Entries Tagged 'Ethics' ↓
The entire video.
Ethics complaints filed by Citizens for Integrity against Sioux Falls Mayor Mike Huether and Board of Ethics Chairman Greg LaFollette were heard and dismissed on April 23, 2014.
Mr. Gregory LaFollette defended his memory loss and bad judgment in not recusing himself due to conflict of interest issues during a previous Ethics Board hearing decision process.
When his fellow board members ‘cleared’ him of ethical practices he proceeded to retake the chairmanship of panel. He was asked to recuse once again before discussion of items 2 & 3.
The second group of ethics complaints were filed against the Mayor of Sioux Falls for illegally using city resources to run for reelection, specifically the Townhall Chamber for giving a campaign speech disguised as the State of the City Address.
The Mayor did not show up. In his place, City Attorney David Pfeifle recused himself from his legal Board Of Ethics duties to be the partisan defense attorney & personal representative for the Mayor.
Pfeifle’s departure from the bench left the Board without the mandated City Attorney representation necessary for guiding the Ethics Board.
Rebecca Dunn’s testimony;
I guess David couldn’t find any case law that applied.
I am writing this from memory since I did not take many notes about the ethics hearing today (video to come soon). The ethics hearing was held today in the old council chambers at city hall at 2:30 and lasted for two hours.
Bruce Danielson filed three ethics violations, one dealing with the conflict of interest with the chair of the commission, and two referring to the mayor’s violation of city ordinance in doing the state of the city address before the election as a campaign event.
It started with the chair (retired CPA Greg LaFollette) having a conflict in the previous ruling (he didn’t recuse himself from the last ethics proceedings) because Bruce’s family business had an accounting contract with the chair and it ended with Greg making a bad decision (according to the IRS) and costing the company around $100,000. They terminated his contract because of it, and Greg refused to help them resolve the issue or even talk to them about the mistake.
The chair ‘claimed’ that he did not recall Bruce or his family’s business, to which Bruce responded by saying it was disheartening that the chair had memory loss and because of these memory issues, he probably shouldn’t be chairing the commission (it was one of Greg’s biggest clients at the time, early 1980′s) and the mistake was detrimental to the company and cost them a lot of money, to which the chair didn’t remember any of it, at the beginning of the hearing anyway, but then suddenly had memory relapse.
“If the Chairman of the Ethics board has that kind of a memory problem than we really have a real problem with the whole ethics system within this city.”
Knudtson: “Clearly you have bad feelings”
Not bad feelings toward LaFollette personally, but Distress? Yes there may be a feeling of distress because the system is constantly stacked against the average person from trying to work in system.
Greg responded by saying the accusations were lies and slanderous, which I found to be an odd indictment since just minutes before, he said he couldn’t remember Bruce being a client but all of sudden recalled the incident enough to accuse Bruce of lying. I guess the IRS would be the only one to know the real answer. Even if the chair was not at fault or disagreed with the IRS’s evaluation of the incident, wouldn’t a CPA remember this? Even if it was 30 years ago? Seems pretty significant, costing a client $100K in taxes and getting your contract pulled.
I also wondered why the chair chose to ‘wave confidentiality’ and have this hearing in public (instead of executive session) before the hearing started knowing that his character and previous business dealings with Bruce? It’s one thing to accuse Bruce of ‘character assassination’ during the proceedings, but the chair had the option of having it behind closed doors. It’s as he was looking for the pity vote because Bruce (well really the IRS) were picking on him.
But it’s gets better, besides the Ronald Reagan moment by the chair, not recalling, then recalling when his butt was on the line, the commission felt that he did nothing wrong, and then the chair not only did not recuse himself from the remaining proceedings, he still felt he had no conflicts.
Even if he felt he did nothing wrong, he still should have recused himself based on the two doing business together. Even if the experience was positive, there is still a conflict.
And in a very strange twist, but expected, the city attorney recuses himself from advising the commission and decides he is the mayor’s defense attorney (the mayor did not appear, apparently he is too busy for these proceedings, according to the city attorney, yet Mike has time to visit every radio station in town to do interviews and does a press conference every time he passes gas.)
So instead of the city attorney defending the charter and giving legal advice to the commission members (his real job at these proceedings), he defends the mayor, and goes as far as accusing Bruce of harassing a public official with frivolous complaints.
This did not sit well with me.
As I have stated before, elected officials have to listen to grievance whether they like it or not, part of job of being elected and compensated to represent the public. When I look at a harassment charge being thrown against a citizen in reference to an elected official, my first assumption would be a physical or verbal threat against the official, which is intolerable IMO, but questioning an official’s ethical practices in reference to city ordinance? Hardly harassment, more like due diligence and healthy for a democracy.
