Entries Tagged 'Elections' ↓

Disguised Donations (Guest Post Bruce Danielson)

Do you remember the 1968 Bee Gees song I started a joke or are we hearing John Fogarty singing Deja Vu (All Over Again)?  Here we go again. Aren’t we getting rid of a habitual storyteller who ran an administration based on what they could get by with? As someone who is not involved with either campaign, I have some questions to ask.

In 2010, a City Attorney and Director of Finance were hired to bend every rule possible to accomplish the questionably legal or at the very least the unethical making it seem ethical. Starting with a couple of 2014 Board of Ethics meetings I started asking questions about the abuse of “white lies” happening in city government.

SouthDacola wrote about and then I asked a question on Tuesday night about the legality of six children with no outside source of income “giving” $1,000 to a mayoral candidate. It reminds me of a mayor we have, who said his wife (who had no outside source of income) was investing in a TIF based private development he helped arrange. It was “legal” but was it ethical?

Does anyone else scratch their head when we have a candidate saying it’s OK to take seemingly unethical donations as long as it accomplishes an immediate goal?  If we are looking for a new start in Sioux Falls, why does this sound like something My Man Mike would say?

The state financing laws are weak and we know it. Why should we citizens allow it to be acceptable? Did our City Clerk actually talk to an attorney to understand this law? Here is the state law on Disguised Donations:

12-27-12. Disguised contributions prohibited–Misdemeanor. No person or entity may make a contribution in the name of another person or entity, make a contribution disguised as a gift, make a contribution in a fictitious name, make a contribution on behalf of another person or entity, or knowingly permit another to use that person’s or entity’s name to make a contribution. No candidate may knowingly accept a contribution disguised as a gift. A violation of this section is a Class 2 misdemeanor. A subsequent offense within a calendar year is a Class 1 misdemeanor.

According to our City Clerk’s office we have a technicality to deal with and not a moral one. The donor signed checks then giving the checks with someone else’s names in the memo field making it legal? Wow, where’s John Mitchell, Maurice Stans and Richard Nixon when we need them? Oh that’s right, Watergate happened. I know something about it, I was in Washington back then seeing the results of shady donations. I had to hand carry donation checks back to the naïve citizens who in good faith wrote these kind of checks. If it was questionably legal, it went back, no matter how bad we needed the money.

A friend and I talked about this problem for today’s city politicians and it came down to this common phrase today’s Christians proclaim:

What Would Jesus Do? WWJD is printed on trinkets of all types as a reminder to guide a person to do the right thing.

A campaign spending report from mayoral candidate Paul TenHaken shows contributions from a single donor of $7000. The annual limit for an individual is $1000. How did they do it? By saying 5 of the super donor’s minor children contributed a $1000 each. Then on top of that the donor’s business threw in $1000 to the slush fund.

This campaign is becoming an all or nothing effort to take over the government of Sioux Falls. Our city government is legally justifying a wealthy donor’s contribution to make it happen but it leaves the question: is it morally right? I may have been a political nerd at 12 and interested at 6 but six year old kids need to invest their $1000 in a good mutual fund for college. There is a reason no one is allowed to vote until they are 18 and contributions never used to be allowed in their names until they could vote.

How many six year old kids have $1,000 sitting around to give their favorite politician instead of buying an Xbox?

The current mayor has often gotten himself in trouble when he has done things that are barely legal but certainly not moral. The list is long but the Denny siding rip-off of taxpayers certainly tops the list. Was it a Million bucks or $1,000,000? Was it new money or did we just take it out of the savings account then slip it into the checking account for a cool headline?

The actions of a candidate during the campaign are indicative of how they will behave when they get elected. We do not need a Mayor who will do the legal thing but not the moral action. We’ve had enough of that in Sioux Falls.

The candidate needs to follow his or her self-proclaimed following of Christ and do the moral thing: send the money back. Campaigns have P.R. spin machines to make it look “right” so do the right thing. Tell the rich donor thank you but that’s not how we do things in Sioux Falls.


I agree with Belfrage, endorsements don’t matter, they may even hurt

Maybe on a National level, but in local politics, I don’t know. Sometimes I wonder if certain endorsements might hurt you if someone has already made up their mind to vote for you and see someone they don’t like politically endorse you.

For instance let’s look at both candidates;


 • Family Heritage Alliance, an organization known for it’s ultra conservative right-wing partisan stances. They opposed gay marriage and gay rights and host of other freedom issues that are unconstitutional. I heard Loetscher didn’t even bother responding to them. If that is true, good for her.

• Greg Jamison, while this certainly doesn’t hurt, he did come in 4th place, and Paul could garner his votes, the same could be said about the Anderson endorsement of Loetscher.

