Entries Tagged 'Employment' ↓

UPDATE: Is Mayor Huether using his ‘business acumen’ to hand out corporate like raises and salaries to his favorite directors?

Update: Here are the parts in the city charter that refer to pay discretion and directors, seems the mayor has a lot of control over the ‘salary steps’pay-discretion

Earlier in the year I was able to acquire the salary records for all of the city employees since 2010. All of my data comes from the city website either directly or indirectly. I possessed data for 2014-2015, while another South DaCola foot soldier who frequently downloads city information had the other records, and one of the years was supplied to me by a city official.

I was also able to get the information verified. When I provided it to a local news agency, they of course wanted to double check the information so they asked for the same data from the city finance office. We compared the files they provided and they matchup. There was some debate from the finance office that the information I acquired may be inaccurate because the city uses a different kind of accounting system now then what they used in 2010. This of course doesn’t change what people are being paid by any means, as was proven when we cross referenced the files.

As you will see by the list below of the closest directors, managers and assistants to the mayor, it’s good to keep a little brown on your nose if you want a little extra green in your wallet. While, I by no means, am opposed to raises for public employees, in no way do I think they deserve raises that are four times the COLA. In the private sector, especially in Sioux Falls, you would be hard pressed to see increases like these, especially when you take into account the kind of pension and benefits plan these public employees receive on top of their pay. There is also the argument of retention and lack of bonus pay for public employees.

Some say these large increases come from promotions or achieving goals, while that is a great argument in the private sector, I question if that should be the case in the public sector. Many of these managers DID not receive any promotions over the 4-5 year period and hold the same position. And most of the managers that did get a change, it usually was in name (title) only, essentially their job did not really change. It seems to me that employees are being rewarded for doing the mayor’s bidding (he signs off on the wage increases and salaries) instead of the work they are doing, or for that matter NOT DOING.

Take SIRE for instance. It was broken before Mayor Huether even took office, and with a new appointment in Central Services, and 5 years later, it still doesn’t work. It reminds me of what a former city employee said to me about the forestry manager a couple of weeks ago when we were discussing Project Trim, He said, “He works 80 hours a week trying to get out of work.”

Three managers, that you WILL not see listed below, Mike Cooper (Director of Planning), Jeff Schmitt and Kevin Smith received very small COLA like raises over the past 5 years. In fact, Kevin Smith quit this past year. You have to question why someone like Mike was only receiving small 2% raises while his peers were receiving large 10-12% every other year? What’s that saying about playing the reindeer games? Mike Cooper has been under a lot of pressure this past year due to his internal zoning and the Walmart hearings. He recently spent $30K for a study of a neighborhood that the neighborhood did not ask for. I will let you speculate whether or not Huether was rewarding his good soldiers with significant wage increases for doing his bidding or for performance, or a combination of both. Either way, the numbers don’t lie, a city management job looks like a pretty good gig, if you don’t mind the smell.

What is even more troubling is that you will not find these kind of salary increases in the hourly employees over the past five years. Those stayed stable at 2-3% a year, in fact in the SFPD several officers received NO increase in some years. Notice in the list below you will find NO ONE from the SFPD listed, not even the former chief of police, with one exception, the city attorney who is charge of advising them, KEITH ALLENSTEIN.

Here’s a chart showing the hourly rate increases over the same time period;





Kind of reminds you of Sioux Falls economic recovery after the recession

Wall Street Journal, “An Unfinished Riff: The New Orleans Economy Ten Years After Katrina,” by Leslie Eaton and Cameron McWhirter:  “In the years since the storm forced out about half the metropolitan area’s residents, the population has rebounded to 1.25 million people, 90% of its pre-Katrina level…But as the $135 billion rebuilding winds down, federal employment data reveal a local economy increasingly skewed to low-wage jobs, especially restaurant work, one of the few sectors now employing more people than before Katrina. Those jobs drag down average incomes, analysts say, widening the economic divide between whites, who are generally richer than before, and blacks, who aren’t.”

Should SF Firefighters get ‘Hazardous Duty Pay’ for their entire shift?


The graphic from this year’s budget proposal shows that of the fire department’s total $26.2 million dollar operating budget request, that $22.7 million of that is for wages and benefits, or approximately 86.4% of the total budget. Only 13.6% or $3.5 million goes toward buying or repairing equipment, paying for fuel or repair on trucks, or paying for utilities or minor repairs on the 11 fire stations. Some larger repairs could be in the capital budget.

If finance used a pie chart or bar graph it would look bad and be more obvious how much of the budget the wages are.

