Entries Tagged 'Open Government' ↓

New Council and Mayor have their work cut out for them; TRANSPARENCY, TRANSPARENCY, TRANSPARENCY!

Let’s face it, while Huether accomplished a lot during his tenure (building monuments and bonding our future) it was all done under a dark veil of secrecy. Just look at the RR redevelopment plan that he touts as his greatest achievement. A deal cut in the dark of the night in a Minneapolis board room. Just today I had to wait 20 minutes at 1 PM while trains re-switched right next to Avera hospital on Cliff Avenue. My wait was actually shorter than the 4 blocks of cars on either side backed up because I finally just drove around the mess. The train traffic has become more frequent which opens us up for more incidents of accidents. And it’s not a matter of when but how? Will it just be corn next time or something more dangerous? This is what happens when you negotiate in the dark, you get very bad deals that are ripe with corruption.

Tomorrow when the new council and mayor get sworn in, they should have one priority on their list, sunshine in government. I hope they think about that while taking the oath to the defend the US Constitution, the State Constitution and the City Charter.

As I told a friend recently, I could care less about diversity, equal rights, higher wages, affordable housing, roads, public safety, and public transit, without a transparent government you can’t tackle any of those issues properly. Period.

Some of the first initiatives our new council and mayor should take on should focus on transparency. I have suggested a wide reaching ordinance that requires the mayor and council share information with each other, not when it is just convenient, but ALL OF THE TIME.

They should also pass an ordinance that requires them to disclose all real estate investments that require city approval of any kind. I don’t care if this is a multi-million dollar city parking ramp or a tool shed.

They should also be required to say ‘why’ they are recusing themselves from a vote.

They should allow public input at 1st readings. I actually think this would cut down on regular public input.

They should update the city website so that ALL documents are online available for download for citizen use. They should also post all contracts and applicants of RFPs and TIFs. In that vein they should also live stream as many meetings as possible and have some of the more important boards be required to have their meetings at Carnegie and be recorded, like Board of Adjustment, REMSA and the Parks Board.

They should allow city employees to speak openly about their job with the media (as long as it doesn’t involve litigation or personnel).

All I have ever asked is that we have open government, everything else comes easy when you do these things in the open.

I actually believe that Huether’s lack of transparency killed his opportunity to ever run for public office again and win. His darkness will haunt him forever.

Transparency in local government is our #1 Priority

I have been telling people lately that I could care less about all the issues discussed in the last municipal election campaign, except one, TRANSPARENCY. The Argus agrees;

It’s important to acknowledge that the Premier Center settlement would not have been unveiled without legal efforts undertaken by the Argus Leader, which also just won a seven-year battle with the federal government over access to SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) payments.

The most recent mayoral election might have played out differently if not for our insistence on transparency and accountability from both candidates.

SouthDacola has been fighting for transparency since I started this blog. Without it government runs amuck in corruption, and everything that is done in the dark is not to be trusted.

Funny part is if it weren’t for my blog there never would have never been a siding settlement or the pressure of transparency in the last election. I basically told Jack Marsh last Friday at Dem Forum that news organizations have become slaves to their advertisers. He claimed it isn’t happening in print media. I beg to differ.

If blogs would not have brought up these important topics, who would have? Jack Marsh? Randell Beck? Stu Whitney? Angela Kenneke? Yeah right.

No matter how many accolades we want to spread around towards the end of Huether’s administration any thing he ‘got done’ behind the blinds lacks the integrity to even be mentioned. It’s actually disgusting to listen to him take credit in the 100 or so press conferences he has had last week for creating some kind of utopia here. Hey, Mike, in a utopia, people do things in the open.

A good ship is run on the open seas.

Mr. TenHaken, you promised transparency, and we’ll be watching. I think your campaign intentions hold merit. And remember, always err on the side of openness.