• Dave Munson, Not sure how much this helps either. Munson started the downward spiral of transparency at City Hall and Huether perfected it. Dave actually got in trouble for signing a 100% cost overrun on Phillips to the Falls without Council approval. He almost didn’t run for a 2nd term because of it.


• Rick Knobe, not sure a mayor from 34 years ago has much weight, but it certainly won’t hurt her.

• Andy Howes, a one-term city councilor that most voters probably don’t remember, but props to Andy for promoting some great rock shows in town 🙂

• Pat Starr, no doubt Pat has been doing a great job on the city council. He spearheaded the Glory House land deal and has held firm on many issues on the council when it comes to transparency. While I don’t think his endorsement hurts or helps Jo, it could hurt his relationship with a new mayor, especially if they are NOT Jolene. Hey Pat, I guess were in the same boat on that one 🙂

• Michelle Erpenbach, while I believe Jo when she says she will improve transparency in city hall, this is the LAST person you want endorsing you when it comes to transparency. Michelle supported the secretive operations committee and assisted in terminating Debra Owen, which was a violation of Open Meetings Laws.

As Belfrage points out, and as I do, not sure if the endorsement game is really that big of a deal.

KSFY’s ‘Unscientific’ Poll has Loetscher & TenHaken neck and neck

KSFY is conducting another FLUFF poll.

TenHaken’s 100 Day plan ain’t bad

So I read it over, and he has some good proposals in there, including a lot of stuff that should have been done years ago or repealed, here’s some that stuck out to me;

• Being coordination with Fraternal Order of Police Leadership to set framework for contract negotiations.

(Mayor Huether’s relationship with the unions has been toxic. He used them to get elected than he kicked them to the curb. Not sure if a conservative mayor will have much tolerance for the unions. Jolene was endorsed by them.)

• Meet with GOED Commissioner, Scott Stern, and review full report on state level economic development opportunities and the related impact for Sioux Falls.

(As I understand it from talking privately with State lawmakers, Huether has destroyed that relationship, a long time ago).

• Audit current downtown development proposals currently on the table and define City support based on return to the community.

(Thank You! This has often been my complaint about the use of TIF’s and public/private partnerships downtown – what kind of payback is the average tax payer in Sioux Falls getting out of it? Little to nothing.)

• Evaluate training needed for departments such as Building Services to ensure that staff have the resources and skill sets needed to drive efficiency, innovation and customer service throughout their departments.

(Number one complaint from contractors in this town, the efficiency of the Building Services department.)

• Conduct media roundtable with all local outlets to address concerns and opportunities for better information dissemination from City Hall.

(Will South DaCola be considered media in a TenHaken administration? We will see.)

• Rescind the current confidentiality executive order on all city employees and reimplement a more realistic and enforceable policy with senior level staff.

(This is an easy one. Any sane future leader of our city would tear that document to shreds. It is a possible violation of Federal Law in it’s current state.)

• Implement a more formalized City Council public input process to return decorum and professionalism to meetings.

(While I’m OK with some adjustments to Public Input, I don’t think it needs a major overhaul. I have often argued it is who is chairing the meetings. I would also like to see public input allowed on 1st readings).

• Reinstate CIP and Operations committees, including City Directors and Council in CIP budgeting process.

(Realistically this is the way it is SUPPOSED to be, the council should be assisting with the budget from the beginning, not peeling off the duck fat after it is already cooked.)

• Conduct internal usability and access audit of siouxfalls.org using existing analytics data.

(Yes, I beg of you, get rid of our POS city website and replace it with something that is useable and reliable instead being taken on a wild goose chase every time you go there.)

• Appoint an internal team to identify data that should be made available to the public and the most effective method to do so.

(I don’t think it would take a ‘team’ just a city attorney who says “Personnel and pending litigation is not open, everything else is.” This isn’t rocket science folks.)

• Begin discussions on restructuring of the existing property tax abatement programs to ensure that, when utilized, the city sees a return in economic growth and affordable housing creation.

• Demonstrate commitment to neighborhood revitalization through committing City resources (through both operating and capital improvements). Work directly with core neighborhood associations and neighborhood planners.

(Goes back to my contention on TIF’s. Instead of handing out millions in abatements to a handful of wealthy developers, let’s help thousands of residents with equitable housing and cleaner neighborhoods.)

• Assess SMG contract with PREMIER Center, Convention Center, Arena, and Orpheum Theatre and revenue forecast for said venues.

(I would go a step further and require them to take some risks by promoting shows which would bring in millions of more revenue for the city each year.)

• Meet with Sioux Falls Skatepark Association leadership to understand project process and how the city can play a supportive role.

(Duh! Enough tennis courts already, let’s SKATE!)