The commission didn’t feel the state of the city address was in violation of election ordinances, at one point the city attorney even quoted ‘Wikipedia’ by saying state addresses are supposed to be exuberant. Whatever that means.
I testified that it wasn’t just the meeting itself (which I contested as a graphic designer for 20 years was loaded with language that was meant to ‘sell’) I said that the timing of the address proves it was a campaign stump speech, since Huether in his previous 3 years NEVER did his state address that early and suddenly decided to move this address up before the election.
The commission countered that it may have been done because of scheduling issues. (that’s a good argument, if he would have scheduled it later instead of earlier then previous years) I responded by saying that it would be nice if the mayor was in attendance to verify that, but he wasn’t, so we would never know, I even went as far as saying that it was so blatantly obvious it was done to make it into a campaign event that I want to beat my head against the wall when I see the commission having no issue with the ethics of the meeting move.
Throughout the hearing, commission members consistently were interrupting and making excuses for the mayor (they are appointed by him). This is a point of order, because they should not be arguing their case until a motion has been made to vote on the violation. It was clear they were countering us and had made up their minds that the mayor was innocent and their decision was made in advance before listening to testimony. They were not listening to the facts laid out before them, that the meeting and the city finance yearly report being bumped up was clear motive to having this address before the election to use it as a quasi-campaign event.
As for the city attorney’s statement about ‘harassing’ elected officials, I reminded the city attorney during my testimony that it is citizen’s constitutional right to share grievances with elected officials, and it just didn’t seem right that he was accusing citizens of harassing an elected official when all they were doing is practicing their 1st amendment rights, and he should know better. But apparently the defense of mayor Huether includes ignoring citizens constitutional rights.
Former Central District candidate, State Senator and daughter of SD Supreme Court Chief Justice, Rebecca Dunn also echoed my concerns, she was a little more upset about it, she went as far as even asking what recourse do citizens have if they are being accused of frivolousness and harassment by the very city attorney who represents the ethics commission? She further said as I did, that it was our right to question the ethics of elected officials. If anything, I would say the mayor’s unethical treatment of the city charter was a form of harassment of law abiding citizens of this town, but apparently we no longer have recourse to address these violations.
Of course, as expected, the commission threw out the complaints saying they were bias and frivolous. I guess in this town, it is perfectly acceptable to use tax dollars to campaign with as long as you can get away with lying about your true intentions. Something the city attorney and ethics commission did very well today.
This is NOT over.
Should be a fun one; (PDF DOC: 4-23-Agenda-boe)
Citizens for Integrity ‘Ethics complaint’ against the Mayor’s State of the city address thrown out due to frivolousness
Actually it was thrown out because the ethics board and the city attorney that advises them are appointed by the mayor, but why get into semantics?
Since I was the closest thing to a journalist covering this meeting (maybe some AL person was in a closet), here is my rendition of events (hopefully Mr. Danielson will chime in).
It all occurred today at the old city council chambers at city hall at 4 PM. Basically, Mr. Danielson filed an ethics complaint a few days ago that the mayor was in violation for using the State of the City address as a campaign stump speech.
The meeting started with a decision whether or not to have the meeting in open or in executive session. I will commend the Ethics Board for their ONLY good decision today, they decided to leave it in the open (probably since there was no media there).
Reasons they considered throwing out the complaint;
• Danielson filed the complaint one minute after the address started.
• Other mayors have had the address before an election (Munson) which inferred precedent.
• It is against ordinance to submit a press release to the media about an ethics complaint you have filed.
While the ethics commission mulled over all of the reasons, they ultimately threw out the complaint because of #1. Which is bogus, because part of the reason the complaint was issued was because of the timing of the address (which we will get into) not just the content (which we predicted would be a stump political speech, and it was).
Bruce made his case as to why this was a political speech, and not an address. The commission tried to defend the timing of the address, and said past mayors have done the same thing before an election (Munson) but this was not about Munson. While this discussion was going on, I pulled those minutes that were provided to the public before the meeting started. I noticed that in the first 3 years of Huether’s reign that he did his addresses in mid April and May, not in March, I quickly walked up to Bruce and handed him the evidence.
The commission didn’t have much to say about this except that the Mayor has full discretion as to when he wants to make the address.
Then we went into the Power Point presentation that the mayor used during his address. A city employee witness testified that it was common to use a PP during one of these addresses, and he was correct. Then the commission argued that nothing in the address was anymore then typical ‘happenings’ in the city. One of the members (Gregory LaFollette) even said that anything elected officials do is political (I guess he doesn’t understand the difference between ‘political’ and ‘campaigning’).