Mayor Huether a finalist for the 2018 Golden Padlock Award

He may not win, but I’m guessing there won’t be a press release about this honor on the city’s website;

Sioux Falls Mayor Mike Huether: For going beyond even state law to shroud public business in secrecy. In early 2017, the city council passed an ordinance to require meetings of a city board to be recorded and published on the city website. Huether vetoed the bill and said: “Here’s the way (transparency) works: It protects you one minute. It stabs you in the back the next.” The Argus Leader newspaper filed a lawsuit in 2015 against the city that went all the way to the South Dakota Supreme Court to get a simple contract detailing what the city called a $1 million refund from a settlement over flawed siding installed on a $115 million event center. After the court ruled in the newspaper’s favor in September 2017, the documents showed city officials weren’t telling the truth: The city received less than half of what Huether claimed. After the drowning of a 5-year-old girl in a park in March, the city defended its safety protocols by citing a 2016 audit officials said was conducted on the park. City officials denied the Argus Leader’s request for a copy of the audit, claiming it belonged to the insurance company. When the newspaper contacted the insurance company, reporters confirmed no such audit exists. Huether is term-limited but has indicated he’d seek public office in the future.

Surprised he wasn’t a finalist every year of his administration.

Maybe the City of Sioux Falls & Minnehaha County should try this

Hey, what a great idea;

Cody Schulz; Morton County Commissioner: “OpenGov is a web-based software platform that will allow our citizens and the general public to look at budgeting, information, revenue, financial transactions. You’ll actually be able to go online and see any transaction with a particular vendor, it’s searchable that way, or by category. If they want to see how much money we’re spending on public safety verses parks and recreation, that kind of data will be available.”

OH, but it gets better;

Cody Schulz; Morton County Commissioner:”We want them to be able to voice their opinions to us on how their money is spent.”

An elected official actually advocating for public input? And this isn’t in California or Austin, TX this is MANDAN, North Dakota!

Mayor Elect TenHaken . . . please read, and repeat.

Sioux Falls City Councilor Kiley on Main Street Café this Morning

KSOO Radio’s Main Street Cafe with Chad and Beth had as special guest Sioux Falls City Council Chair Rick Kiley on April 6, 2018. LISTEN HERE.

The discussion centered on Public Input during the City Council meetings without touching on why people are showing up. Instead of trying to talk about the important issues being brought up during the citizen inputs, Rick only talked about his hurt feelings.

TRANSCRIPT

McKenzie; you’ve done away with I think I agree it’s a very important part of the meeting I just think that we’ve lost all decorum it’s gotten to the point we’re expecting you guys to sit through a video of toy trains with the three stooges doing some sort of Nazi salute* at the very end of it or somebody who’s done a rap video that’s uh that’s a waste of time that’s not what public input was intended to be at least in my opinion so I agree with you I think the public input released remain but my question is does it have to be on television does it have to be carried live on Sioux Falls on your cable channel**

*This episode of the Three Stooges is one of their most famous, it was making fun of fascism and dictatorships, not promoting it.

**CityLink is on Cable. But it is also public access paid for by the very people who speak at public input.

Kiley; well you bring up very good points Chad and I would agree that the examples that you just just cited that’s not productive time that’s not using our time productively or the citizens time productively especially for individuals that are attending the meeting because they have important items that are going to appear later on the agenda.

*The people who speak at public input own the city government just as much as the people that are there to do business.

There’s been cases where we haven’t finished a few times it’s been after 10:30 close to 11 o’clock and sometimes that’s due to the length of public input sometimes that’s due to the length of input during the different items as well but and much I much of the input over the years has been very valuable

*No where in the charter is there a ‘time limit’ on meetings. If they are getting long the council can take a short recess or recess to the next day. They have that right. They also are getting paid to be there unlike the public who shows up on their own time.

but as I mentioned lately here we’ve reached new lows and unfortunately I do believe that it’s probably going to be looked at very closely with the new administration coming on and what kind of changes could potentially be implemented I’m not sure what those may be you bring up some good suggestions.

*I hope changes are made. I told Bruce recently that as soon as the new mayor is elected I am going to sit down with them and explain the importance of public input. I’m also going to tell them that it won’t be the same because the person causing the turmoil will be gone. As long as the next chair is dedicated to open and transparent government, they will have no concerns about public input.

Others have too by the way the story that you posted to the KSOO website a few days ago that’s been picked up by other blogs as well and comments have been made in and for most purposes I know the comments that I’ve seen have been favorable towards what you what you have written.

