Do you remember the Sioux Falls city election April 14, 2015?
Do you remember the contentious nature of it?
Do you remember how the city government controlled the election debate?
Do you remember how the mayor was referred to the Board of Ethics for illegally using taxpayer resources to operate his campaign?
Do you remember the chair of the Board of Ethics was also referred to the Board of Ethics?
Lastly, do you remember how the City Attorney broke his oath and job description becoming the personal defender of the mayor?
How many of the questions could you answer with a “yes”? Like most people, you have moved on and forgotten these things. Like most people you have moved on.
The Sioux Falls Charter Revision Commission met on December 9, 2015 to discuss needed updates for the 2016 election vote. Once again Bruce Danielson was the only citizen to attend and also give public testimony during the Section 7 period. The room squirmed when he reminded or informed the Commission of the 2014 transgressions. He wanted the members to openly discuss the problems surround the unethical ethics process of the city of Sioux Falls. Once again, nothing is done because few in power care.
UPDATE: A reader identifies the person in the ad as Doug Rounds, Mike’s brother. I will admit, I was skeptical also if it was Mike, because the way this person ends sentences is different then Mike’s voice.
Not sure if it is him (towards the end of the ad, not the beginning speaker) but if it is, he is violating US Senate Ethics Rules (Pages 8-9; DOC;EthicsOverview_Booklet).This one sticks out;
May not allow name to be used by an entity providing professional services.
There may be a little wiggle room here if it is him. First off he doesn’t use his name (I am Mike Rounds trying to sell you insurance) though it is his agency. And the sell job is done by another announcer, but still a slippery place to be. I remember as sitting governor he did PSA’s for supplemental insurance (that his agency sells) those ads quickly disappeared after it was brought to his attention. These might just mysteriously go bye, bye to.
In their disdain for Councilor Staggers (at one point, Rolfing told councilor Staggers to go sit down who was presenting his resolution from the podium, let’s talk about decorum Rex, that was a real classy move) in reference to Kermit’s resolution to allow councilors to be committee members in their respective parties.
Rex seemed angry when reading his statement, which he should be, but it was entirely misdirected towards Kermit’s resolution. I joked not to long ago, Erpenbach and Rolfing would vote against a promoting World Peace resolution if it was Kermit’s resolution.
Rolfing was angry about conflicts, but not once mentioned the obvious and blatant conflict Dean Karsky has with the Chamber of Commerce, which does do business with the city, unlike the party committees. He also didn’t even bring up the mayor representing Obama as a Democratic Party delegate. That apparently wasn’t on the radar. Nope, because Karsky and Huether are not Staggers, and let’s admit it, that’s all their NO votes against the resolution by Erpenbach and Rolfing were about (they were the only two to vote against it, because you know, the rest of the councilors used common sense instead of angst while voting).
To be honest with you, they looked like fools singling out Staggers and Erickson last night, when every single one of the councilors and mayor have numerous conflicts of interest that are more detrimental to governance in this city then going to a convention for your party every couple of years.
Some people on the council need to grow up, or at least grow a brain.
Where’s Waldo Huether? (he’s hiding in the back row-click to enlarge)
I find it interesting that the Ethics Commission would find it Unethical for councilors Erickson and Staggers to be committee members for the Minnehaha County Republican Party, but say nothing about Huether being a delegate for Obama.
Like I have said, I find NO conflicts with either. Huether serving as a delegate for the Democratic party for Obama has NOTHING to do with him acting as our mayor, just like the committee positions for the Republican party have nothing to do with the city council.
If Huether wants to assist his party, as do Erickson and Staggers, that is fine, and I find no conflicts. But there is a conflict. Why are councilors being treated differently when reviewing ethical behavior? I think someone needs to ask an opinion about Huether being a delegate, just as the councilors were. All is fair in Love and War.
As for Karsky, he really needs to resign from either the Chamber Board or the City Council. The Chamber works too closely with the council, it is way to close for comfort and an obvious conflict of interest.
I find the Sioux Falls ethics commission living in a ‘Bizarro World’ lately, they find nothing wrong with a sitting mayor plastering his name on a facility that receives a half-million in public funds, and a city councilor sitting on the Chamber Board (Chamber receives public money) But, Boy Oh Boy, don’t be one of those evil committee people from the opposing party;
Councilors Kermit Staggers and Christine Erickson serve as precinct committee officers for the Republican Party. Nothing stops them legally from holding the position, but at least two ethics board members thought it was too close to being considered a public office.
Most people in the public don’t care what committees or clubs council people belong to. I certainly don’t. But let’s look at the facts;
1) It is NOT illegal for Staggers or Erickson to serve on these committees.
2) The city council position is a NON-Partisan position, and NO party committee can appoint or designate a city council or mayoral candidate. So their position on the committee is irrelevant when it comes to city government.
3) If the commission considers councilors Erickson & Staggers’ membership unethical, what is their opinion on Huether being a Democratic delegate for Obama? Doesn’t seem it is any different, since neither position affects municipal government.
In other words, they have NOTHING to do with each other, so NO conflicts of interest.
So someone asked me, “Who filed the opinion?” Actually the city attorney asked the councilors if this wanted to be reviewed. Remember, Staggers has been through this before, and it was thrown out after he hired an attorney and fought it legally.
The irony is that Swanhorst was on the ethics commission when this was first addressed, so it was a conflict of interest for him to be voting on this again, especially when this was determined already that it is a trumped up charge. Hey, Swany? Where are your ‘Ethics’ in this matter?
Also, only three ethics members voted, Staggers asked if this was legal? I believe there is five commission members, so is three considered a quorum?
Lastly, who is really behind this? The city attorney has a boss who directs him. And it ain’t Santa Claus.
I have spoken to Kermit about this, but NOT Christine, I do know that Kermit has NO intention of resigning as a committee person, and he shouldn’t.
The ethics commission is proving more and more that they are a joke, might as well have wind up robots from Zandbroz Variety making these decisions, at least they don’t have tom foolery running through their veins.
ADDITION: As for Karsky ‘recusing’ himself from any votes that involve the Chamber of Commerce, that will be a little difficult to do. Many businesses who are Chamber members come before the council weekly, whether they are asking for a contract in the consent agenda or a malt beverage license or a rezoning on development. Will Karsky recuse himself when these Chamber members are asking for permission to do something from the city and city council? Technically, that is what Karsky is saying. If that is the case, and if he is willing to stick to his promise of recusal, they might as well just put his chair in the other room, because he won’t be able to vote on too many things. Dean, you need to resign either from the Chamber Board or the City Council (I’m rooting for the city council, the Chamber can have you.)
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.
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.
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.