While I still am supporting Jo, because I think Paul is a little weird, it’s hard to argue with some of his ideas, but let’s face it, these are common sense government initiatives that should have been implemented a long time ago, and I wouldn’t doubt a list from Loetscher would look pretty similar (Wink, Wink, nod, nod, Jo).

Oddly enough though the short timer in the corner office at city hall couldn’t resist to have a rebuttal, in which he put his chief minion on it, Tracy TurdBaker, and it is quite the turd he cooked up. Some are even questioning if legally the city can make comments like this as it appears to be in violation of campaigning rules and regulations. I don’t think a sitting mayor or anyone in his administration can comment on candidates positions in a city issued press release. I hope someone files a complaint;

For Immediate Release

Date:           April 18, 2018

Contact:    Tracy Turbak, Director of Finance


Background Information Regarding Statements Made Today

Sioux Falls, South Dakota: Below is some background information regarding statements made today in relation to Sioux Falls City government.

Every City department, not just the Police Department, has been affected by budget tightening due to sales tax revenue concerns. Discretionary spending, including out-of-state travel and training and much more, was reduced across all areas. For several years now, consistent with prudent business practices, all travel and training requests that exceed $1,000 from any department undergo a greater level of scrutiny and require additional approvals. Families and businesses make tough spending decisions when times warrant it, and City government has been doing the same. Taxpayers expect nothing less.

The confidentiality executive order was developed solely at the request of Human Resources, not the Mayor’s Office, and has nothing to do with secrecy. Rather, it is about ensuring reasonable parameters involving confidential information of our residents, including citizen payment information, credit card numbers, protected health information, criminal records, and much more. Most employers, public and private, have very similar policies and provisions to safeguard information. Sioux Falls citizens certainly expect their government to keep their private information private.

The Communications Specialist position was created in 2012 to provide additional information and communication to the public from all City of Sioux Falls departments, and not just City Hall. This has proven very effective in an ever-changing communication environment. The 12 City directors and others have had the full authority to speak to the public and the media on every and any topic and have been active in doing just that.

Sioux Falls City government values the stewards who are willing to serve on behalf of our citizens. We also understand that much is learned once elected to serve and then serving in the capacity. If there are questions from the candidates, we would encourage them to contact the departments to find out the details on any question or concern.

What a Hoot! Let’s review;

The confidentiality executive order was developed solely at the request of Human Resources, not the Mayor’s Office, and has nothing to do with secrecy.

Ah, kind of does. If the EO was more narrow and specifically talks about citizen and personnel data, I would agree, but it is so broad, it is an obvious assault on public information flowing freely from City Hall. The secret siding settlement tells us everything we need to know about Mike Huether and his policy on transparency. He doesn’t believe in it’s existence.

The 12 City directors and others have had the full authority to speak to the public and the media on every and any topic and have been active in doing just that.

Yes. They have actively been spreading propaganda like a manure spreader before spring planting. Ever notice how this administration has never admitted or apologized for a mistake. And when one has occurred they deny it.

Mike, take a deep breath and realize you are done May 15. Hopefully we will never see you in ‘public service’ ever again. You have made a mockery of city government and public transparency.

Sioux Falls Councilor Erpenbach has ‘Freak Out’ over campaign mailer

Michelle sent this email to people on the letter, the media and some city managers. Michelle seems to think it was pointed at her, yet I find no mention of her in the letter. Guilty conscience perhaps?

There were also rumors going around that Brekke’s competitor’s supporters were planning on filing charges against Brekke for sign compliance issues, until of course we showed almost all the candidates were out of compliance.

Sent: Sunday, April 08, 2018 7:09 PM
To: Pat Gustaf; Bill Peterson; Steve Kirby; Jim Wiederrich; Tom Dempster
Cc: Karen Leonard; Joe Sneve; Don Jorgensen
Subject: Campaign letter allegations

Good evening.

As I near the end of my eight years of service as the elected representative from the Central District on the Sioux Falls City Council, I’m incredibly proud of the positive changes I have been part of. I’m even proud of our new event center, which I fought hard to have built in a different location than where it is performing so successfully for our community. I think Sioux Falls is a better place now than it was eight years ago.

I’m also happy to be stepping aside to allow for new leadership to help continue the momentum of growth and prosperity in our community. But I’m terribly disappointed by the rhetoric I’m seeing in this year’s municipal campaign.

Several personal friends received the letter attached to this message. They noted it appears to have been sent by the same direct mail firm that candidate Janet Brekke has used for her other mailings, making it a mass mailing that went to a significant number of people.

As a signer of this letter and a person I hold in high esteem, I have one major question. Does this letter represent allegations you are willing to stand by and support publicly?