*Actually the comments have been about 50/50 with most people agreeing it is the chair that has turned this into a circus. In fact, when Kiley ran the meeting about a month ago in the absence of the mayor, public input went swimmingly.

It’s obvious something does need to change but it’s very unfortunate that there’s really just a small group and I mean three to four people that are driving this change the need for the change I would say it’s become personal it’s now to the point where for some reason it’s become a personal thing they’re out to purposely embarrass the City Council and the mayor for whatever reason and it it’s uncalled for it doesn’t need to be yes unfortunately for the mayor it’s it has to be difficult to sit in his seat night after night and take that kind of abuse and there’s been some directed toward the City Council but not nearly as much as what’s been directed towards the mayor and I would tend to agree that it is personal it’s now a clash between individuals that do not like one another and it’s just unfortunate and it’s serving absolutely no purpose it’s big it’s turned into a mockery and that’s not the way it was intended to be well we should be able to have people attend with their children we’ve had Scouts and Girl Scouts and other individuals bring their children the smoking issue brought families in and then had to have them exposed to this kind of behavior it’s not only is it embarrassing but it is just not right.

*So now government is PG rated? In a Democracy things are messy, and I think it is a great civic lesson to the young people that are attending.

Hosts; and Rick to you one of the things I’m concerned about is if a citizen would like to address during that time that they may see themselves as not wanting to be grouped in with the others that are also providing that public input and so people with a concern I don’t like about tree trimming or something are not going to go there because they don’t want to be seen as part of that group best you bring you bring up a very good point after witnessing what happened there there was another lady that I had not ever seen before at public input and I’m quite certain she did come up but I’m quite certain she was wondering what she was getting herself into at the time and we don’t want to discourage individuals from addressing their City Council we would like them to feel that they’re free to do so well Rick we appreciate you making some time for us this morning and addressing what was on our website earlier this week I hope that the new City Council and the new mayor addressed this and something can be done about it.

*Actually I think we have empowered a lot of people to come up and speak. I have been speaking for over 12 years at council meetings and I am often complimented on my testimony. The only person intimidating people from speaking is the chair who stares people down and makes smart ass remarks after they speak. He recently told an attorney that he should be ‘better prepared’. Really?

Kiley; I truly do well I hope so too and I hope that the citizens have realized this isn’t a reflection of a good work that the City Council is performing and when I say that I include the mayor there have been a lot of good things that have come out of our meetings and out of the whole process but it’s easily overshadowed by just a few minutes of very gear responsible behavior.

Hosts; Thank You councilor we appreciate it thank you okay have a good day councilor Rick Kiley chair of the Sioux Falls City Council joining us this morning here on KSOO.

Todd Epp’s column about metal detectors is a disservice to the importance of public input

There is really only one person’s temper I worry about at council meetings, and it isn’t any of the commenters, it’s the guy in charge, the Mayor. He has lashed out against the public several times, he has given the stink eye, he has given the long dark stare, he has huffed and puffed, he has made underhanded comments, he has made smart ass comments as commenters are coming up and leaving the podium. He has even followed citizens to their cars or waited by their vehicles after the meetings. Mike and now a deceased citizen actually almost got into a fist fight in the parking lot a couple of years back after the mayor confronted him.

To say all this anger is a one sided thing is freaking ridiculous. Todd Epp feels the mayor and council should be protected from the public, but sometimes I wonder if it’s the public that should be worried;

After last night’s outburst, I got to thinking: What if someone walked into the Council chamber, had a gun, got mad or was mentally unbalanced, and started firing?

I know there is a sign that says no firearms or dangerous weapons allowed in the building.

Actually I believe that sign has been taken down because our all knowing and gun happy state legislature has made it perfectly legal to bring guns to public meetings. I will agree with Todd on one level, I wish ALL government buildings were gun free zones. But I’m also not going to live my life in fear because a few people are passionate about their 1st Amendment rights.

To tell you the truth as someone who defends a vibrant and controversial public input, I deplore guns. I have never owned one or intend to. I also hate violence. I believe all the important battles are won with words, and maybe that is why are Mayor gets so angry, because he loses that battle every single week.