At this point, a motion had already been made, and Bruce’s testimony was over, so I asked Bruce to request public testimony. They approved his request.
I approached the bench and informed the commission that an address by either a mayor, governor or president not only talks about achievements but states where we can improve. I said besides road construction nothing in the PP presentation talked about improvements in our community (I referenced crime, hungry school kids and low wages). I told them it was a blatant ‘Stump Speech’ specifically timed before an election because of the lack of mentioning ‘improvements’ to our community and the several slides that included the mayor’s rosy opinions about this town.
They had no choice but to throw out the complaint based on the timing of Bruce’s complaint (which as I said above, really doesn’t matter, because the timing of the Mayor’s address is the real reason for the complaint, not just the content).
It ended as I suspected. And I laughed. Another predictable day in SF city politics.
Two things. Most of the year it is too cold to walk anywhere, and when it is warm, it is the only option for the working poor.
City Hall at 9th and Main was a bit empty at 1:30pm Wednesday. The City Attorney’s office was pretty quiet also. Where were they? Try Carnegie Townhall, the mayor was giving a political speech on the City’s dime and time, again. I walked into the Council Chamber and hizonor was giving his standard campaign stump speech with a room full of city employees in attendance. I wonder how much money wasted on this political event? Wait, it’s tax money being wasted, yours and mine. On top of this, the city’s website was being used. Channel 16 CityLink was also being utilized. This looks a lot like a major waste of taxpayer money being used to help hizonor have some publicity for his campaign.
It is an amazing process for the average citizen to file an ethics complaint in the City of Sioux Falls. Try and find a brave attorney to assist you in the research, then the filing. I have a great deal of respect for many attorneys and always will. It takes a great deal of patience and persistence to find code close to what is needed to make officials stop, then take notice, then correct their course. We have been attempting to help City Hall and the annexes personnel understand limits instilled in the US Constitution, State of South Dakota Constitution and the Sioux Falls Home Rule Charter.
This city government constantly rules by loophole. We have had to stand back and watch this action for too long. The Mayor’s Learning & Listening sessions are filled with his political views until he is reminded not to be political during city sponsored events. Since I prepared this complaint, word is reaching me, a double, super-secret, buried in the basement floor, under the rug in the back corner rule was broken in this submission process. We are trying to make changes to the way this government is operated and it is time to make them accountable.
If this complaint is rejected because we did not do all the steps exactly right, I guess we will have to keep trying until we do get it right. You know come to think of it, there are so many ethics issues we are uncovering with the current administration, each will need to be ranked in descending order of importance. This has been a great lesson in City Charter rules and lack thereof. With this new found knowledge, it looks like we could keep the city attorney’s office quite busy. Oh wait, a few of these might require outside legal counsel.
READ THE FULL DOCUMENT: Citizens for Integrity Press Release 2014-03-26.pdf – Adobe Acrobat Pro Extended
Press Release • March 26, 2014 • Bruce Danielson, Citizens for Integrity
Today I have filed on behalf of Citizens for Integrity an ethics complaint based on:
Sioux Falls Code § 38.021 EXPENDITURE OF PUBLIC FUNDS TO INFLUENCE ELECTION OUTCOME PROHIBITED
Established Sioux Falls Code, South Dakota law, Administrative rules, Executive Orders and customs have restricted the use of Sioux Falls City resources to enhance a political campaign. Mayor Mike Huether today is violating these long standing guidelines.
According to City policy (Executive Order 12-24), candidates for any elective public office are not eligible to appear on CityLink for 90 days prior to the next municipal election (April 8, 2014). This City policy ensures candidates do not use public funds for their own personal promotion. The policy states that candidates may appear on CityLink “if the appearance of the candidate is incidental to presentation of the subject matter or in coverage of official City meetings such as City Council or Council Informational Meetings.” These types of incidental appearances also may include events like news conferences and ribbon cuttings.
After January 7, 2014:
- The “Mayor’s Listening and Learning Sessions” will continue to be held at various locations across the city but will not be recorded or televised on CityLink.
- “Ask the Mayor” programs will not be recorded or televised on CityLink.
- “Inside Town Hall” will continue to be recorded and televised but will not include candidates for any elective public office.
Today we once again have our Mayor abusing his office for personal gain. The circumventing the established nonpolitical
Transcript of Public Testimony last night:
My name is Bruce Danielson, a resident of Sioux Falls and chairman of Citizens for Integrity.