I’m doing this by email so that you can respond to me in writing with the reasons you have allowed your name to be associated with unfounded rumors. In particular, this letter charges city government — and by extension me — with doctoring/tampering of public documents. This letter is full of allegations, but the tampering with public documents charge should be easy to prove and is most hurtful to me as an individual whom I thought you trusted.

Please respond back to me by email with the proof you have that convinced you to drag me through the political mud at the end of eight years of public service. I am copying a couple of friends in the local media as well as the city attorney, just as a precaution. Your allegations are harsh and personally embarrassing for me.

Thank you for your time.

Michelle Erpenbach

The Endorsement Race has begun

Hey, Detroit Lewis, smartass city blogger is missing from the list. I’m hurt 🙂

A group of current and former Sioux Falls elected officials came together today to endorse Jolene Loetscher for Sioux Falls Mayor:

Rick Knobe, Mayor, 1974-84
Kenny Anderson Jr., City Councilor, 2008-16
Pat Starr, City Councilor, 2016 to present
Casey Murschel, City Councilor, 1995-99
Vernon Brown, City Councilor, 2004-12
Andy Howes, City Councilor, 2002-06
Kevin Kavanaugh, City Councilor, 2000-08
Michelle Erpenbach, City Councilor, 2010-18

Sioux Falls needs a mayor who knows how to bring people together. Who knows how to build real consensus. Who inspires trust in her colleagues on the City Council and among her constituents.

Real change—and effective leadership—never begins with the word ‘I.’ It begins with ‘we.’ It’s not always easy, but it is always, absolutely essential.

As we enter the final days of this incredibly important mayoral race, we are overjoyed and humbled to have the support of these leaders.

The Non-Communicator Endorses the Communicator

Just when you thought the toddler donations, the church endorsements, and selfies were enough, he gets Dave’s endorsement. This quote had me in stitches;

“Paul is a strong communicator as well as a good listener.”

Whether that is true or not, I’m not sure. But Dave is the last person to talk about strong communicators. This guy signed off on a 100% cost overrun on Phillips to the Falls without a peep to the council, the media, or his Tuesday afternoon Ice Tea drinking pinnacle club.

Go Paul! Let’s communicate!

TenHaken donor gives his children quite the allowance

“Hey Johnny, I’m going to give you $1,010 this week for an allowance,” Dad. “WOW! Thanks Dad. What did I do to deserve it?” Johnny. “Ah, there’s a catch, $10 is for you and you are going to do your civic duty and experience your first campaign contribution by giving the remainder $1,000 to the mayoral candidate of your choice, who of course isn’t a Democrat, or a woman.”

Mr. Eric McDonald, who is the CEO of DocuTap, gave his $1,000 limit, than it seems his children (who I believe are all under 18)* gave their $1,000 limit (Eric’s name is spelled incorrectly below, Full document from TenHaken financial report: 20180305-TenHaken-cfdr)

*It is okay for people under the age of 18 to contribute to campaigns.

While it is not against the law for people under the age of 18 to contribute to a political campaign, where it becomes questionable is HOW that contribution was given. Did Eric just cut a $6,000 check to TenHaken and whip his kid’s names on the finance report? Or did each kid write a check from separate accounts? And if they did, will they file taxes and report those contributions? Also, if the children do have their own accounts (how cute) where does the money come from? The irony is I don’t even think some of Eric’s kids are even old enough to hold a pen.

As I have mentioned before, it comes down to ‘ETHICS’ with Paul. And while this appears to be legal, it certainly is ethically questionable for toddlers to be donating $1,000 to TenHaken’s campaign.

I thought Jamison endorsed TenHaken before the General election?

I thought that was a pretty big flub by Greg by saying he would vote for Paul before the General Election if he wasn’t running, so this endorsement shouldn’t surprise us, just like Anderson’s endorsement of Loetscher.

Sioux Falls Mayoral Runoff; A choice between the Banana and the Raisin

I used this analogy with someone this morning when talking about the two candidates for mayor. I don’t like raw bananas or raisons. I can eat a raison if it is in something else like a cake or something, and I can eat banana flavored treats, but I don’t care for either by itself.

I know many voters are upset that their candidate didn’t make the runoff. Oh well, deal with it. You still have an obligation to vote. I felt the same way in the presidential election, but I had to vote for one of them.

So how do you pick a candidate when neither were your top choice?

Make a pros and cons list of both candidates. Include everything you like about them and everything you don’t like. Once you figure that out there are certain things you have to remove from the list; Race (this one is easy), Sex, Age (they are the same age), respective political party (this is a non-partisan race), Religion (they are both Christians) and their stances on national issues like abortion, foreign policy, etc. (this is municipal government folks).

Once you have your list your choice will be easy. So eat a banana or a raison, it won’t kill you and it’s your duty as a voter.