They managed to cut what they are requesting to buy in supplies, equipment, and repairs, so even though the employees are getting a 3% wage increase, the “other” operating request is down by $200,000, so the department’s overall request for 2016 is only up by 1.95%

I know it’s tough to point this out because whenever you pick on firefighters there is always public outcry about what they do and how much they risk their lives, but someone needs to start asking them about their call volume:

• It’s about 70% medical (EMS). Paramedics make a lot less money per year – ask any working for Paramedics Plus

• You wonder how many fires they respond to in a year, I think it averages around 300+. How many of those required hooking up a hydrant? (this means there was a large enough fire the
firefighters had to mask up and actually work as firefighters in smoke). It takes the waste paper basket fires and prank dog poop fires out of the statistics.

• You wonder how long the crews are out of the stations each day on calls? The crews work 24 hour shifts but probably average 3 calls per day. If you take false alarms into account, the average is probably under 20 minutes. So if you look at all the factors, the actual time spent is probably about 1 hour in 24 responding to fires (hazards). No doubt, I’m sure other work is being done – business inspections, yardwork, station cleaning, tours, etc., but is that the kind of work that requires “hazardous duty” pay?

Maybe some questions the city council should be asking during the budget hearings.

Credit Card Call Center to leave Boomtown

I wonder if the mayor will be holding a press conference? Because if they were hiring 750 people he would be there with bells on;

750 employees will be affected. The company says employees can apply for other jobs within the company or it will help employees find new jobs and will also offer severance packages.  At one time Capital One had 1,000 employees in the Sioux Falls.

And you thought the layoff at Raven was an issue, not sure how this will affect our unemployment rate? And how about our great education system and supposed work ethic in Sioux Falls and South Dakota, Capital One has a different view on that;

Capital One says its had too much turnover and a hard time filling open positions.

Two words: Shit Wages. I also know other call centers in town are NOT the most fun places to work at. I did hear a rumor a few years ago a major retailer based out of Minneapolis was going to build their card services division here and backed out. Why? Not enough people to fill the positions.

We can call this place a ‘Boomtown’ all we want, but let’s face it, we need to diversify the employment for the lower to middle income people, if this latest move by Capital One (who barely survived 4 years here) isn’t proof of that, I don’t know what is.

Should the City of Sioux Falls raise it’s minimum wage to $10 an hour

Commissioner Barth thinks so;

Under the Sioux Falls Charter Form of Government, the city can do anything not forbidden by state statute. Thus, Sioux Falls can and should raise the minimum wage within its municipal boundaries. There would be fewer families and kids depending on taxpayer and charitable assistance. Yes, it would cause a stir, but the free publicity would help send forth the word that “Sioux Falls has jobs” and that these jobs pay a living wage. Many employers are already paying $10 and up for entry-level-positions, so the effect on local employers would be minimal.

When Jeff first proposed this to me over a month ago, I kind of laughed to myself. But is it that far-fetched? I called Jeff the other day while driving past Mickey D’s? What did the marquee say? “Do you want to make $10 an hour?” WOW! Even the famous fast food joint is paying that as a starting wage in Sioux Falls. (for full disclosure I was making that much in 1989 at a McDonalds in Everett, WA as the summer night maintenance person – 25 years ago – and I got to wear some cool coveralls!).

It seems our city council has pulled up their boot straps lately. Wrangling in pool rates, a texting ban even free youth bus rides. Is it time for our legislative body to send a message to employers in this town? How about a message to Pierre? While we are quick to give away free things to the ‘poor kids’ how about giving them a ‘hand up’ instead.

I at least encourage the city council to look at the measure.

What kind of training is ‘Ovations’ temporary help getting?

After reading the Stormland TV story about the supposed patron of the Events Center that got drugged by a temp employee bartender, Detroit Lewis started asking a few questions, but not about the incident itself.

I have been wondering where ‘Ovations’ (the contractor the city uses for the Events Center that is also used at the Pentagon and Canaries Stadium for concessions) get’s their temp help AND what kind of training they receive, and if there is any liability of the city (the taxpayers) if one of these temps screw up.

So a couple of weeks ago I got tipped off of the temp agency being used by a very disgruntled temp. While I am NOT going to say who the temp agency is, let’s just say it wouldn’t be the first place you would think of when you are looking for people to prepare food and bartend. Let me be clear though, this agency places a lot of people for day labor on construction sites, etc., and that is wonderful. But when I found out they were being used for food service and hospitality, I got a little nervous, especially for someone who has worked in the industry on and off for 26 years.

My first issue was food safety and ADA training. According to the Ovations contract with the city training is provided;


Is everyone getting proper training? I hope city officials look into very closely.

