Entries Tagged 'Ethics' ↓

Sioux Falls Ethics Board Chair warns Councilor Neitzert about his FB joke

Tonight the city council was invited to a presentation and an after party for the Sioux Steel project. I know for sure that 3 city councilors did not attend the after party (you can guess who they are). Stehly asked an advisory opinion last week about accepting drinks and ‘HEAVY’ apps from the developer. The ethics commission couldn’t rule on the opinion because Stehly didn’t present evidence of the possible TIF request. Chairman Greg LaFollette was absent from the meeting, but in the past he has frowned on this kind of gift giving. Neitzert decided to make a joke about it earlier today and LaFollette warned him that it probably isn’t such a good idea. It will be interesting to see how many of the other 5 attended and chowed down on their ‘Heavy’ Tifilicious Snacks. Awaiting photos.

In other ‘Neitzert’ news, I guess he requested that all of the councilors sign a document of confidence in the new Internal Auditor that he would frame and present to Mrs. Nelson. He pretty much admitted that the document wasn’t an ‘official’ but would help in mending bridges. That bridge could have been solid if they would have hired someone with no conflicts.

Oh, and still no word if Shana will be replaced in the finance department . . .

Sioux Falls Board of Ethics, April 25, 2019

Surprise, surprise Sioux Falls government ethics is in question. The Sioux Falls Board of Ethics was asked what should have been a simple question by City Councilor Theresa Stehly on April 25, 2019.

Can a developer, who is planning a major downtown project where they will be pitching a $24 million tax break, host a food and booze event without an ethics violation being levied against the invited city officials?

Anything can be can be questioned if it has de Minimis or nominal value. Even if there is no minimum or maximum value, if there is no minimum or maximum time period, it can be an ethical conflict. If dots can be shown or perceived or the optics can make it look bad, it is an ethical conflict. These have been the rulings in two previous decisions of the Board of Ethics.

What we learned in this meeting, apparently this does not apply to City Council or department staff if a developer wants to wine and dine the right people.

This was a preemptive advisory request by Stehly, not a post event ethics violation she was asking the Board to rule on.

The Board decided, since there is no “crime” yet, there was nothing they could do to preemptively advise the people in their jurisdiction to not attend the heavy food and alcoholic drink event designed to soften the $24 million TIF request.

The previous ruling requests were preemptive in nature, so was this one. Explain this to the cops and librarians, how South Dakota has only ethics laws affecting them (kind of).

UPDATE: Sioux Falls City Councilor Stehly asks for advisory opinion

UPDATE: The Ethics board determined they could not make a decision because they didn’t have evidence that the City Council would vote on TIFs. Stehly told them there was an Argus Leader article on it, but she didn’t have it with her though Bruce offered to show it on his tablet. Since they are quasi-judicial they have to have the physical evidence.

Bruce pointed out at the end of the meeting during public input that it was unfortunate that they did not offer an opinion because now if there are pictures of city officials and city councilors at the event and later they have to make a decision on TIFs, ethics violations could be filed against them for accepting gifts before the vote. The Ethics Board could get very busy next month.

The meeting will be at 10:30 AM this Thursday at City Hall. Stehly is asking if it is ‘ethical’ to be accepting FREE ‘Food & Drink’ from a developer that will be potentially asking for a TIF from the very people who are being asked to attend this event.

Personally, if I was a city councilor, I would NOT attend the reception portion of the event. It not only looks unethical, it likely is unethical. This will be an interesting Ethics Board meeting to watch and what laws are applicable. In South Dakota where we have very few ethics laws for lawmakers I could easily see a ruling either way.

UPDATE: Sioux Falls Ethics Board said ‘No Dice’

UPDATE: The SiouxFalls Board of Ethics met on March 28, 2019 to hear testimony for an advisory opinion concerning the propriety of a city employee joining a company board and then receiving any honorarium payment for it.

The Board of Ethics decided it was proper in this situation, and others, to be part of an advisory board but a city official in any capacity will not receive any payment, meals or reimbursement of expenses for such service. In simple language, if you are a city of Sioux Falls employee or elected official, you better not be receiving any money or anything of value for your service.

This is the second opinion in two years where a similar decision was made. We have been told there are city officials who are part of corporate, state and national boards and some may be receiving some types of remuneration or payments.

As the ethics board determined in the past when it comes to gift cards to emergency responders, they told a librarian in an ‘advisory opinion’ today she could serve on a board but couldn’t take a contribution from the organization, even if it was charitable. I think Cameraman Bruce filmed the event (I think he was the only media in attendance today, guess he wasn’t scared of being ‘stuck in the middle’). It seemed logical.

The opinion request (Click to enlarge);

So who is lying about the openness of the Events Center Campus Book Club?

The ‘Painless’ Meeting in Public

We watched as this all played out. The meetings were going to remain closed, the TenHaken administration was digging in their heels. Then councilors Starr and Stehly bring a resolution forward opening the meetings. All of sudden the Task Force was claiming they decided they were going to open them up all on their own according to some secret vote, in a secret meeting and informed the Mayor in a secret email (to this day no one has seen);

An email from the event center group’s co-chairs Dan Statema and Jeff Eckhoff to Mayor Paul TenHaken said that the group had voted at their first meeting on Feb. 27 to allow the public and media to attend the rest of the meetings.

“We see no harm in having interested parties gain the same education we are as we progress through this process,” the email read.