I am here tonight to report on the two ballot advocational meetings held so far, sponsored by the City of Sioux Falls. These biased presentations are designed to confuse the voters and harm the Initiative and Referendum process.
Prior to the first video last night, city director Don Kearney read a statement attributed to the city attorney. The statement reiterated the s approval of the video presentations.
After the first video was completed, I read a statement for those in attendance to explain why we disagree with the presentations and to ensure an open dialogue.
After the ending of the presentations last night I was approached by a city employee, Shawna Goldammer. I was informed my disclaimer would be addressed. I took it as “accommodated and silenced”.
We are partaking in the citizen’s debate on issues citizens worked very hard to bring before the voters. We will continue and will not be silenced.
We are suspicious of the city involvement in the ballot measures just as we have been suspicious of the Events Center naming. The EC naming has been a curious process. It has many different aspects never made clear. On SouthDacola.com last night the timeline became clearer why we the people have not been able to trust the word of this city government.
Prior June 12, 2012: The city doesn’t renew their naming contract with Superlative.
June 12, 2012: Director Smith Talks about hiring Legends to help secure a title sponsor in a council informational meeting.
July 12, 2012: Sanford Health BUYS the domain: DENNYSANFORDPREMIERCENTER.COM
July 24, 2012: Director Smith tells the council in an informational he is to having a title sponsor, and will bring it to the council..
August 2, 2012: EC title sponsor announced, city council is told 30 minutes before the announcement.
t have transparency on this The mayor used to work for First Premier, and people in the community are closely associated with Sanford. Maybe we really got a good ll never know because we never had any ”
We would like to know why this council has not taken their legislative responsibilities to heart and let your constituents know why this curious process was allowed to happen.
We question the motives behind the activities bringing the ballot issues to the people. The issues we have before us are based on our ability to question motives and directives. We have a voice in this election and its aftermath and we are here to stay involved.
Is it time we cut our ties with Mayor Huether?
As I warned Sioux Falls voters and citizenry before the last mayoral election, I questioned Huether’s ethics since he worked for one of the WORST credit card companies in the nation;
New York consumers will get as much as $4.5 million in refunds from a South Dakota bank under a settlement of accusations that it used deceptive and illegal tactics to market credit cards to people with poor credit ratings.
Consumer Affairs reports that credit cards from First Premier can come with up to $180 in start up fees. Here’s a breakdown:
• Account set-up fee: $29 (one-time fee)
• Program fee: $95 (one-time fee)
• Annual fee: $48
• Participation fee: $72 annually
• Additional card fee: $20 (if applicable)
• Transaction fee for cash advances: Greater of $5 or 3% of the cash advance
• Credit limit increase fee: $25
• Return item charge: $25
• Auto draft charge: $5/$9 per draft
• Express delivery fee: $25 for cards sent Express Mail
• Copying fee: $3 per item
• Internet access fee: $3.95
REMEMBER, this all happened when Huether was president of marketing for First Premier Bankcard (around 2007-2009). For those of you who don’t know what a marketing department for a CC company does, here is a quick overview, THEY MARKET THE CREDIT CARD TO CONSUMERS.
I worked in the marketing department for a third party debt collector/CC company for 5 years, I was the person who designed the mailers. There’s rules; type sizes, logo usage, language, etc. Lots of attorneys mull over the stuff. Sometimes they get it wrong. Did we get in ‘trouble’ sometimes? Yes. It usually resulted in some fines (each state’s rules are different when it comes to credit card marketing laws). I think the largest fine we received was from California for around $10,000. Apparently our Credit Card logo was ‘too high’ on the letterhead and ‘deceptive’. You will find out when working in this industry that plantiffs (mostly their attorneys) and judges pretty much have a say in determining what is considered ‘deceptive’. No panel of experts, just their opinions.
Now look at the laundry list above from FP. It pretty much is about EVERY thing you cannot or want to do. But large companies like First Premier throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks. It stuck for awhile. It’s kind of like large packing plants paying EPA fines, if the profits can cover those fines, why stop violating?
But is what FP did ‘unethical’. Hmmmm. A hard question to answer, but I think you get to a point in your job that you do these kinds of things so much, it becomes second nature. I didn’t work in the industry long enough for it to wear me down, but I did work with some in management that found nothing wrong with what we were doing. Actually, we had a great product, and our lender’s troubles with the FDIC is what put us under. Our model was simple, we offered a discount on your debt repayment up front, we even got some positive national attention for what we were doing.