The Washington Pavilion, with all it’s faults, I will admit when I worked there in the Great Hall, all of us had to go through CPR & ADA training, amongst other programs. Even the Part-Time, Part-timers had to go through it, as well as the volunteers. It wasn’t an option. I also never recall temps working there part-time (except for maybe show load ins for the stage shows).

One of the things we were promised at the Events Center was jobs. Not just construction and full-time jobs, but good part-time jobs. Now we are finding out instead of Ovations hiring permanent part-time help they seem to be just filling the cracks with temp workers anytime there is a big event (and hiding the tip jars).

To say I am surprised, well not really. But I am disappointed that yet again, we are receiving another broken promise about the Events Center due to the greed of a few.

Nursing pay in South Dakota ranks 48th in Nation

Should this surprise any of us? Not really, I have had at least two friends leave SD for better pay in nursing. One of them got her pay doubled when she moved to Washington State. I was also told by both of them, working conditions were not the best either in SD (one had worked at both major hospitals and the other worked for a private surgical center).

It seems while we hear places like Trail King get a bad rap for bad pay, and Denny Sanford kicking in $25 million to train better welders, he ought to be paying the nurses better that work for his name stake.

As I said at a recent city council meeting, we don’t have a ‘jobs’ issue in South Dakota, we have a ‘wage’ issue. Teachers and nurses are not the only ones at the bottom of the pay scale in SD.

South Dakota – $50,000 Rank: 48th
Average Registered Nursing salaries for job postings in South Dakota are 25% lower than average Registered Nursing salaries for job postings nationwide. The average salary ranks 48th among states in the country. There were also job openings from employers like Reflectx Staffing, Avera Health, FocusStaff, and Huron South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation Jobs.

My Voice guest column, set labels aside

This writer points out something overlooked in the Trail King worker debacle;

It is a common behavior to label things. It implies we have arrived at a conclusion. It is a common mistake that when we don’t understand the “other” we tend to label them. This limits our ability to be curious and learn more.

Am I guilty of this, sure, I tend to label ‘normal’ people as people I really don’t want to be around. They even kind of irritate me a little. The sad part is that when you are only driven by profits and greed, all you have is excuses when you fail. Blame the worker.

Is there a corporate culture when it comes to salary increases in Sioux Falls?

The Mayor likes to brag about how he runs Sioux Falls like a business. Looking at the salary packages of city employees since 2010 and you will certainly see that he is either running a corporate business model when rewarding ‘certain’ employees for what seems like loyalty or he is using public treasure to be in good graces with these employees.

The below graphic is just a sliver of the data processed. We found that many of the lower end city employees did not receive any or only COLA increases from 2010-2013 (coming out of a recession) while management and promoted workers received enormous increases. Yearly increases for some of the management/supervisor employees was between 12-15%. Remember, this is when tax revenue was down, and we were coming out of an economic downturn.

This graphic only shows the TOP 44 employess who received the largest increases over a 5 year period of time. While some of the department managers did not receive as high as increases, their wage increases were enormous when compared to the private sector (more on that later).

I left the names of the employees off of the chart, because I concluded though this is public record, it really isn’t about WHO was getting these increases it was about how they are conducted. The layman looking at this would seem to be confused at the rhyme or reason as to how these increases occurred (more on that later). I have often felt public salary increases should be based on three things;


2) Tax revenue increase percentage

3) Performance and Promotion (did the employee reach the objectives given to them by management?

4) Efficiency and Accuracy while maintaining a high level of customer service

It is also important to remember, that some of the larger increases below were due to employees moving from a temp or part-time employee to a full-time employee, but where the shocker comes in is after a small promotion the big leap in salary.

SF High Wage-Salary.xlsx

Trail King clueless about a 99.99% worker turnover

Wow, when I read this story, the first thing I thought is how things haven’t changed in 24 years, literally.

They seem to think it is an employee problem, seems to be an employer problem. Reading comments on FB, I hear the same complaints I heard 24 years ago from one of my friends that worked there, NO air conditioning or ventilation for the welders. He was hardly a slacker, he was a hard working farm kid who was a very talented welder and loved doing it, but when you can’t breathe doing your job, it’s time to hit the road. I think he lasted about 15-30 days.

I applaud the Argus and Steve Young for doing this story, it will blow up in Trail King’s face, and they might finally realize that treating your employees like oxen instead of humans will eventually catch up with you.

Remember this is the same company who took state tax dollars to recruit workers. It’s time for all former employees to speak out and tell the governor and the CEO of the company that we have had enough of this less then human treatment from employers.