Now fast forward today to the first open meeting. Deputy COS TJ Typeover tells those TV folks this;

“Pat Starr and I brought forth a resolution when we found out these meetings were going to be closed to the public and the resolution requested that they open the meeting and as a result of that the meetings have been opened,” says Stehly.

“After the first meeting they talked in between that meeting and this meeting and decided to open these up to the public,” says Nelson.

So which is it TJ? Did they vote on it? Did they decide later? My guess is both stories are TOTAL BS. You and the Mayor decided to open these meetings up after pressure from Starr and Stehly. Just admit it. Because just lying about it makes you look even more foolish, and certainly NOT transparent.

Sioux Falls Ethics Board to meet Thursday at 3:30 PM

One of the items of discussion is an advisory opinion filed in February. I’m trying to find out what that is. Wonder if it has anything to do with the new Housing Director running for the Tea City Council or if Neitzert is asking to take tips for his imaginary taxi job again?

Could an ethics complaint be filed against the Mayor for appointing a secret study group

I guess the lawyers have looked over whether or not Mayor TenHaken is violating city charter by appointing a secret task force without the consent of the city council. One of the more memorable comments was, “While the mayor’s appointment of the task force doesn’t violate the law, I can’t speak on the ethics of the decision.”

Well, that’s fine, because it seems the city charter has the ‘ethical’ answer to that question;

34.007  CANON FIVE.

   (a)   A city council member should conduct the affairs of the city council in an open and public manner.
   (b)   City council members should be aware of the letter and intent of the state’s open meetings law, should conduct the affairs of the city council consistent with the letter and spirit of that law and consistent with the need to inspire and maintain public confidence in the integrity and fairness of city government and the office of city council member. Consistent with this goal of preserving public trust, city council members should be aware of the need for discretion in deliberations involving resources of the city, the reputation of people and the integrity of the governmental processes.
   (c)   All actions, decisions and votes by city council members should be made on their merits, objectively, and without party, regional or ideological partisanship.
(1992 Code , App. E)  (Ord. 34-00, passed 4-11-2000)
According to city charter, as the former mayor would point out all the time, the mayor is a member of the city council. I know this is a fine line, but purposely appointing a study group that will meet in secret could be a violation of the ethics code. Maybe a citizen needs to file and complaint against Paul and find out.

TenHaken continues to allow city employees to be hamstrung

We are already seeing the affects of the Home Rule Charter going straight to the head of the new mayor;

Mayor Paul TenHaken won’t repeal a Huether-era executive order that threatens punishment for city employees who share confidential information with the public, despite previously saying he would.

I can about imagine the line of BS he was fed from the HR department about keeping this order;

“Rather than continue the practice of having employees sign confidentiality statements, we felt it would be more efficient to place this provision in policy,” O’Toole wrote in an email then.

But confidentiality in different departments means different things, and that is why a ‘blanket’ policy makes NO sense.

Brekke, though, still believes some of the language in the confidentiality executive order is too vague, especially phrases that say city employees shall not share “sensitive information” and only when it’s related to the “business necessity” of the city.

Because those phrases, Brekke said, aren’t strictly defined, it could be causing “a chilling effect” when it comes to city staff’s willingness to share the government’s business with the public and the media.

“I still think it should be rewritten because I still don’t think it’s appropriate for government,” she said. “That might be appropriate if you work for Apple computers, and you can’t let anything leak out of your system. But when you’re working in government, that kind of policy is overly broad.”

If a full repeal is off the table, Brekke said she hopes to have more conversations with both the mayor and O’Toole about softening the executive order or better defining what is and isn’t confidential.

TenHaken said that’s not out of the question.

“There’s really been no issue with it as it’s currently set up. It’s more optics, and I think that’s what Janet wants to address,” he said. “It’s a new day and maybe we could soften it to make sure city employees are comfortable sharing information.”

If I was Brekke, I would take action with council legislation. During the campaign, the public spoke loud and clear, we need MORE transparency in government, not more of the same. But with this issue, Legacy hiring Ketchum and the fiasco with Public Input, it seems that TenHaken is just giving ‘transparency’ lip service and little else.

A charter revision dictated by a petition drive and voters may be on the horizon, sooner, rather than later.

Sioux Falls City Councilor Brekke on Ethics & Open Meetings

Janet Brekke set a new standard for Sioux Falls City Council thought provoking discussion on June 19, 2018. During the discussion of the fake Public Input control ordinance Brekke had to remind the proponents and everyone else what goes into proper process. We must remember, there is nothing lost if everything is in the open following proper process.

The Selberg / Kiley fake Public Input ordinance controversy never had to happen. It was a brain dead proposal to shut off voices they did not want to hear, interfering in proposals they appeared to want hidden from us, the owners and customers of our city government.

To help everyone understand, the city of Sioux Falls is technically a public corporation run through by-laws (A.K.A. Home Rule Charter). The Home Rule Charter gives the administrators certain responsibilities and are answerable to us, the stockholders. We citizens are the stockholders of the corporation, not the special interests who pay money to have more influence or pay platting fees.

The last few years we have been teaching the public how and when they should redress their issues and concerns. This fake issue was shot down by the people, those who showed up and those who couldn’t. It appeared for the time being, the elected board of directors heard the message.

On July 3rd we will need everyone to show up again to make sure the message was received and the Council does the right thing by getting rid of the fake problem. There is other work to be done.



Board of Ethics, Stehly asks to Petition, June 7, 2018