing to do with either Pat or Janet’s vote . They listen and discern with an open, independent attitude. They treat all of the Council members with respect and support,as well as listening to the citizens input. They have proven to be trustworthy.

#11 Bruce on 04.28.19 at 10:01 pm

MP, Pat Starr signed to ADVANCE the discussion into thr public light. He never stated he was supporting the nominee. Big difference…

#12 l3wis on 04.28.19 at 10:08 pm

Over qualified for the job! Ha! That’s a new one, yet she chooses to work in the public sector.

On the 2019 city salary sheet, Mr. Nelson is listed as the Public Parking Facility Manager, he is the highest paid employee in the department, that kind of makes him the boss, but nice try.

“but in the end – we ended up with the right person for the job”

Yeah, they said that about the last one – how did that work out?

#13 Matthew Paulson on 04.28.19 at 10:31 pm

The hiring committee, which Pat served on, voted 4-0 to recommend Ms. Nelson for the position to the council. If Pat didn’t support her candidacy at that time, why didn’t he vote against her in committee? The discussion would have still been advanced to the full council regardless of how he voted in committee.

#14 Obvious on 04.28.19 at 10:54 pm

Why is everyone giving Pat Star a pass?

He clearly was aware of all the details ahead of time and was in the interview process. He could have stopped all of this. If he really believed the person was not a good fit or unqualified, he could have not advanced them. The job would have been opened up again or the next candidate in line would have been selected.

#15 Erica on 04.29.19 at 2:23 am

This position was ONLY posted for 3 weeks for a city government position. Was the position also listed with the department of labor office? How about the veteran employment office (I know many veterans who have moved back to the area after military retirement or ETs who have spoken about having a difficult time finding employment in the area. It doesn’t help that the labor department veteran rep is now only specializing in job assistance if you only have a disability rating)

I would like to know how many other applicants applied and how long between closing of accepting applications were interviewed scheduled and then a decision made. Were there even other applicants interviewed?

#16 D@ily Spin on 04.29.19 at 9:40 am

Since when does the council have hiring authority? An audit can be ordered but it should be independent and unbiased. It’s like saying I’m not a felon just because I committed a felony. The mayor of Baltimore was arrested last week by the FBI for a 100k irregularity. During Huether they were here but slick escaped somehow. The ‘F’ ing state (as in grade for corruption) should get involved. Otherwise, the feds.

#17 Blasphemo on 04.29.19 at 12:29 pm

MP – I can’t even bring myself to use your apparent legal name as that would ascribe unwarranted legal voting age status and intellectual maturity to you. Well reasoned, differing POVs are thought provoking. However, from your alleged expertise on the cost of catered appetizers…to your cereal box crystal ball decoder ring-enabled help wanted ad forecast…your naive and infantile opinions are tiresome to wade through here. Down a million cups of high-proof distilled spirits to rev up your fertile entrepreneurial gaming imagination, and please join your fellow Apprentice Flat Earth Society Members and Client Change Deniers in Training for a round of pedestrian play on the interstate.

#18 LJL on 04.29.19 at 12:41 pm

Considering now that Patt approved her out of committee it does appear to me Councilor Stehly is acting as a bully. The robocall made this sleazy.

Theresa, you have made these debates way too personal I no longer believe you have the maturity to do this job. You have the right to debate your perspective in the council meetings and you must also need realize you have 1 vote within this body. Kermit was able to understand this while still being professional.

#19 HR on 04.29.19 at 1:45 pm

Erica, Star was in the interview process. Maybe he can give some information on who was interviewed and if the the process was fair.

#20 theresa stehly on 04.29.19 at 2:18 pm

LJL, I am so glad that you brought up our dear friend and perpetual supporter of citizens, Kermit Staggers. He believes that the citizens have a right to know everything that is going on in our City government. It belongs to the people.

Kermit empowered, respected and informed citizens while he served as our City Council representative. He always recognized that the citizens had a voice in these issues as well, and that if we don’t listen to them, we are not doing our job as elected officials.(Former City Council members Greg Jamison and Kenny Anderson were also champions for the average citizens.)