Back to Huether. I think Mike worked in the industry long enough that he became jaded. He was making himself and T Denny lot’s O’ Money. Billions. There is also ‘lurking’ questions about why Mike left FP. Did he leave because the water was getting too hot and he was in over his head? Did he quit because he just didn’t believe the marketing strategies he was implementing were ethical (this one I find hard to believe, since he has no problem with naming about every public facility in SF after his former employer) or was he fired because FP was getting into so much hot water over their marketing and business practices? I have heard conflicting tales, but I hope someone comes forward before the next mayoral election and tells us the truth.
Now fast forward to the present. There are things I have seen Huether do in his mayoral position that remind me of his position at FP. Recently, he felt there was ‘nothing wrong’ with investing in property development in the town he manages. It goes back to what I have said all along about ‘salespeople/marketers’ It’s all about closing the deal, and if you step on a few toes along the way, oh well. And if you don’t think Huether isn’t a dealmaker, here is a list of things he has sold the public on;
• His election
• The Events Center
• Union supporter
• Best damn storm cleaner upper in the world
• Man of faith
Okay, I could go on and on, but this is getting longer then I wanted it to anyway.
Huether promised voters he would be a changed man (wanted to ‘give back’ by serving as an elected official) and promised to run the city like a business. The problem with that is the CC industry robbed him of ever acting ethically in anything he did after leaving that industry, he has proven this by getting involved with investing in local property development, and secondly, the ‘business’ model he is using to rule this city is based on deception.
It goes back to the way Janklow ran the state, it’s okay to screw a few people over and make a little cashola on the side as long as you are getting things done. I don’t agree with that.
As a public servant, you must always have the concerns and needs of citizens come first, you must also give the citizens a great product/service for the taxes they pay, you should never lie or deceive the public to accomplish these things, and you should always be transparent and honest in everything that you do, and you should do all this without gloating, bragging or taking credit. You should also be able to take criticism when you fail, and learn from it. And most importantly you should be able to laugh at yourself when you are taking barbs.
I know, pretty humbling shit. But public service is a sacrifice not to be taken lightly. I will leave you with some quotes;
“The petty man is eager to make boasts, yet desires that others should believe in him. He enthusiastically engages in deception, yet wants others to have affection for him. He conducts himself like an animal, yet wants others to think well of him.” - Xun Zi
“He’s a fool who cannot conceal his wisdom.” – Benjamin Franklin
“Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” – Matthew 19:24
Monty wrote an article about ‘conflicts of interest’ in the state legislature and how lawmakers ‘don’t see any problems’. LOL. Here are some great comedic snippets;
Sen. Mark Johnston, R-Sioux Falls, who works for Sanford Health, has been involved in many health care-related debates. He was active on the issue of whether South Dakota should expand Medicaid — something Sanford and the other big health systems in the state support — and opposing a health insurance reform the big hospitals opposed.
His experience in the health care industry is a strength, not a problem, Johnston said.
“There’s two sides to every issue,” he said. “Based on my experience, my knowledge, my skills, and the input from the folks that I represent, that’s how I (approach) the particular issue.”
Johnston’s employer, he said, is “irrelevant,” except that it gives him more knowledge to bring to debates.
“I look at it in … what’s best for the citizens, what’s best for the folks that elect me into office,” he said.
And if your side doesn’t hurt after that load of crap, listen to this one;
Rep. Tim Rounds said he took a back seat when the Legislature debated a bill to create a new class of artisan distillery licenses — on the request of two of Rounds’ brothers, Jamison and Tom.
“I voted, but I did not get involved with the bill itself,” he said. “I did not testify. I didn’t speak on it.”
. . . but you voted for it. That would pretty much mean you were ‘involved’.
Oh, and how do you like these apples;
South Dakota does not have an independent standing ethics board, though there are provisions to create ad hoc panels to consider alleged ethical violations. It’s up to each legislator to decide for themselves whether they face a conflict of interest, and if so what to do about it.
Meanwhile, many other lawmakers from both parties say the system work fine as it is.
Because, you know, how else will the SD GOP stay in power for another 35 years?
This last part is actually non-comediclicious;
“The counter-argument was that states with few of the structures to prevent or sniff out corruption might be less likely to find any corruption,” he said.
Whatever the size of a state, Witkin said preventing conflicts of interest is important.
“Avoiding conflicts of interest and avoiding voting in self-interest is a core value of accountability and transparency,” he said.
Duh. When you don’t have an agency that looks for it, it is easy to say it doesn’t exist. It’s kinda like falling off a ladder and breaking your leg and saying, “My leg isn’t broke, because I didn’t go to the doctor and get it x-rayed.” After watching the Gant/Powers thingy unfold last year, I am even more supportive of having conflict of interest laws put into place, not just for legislators but for state employees.