I believe our security guards at the meetings do a fantastic job, I also believe they understand 1st amendment rights. Just because some one might let the ‘S’ word slip during input, or call the mayor a SOB or F’cker doesn’t mean they are going to shoot up the place. It’s the quiet ones in the corner you have to worry about, and I always take a clear inventory of who is in the chambers when I go there. As a person who survived a night club fire, I have trained myself to be well aware of my surroundings in public places. Always know the nearest exits.

But for Mr. Epp to make the assumption that people with a temper may be some crazed lunatic that is going to shoot up the place is unfair, and quite frankly insulting. I would expect more from someone in the media who is supposed to support open government and freedom of speech. I guess if we don’t have the media anymore to defend us on our speech rights, we have to fall back on ourselves because apparently we are a bunch of gun crazed lunatics. Really Todd? Really?

I guess Councilor Rick Kiley will be on KSOO in the morning with Beth and Chad to talk about public input.

Government & Confidentiality Agreements; Oil & Water

A local elected official sent me this article that talks about the pit falls of government employees and confidentiality agreements;

It was recently revealed that many of Donald Trump’s top advisers were asked to sign nondisclosure agreements (NDAs), forcing them to keep quiet about what happens in the White House — even after his presidency ends. Ruth Marcus, deputy editorial editor of The Washington Post labeled these agreements a presidential first and “not just oppressive, but constitutionally repugnant.” Government ethics experts say they are legally questionable.

But don’t think this just goes on in the WH;

This behind-closed-doors approach to resolving conflict in government troubles many.

“If public money is spent, it should be public information,” says Montana state Sen. Fred Thomas, one of the legislators who asked the auditor to look into confidential settlements.

And not just confidential settlements in local government;

In 2016, the issue shook the Alabama governor’s mansion, where Robert Bentley — who resigned in 2017 after news of his alleged affair with a campaign aide — had 87 members of his staff sign nondisclosure agreements two years prior.

How about municipal government?

Some states and cities already limit secret agreements.

San Francisco, for instance, prohibits the city from entering into confidential settlements. And in Iowa, a 2014 executive order, signed by then-Gov. Terry Branstad, bans agencies from adding confidentiality requirements to employee settlements and requires personnel settlements to be reviewed by the attorney general’s office. Branstad’s order followed news that six employees, who had filed grievances about their dismissals, had been paid more than a quarter of a million dollars in confidential settlements.

And what to the legal scholars think?

Legal scholars express doubt about whether confidential settlements and broad nondisclosure agreements in the public sector are enforceable.

“Legally, it’s very problematic to do these in the public sector. It runs afoul of public-sector employment law or sunshine laws,” says Alexander Colvin, a professor of conflict resolution at Cornell University and an expert in labor law.

The issue is particularly problematic for potential whistleblowers.

At the federal level, a whistleblower’s ability to report wrongdoing is strongly protected, but state laws tend to be weaker, vary dramatically and may not be known to employees, says Tom Devine, legal director of the Government Accountability Project, an organization dedicated to protecting whistleblowers.

He worries that any kind of agreement that curtails public employees’ free speech could deter them from flagging problems.

“There are administrative and legal remedies that would allow employees to break nondisclosure agreements or speak out or blow the whistle despite a confidential settlement,” he says. “But the mere existence of the agreement is highly chilling.”

And our local media said really nothing when Council Candidate Janet Brekke came out on Monday about the confidentiality agreement with city employees. Go figure. They have more important things to do like chase down white trash skanks who steal pizza place buffet cards.

Sioux Falls City Council Chair Kiley has NO CLUE what ‘confidential and Priviledged’ information is

I often shake my head when I see people in local government think they know what they are talking about.

You can watch the council tonight brow beat Stehly about her resolution for openness. She wasn’t getting the information she wanted from city hall so her and Pat Starr proposed a resolution to get the information. Well within their rights.

The discussion is intriguing and really shows the council’s true colors. Hide the secrets at ANY COST. Here is a great letter to the editor about it.

I could write a short novel about the entire discussion, but I only want to comment for now on Kiley’s assertion that certain city councilors are sending the media ‘confidential’ information to blogs and the media.