Kermit has been very supportive of my outreach efforts these past three years.
Some of the issues addressed have been:
… Alerting neighborhoods that would have been impacted by forced annexation after the City refused to notify them by mail. I paid for and passed out flyers on a weekend.
…Sending postcards out to notify citizens about the vote for the multi-use parking ramp (utilizing the second penny for collateral , lacking transparency on investors and very expensive.)
…Sending postcards to citizens about the efforts by my colleagues to move public input to the back of the meeting.
…Informing the public about the secret proceedings for the Golf Course contract, and protecting the rights of the golf community to give public input.
…Informing the Citizens about the proposed rate increases to water and sewer rates.
… Informing the public about the vacation of Elmwood Avenue.
….and many more.

I was very concerned about this Audit Manager issue, and stated those concerns immediately when I learned the details. I would have mailed a postcard, but since it was announced on Good Friday and the vote was 4 days later, there was not time. I did NOT send the Robo call on Easter Sunday, but on the Saturday before. I had hoped that since Councilor Greg Nietzert would not listen to those of us on the Council , perhaps he would listen to the citizens. It is no different than the massive amounts of emails we received concerning the smoking ban and lifescape issue. That’s what we signed up for .

As elected officials, we don’t exist in a vacuum. We spend many hours with the Chamber of Commerce, the development community, City Staff and the Mayor’s administration. That is why I strive to find ways to connect to the average citizens, and I encourage my colleagues to do the same.

LJL, if you ever need any help with an issue, please contact me to listen and advocate for your rights. I am open to listen to anyone. tstehly@siouxfalls.org 929-8783

#21 Conservative Here on 04.29.19 at 2:55 pm

I think is hilarious that Starr is getting a pass on pushing to committee for the Nominee.

Scott at what point and time will you start lambasting your friends for their voting or behavior as I have yet to see you rip on them yet the other 5 are notably set ablaze on here frequently.

There are 2 sides to every story and yes facts matter but, this is one you TOTALLY ignored. At least be equal opportunity on this kind of stuff. Its pretty clear to me and rest on here you have a VERY LARGE BIAS towards Stehly, Starr, and Brenke and they can do no wrong.

I want to be crystal clear on this, I have been a very big Teresa supporter but, she acting poorly on this and she is getting a pass on here. I know this is a blog but, this is why real journalism is dead, its all biased and leans in one direction or another. I think is a pretty big important fact that Starr signed to move forward then decided against her. Why would you vote to move forward if you didn’t approve, that sounds like flip flopping but, dont call it out at all

#22 Bruce on 04.29.19 at 8:26 pm

In response to #21 Conservative Here statement:

“I think is a pretty big important fact that Starr signed to move forward then decided against her. Why would you vote to move forward if you didn’t approve, that sounds like flip flopping but, dont call it out at all”

As stated before, Pat Starr signed only to move the nomination to discussion. He has publicly stated he did not support her but would open the discussion.

#23 teatime on 04.29.19 at 11:06 pm

Having worked in Internal Audit since 1984, I would like to offer a couple of thoughts:

A periodic “peer review” performed by an independent person would go a long way to alleviate some, if not most of these concerns.

The new auditor should consider joining the local Institute of Internal Auditors, a professional association.

The new auditor could also consider becoming certified. While challenging to study for the certification exam and keeping up with continuing education, it is well worth the effort.

I’d love the chance to talk to her, but don’t know her. Maybe I will have to give her a call.

#24 Conservative Here on 04.30.19 at 8:49 am

Bruce – You are missing the point I am trying to make. This blogger is always lambasting the other 5 counselors and using kid gloves for the ones he likes. I bet if Erickson had been the one to sign to get out of committee then changed her vote and it was a candidate he liked he would have accused her of flip flopping and playing politics.

I don’t think you all realize how biased you are towards Brenke, Starr, and Stehley. Two of these 3 making the most noise about EVERY issue that comes up yet its apparent that this blogger and some of you loyal followers have never stopped to think…hmmmmm why do they keep getting the same results. Neizert who always seemed to work well with them has turned his back on them and this blog chalks it up to corruption, politics, good old boy networks, or something else.

Maybe, just maybe, people on the counsel have grown tired of these 3 constantly going to war on every single little thing. There are many examples I could point to but, I am asking, WHEN will the critical eye turn towards the chosen 3, my guess is never and his ire will be saved for the others. This is probably why, and I am not excusing it, Kiley called him out during a counsel meeting because they get sick of the constant crap they get from him. It just appears some of you think you know better on how to run this city yet I have never seen Bruce nor Scott put their name in to the ring and run. Noo Noo you two would rather criticize everyone from the cheap seats and play Monday Morning QB on everything.