There are ONLY two forms of this information. Personnel and Litigation. I have NEVER received an email about either of these two things from councilors. They know better. It’s against the law. I have however received emails about OPINIONS from the city attorney that have to do with proposed legislation. This is public information. We pay the city attorney, we own the emails, it is public information. Any city councilor can share this info with me, the media or any citizen in this community. Kiley simply knows not what he speaks.

UPDATE: Brekke – Government Secrecy Press Conference

UPDATE: I guess my initial takeaway is that this shouldn’t surprise anyone. I think people are getting so used to the games with transparency it just seems par for the course.

I think the biggest thing here is the confidentiality EO. As Janet pointed out words like ‘sensitive’ don’t really mean anything, and can be interpreted however. For example, if a maintenance employee told the Argus that the city spent $2 million dollars last year on toilet paper, and the mayor found out who told them, they technically could tell this employee that it was ‘sensitive’ information and terminate them. Basically a scare tactic to keep city employees from saying anything. While these kind of ‘rules’ exist in the corporate world, they have NO place in city government. Records should be open (besides litigation and personnel). City employees should not have to fear losing their job over it.

There is also a question of violating Federal whistle blower laws. Since the city receives Federal funds, those laws apply to city employees. City employees should have the right, Federally to report any misuse of Federal money or fraud. Federal Law almost always trumps state and local laws and ordinances.

As for the city clerk, I will say what I said when they hired Mr. Greco. They should not have hired him. The clerks office has two certified city clerks, one of them applied for the job after Lorie quit, she should have gotten it, instead, the HR department, controlled by the mayor not city council, picked someone with no certification, Greco wasn’t even registered to vote. We could go back and forth all we want about the lack of certification, the truth is, it should have never been an issue. Some would say that we would have lost one of the assistant clerks. Oh well, I think one main clerk and an assistant is enough. I would even go further and say we also should terminate the budget analyst since nobody knows what he really does, besides openly mocking councilors during public meetings like he did last Tuesday. Any duties he has could be easily handled by the Operations Manager. After they fired Debra it seems the office has gone to Hell in a handbasket, we had to hire 3 people to replace her, and they have less duties, and they take orders from the mayor.

It is also important to note that the city clerk is the responsibility of the city council, not the administration. He could have been sent to certification school on day one if they wanted to send him. I will be curious to hear what his excuse is, I’m sure it is some obscure rule pulled from the rear of Bill TheToole, the HR Director.

Another day of secrecy, what’s new?

You can the replay here;

Transcript and Index of Press Conference; Brekke-PC-transcript, Brekke-PC-Index

Below is a copy of the Executive Order by Mayor Huether on employee confidentiality. Signed in February of 2016;

These documents show the stripping the city clerk of the duties of official city record keeping; Clerk-Record-Keeping

These documents show samples of executive orders by the mayor; Example-Exec-Orders

These documents show an index of where executive orders are now stored; Exec-Order-Index

Sioux Falls City Council Candidate Brekke to have press conference on Monday about government secrecy

“I have never seen anything like this in City Government” former Sioux Falls City Attorney Janet Brekke said Friday. “I am very concerned about the culture of secrecy which currently prevails in City government.”

While on the campaign trail Brekke has heard numerous complaints by citizens regarding the inability to get public information out of City Hall, as well as allegations of doctoring or tampering with documents.

“As a former City Attorney, I am aware of procedures that were put in place when this government was implemented that were designed to hold government officials accountable for their actions and to leave a paper tail of official actions” said Janet Brekke. “I have researched these procedures and will share my findings publicly on Monday, April 2, 2018 at the Downtown Public Library at 10:00 a.m.

In preparation for running for City Council Janet Brekke interviewed each of the current City Council members and City Directors. To prepare, she returned to consistently attending City Council meetings October, 2017. Brekke was City Attorney under five Sioux Falls mayors, beginning with Rick Knobe.

Brekke adds “In addition I have observed City Council members complaining of having incomplete information before being required to make major decisions. This must be corrected.”

Brekke will answer questions presented by the attendees and will be available following the press conference for interviews.