#25 l3wis on 04.30.19 at 9:17 am

First off, I can be easy or hard on whoever I want to, this is my blog, I own it, period, but thanks for your editorial advice. This post was about Greg calling Theresa and Pat, liars. They never lied about anything. You may not like how they went forward with the negotiation, but at the end of the day, they never lied or attacked Shana’s character.

And for future spelling references;

Councilor
Stehly
Starr
Neitzert
Brekke

#26 Bruce on 04.30.19 at 9:43 am

What is wrong with having a bias toward human rights, equal rights, property rights, constitutional rights, 1st amendment rights or following the Home Rule Charter of Sioux Falls?

The abuse of an elected majority does not automatically allow them to break the law, ethics or canons they swore to uphold. When a majority abuses the rights of a minority the abused have every right to raise their voice in protest. Only the authoritarians or the authoritarian mindset of an abusive majority will complain they can’t get things done their way, because some noisy or abused demands to be heard.

In other words: “In every genuine democracy today, majority rule is both endorsed and limited by the supreme law of the constitution, which protects the rights of individuals. Tyranny by minority over the majority is barred, but so is tyranny of the majority against minorities.” https://www.annenbergclassroom.org/glossary_term/majority-rule-and-minority-rights/

#27 Conservative Here on 04.30.19 at 9:49 am

You can do as you like, its your blog. I am just pointing out the obvious that you play favorites and don’t criticize those three.

Instead admitting the obvious that you play favorites you choose to deflect and you have an answer for everything don’t ya.

You seem to have all the answers to all our problems, so put your hat in the ring and run. I would vote for you just to watch the soap opera but, that would shine a light on you and your so busy shinning one on everyone else you can’t even admit you play favorites. We can agree to disagree on policy and have philosophical differences but, at least own your own bias. Stating I can be easy or hard on whoever I want is a cop out.

My bad on misspelling names, it happens, thanks spelling police

#28 l3wis on 04.30.19 at 10:34 am

Fair question. There was a time I thought about running, but until at least a majority of the council starts exercising their duties that are laid out in charter I would never want to be a part of the body. They should be putting policy and ordinances forward that they generate, NOT what the directors and administration create. They should also be doing the budget, that is also NOT the administration’s job. Don’t believe me, just read the charter. As of right now they are just a majority of rubber stampers that do what the administration and directors tell them to do. A REAL functioning council would be an independent voice representing the citizens first and city management 2nd. That is why we ELECT them and not appoint them. As of right now, I wouldn’t want to be a part of a powerless group.

#29 Bruce on 04.30.19 at 11:30 am

Our Charter directs the Council to be the Policy-making body of our town. The Mayor is actually just an elected city manager with the ability to cast tie breaking votes during City Council meetings or if the mayor finds a Council action wrong for a reason, the VETO can be exercised.

No where in the Charter does it spell out the Mayor or the staff as having the only answers to town issues.

No where in the Charter does it say the majority has all the answers, so there voice is the only one to be heard.

As I liked to remind our past Mayor and Council, Mussolini made the trains run on time but it did not make it (imprisoning or killing the train operators) right.

#30 theresa stehly on 04.30.19 at 3:17 pm

Conservative Here:
I have the salary numbers you wanted. Send me an email and I will get them to you. You can post them if you want.
I am also eager to have a personal conversation with you.
Tstehly@siouxfall.org

#31 "Very Stable Genius" on 04.30.19 at 9:41 pm

The book, ‘Animal Farm,’ warned us about politicians like Mr. Neitzert.

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#32 Blasphemo on 05.01.19 at 11:23 am

CH – you’d do well to review the Code of Ethics the councilors agree to when they accept elected office. Councilor Brekke – given her legal background & license -has wisely reminded the entire council of certain sections contained therein. Read it and then review the leadership of “the gang of five”. If YOU have any objectivity, you just may come to a little different assessment of the relative council factions.

#33 Consevative here on 05.01.19 at 8:52 pm

Blasphemous – I will do this as I am curious. Like any other are two sides to each story and I try to understand both

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