Entries Tagged 'Open Government' ↓

Open Government in SD? LOL! (Guest Poster)

Just got done rereading Randall Beck’s open government committee article under Ellis’ byline in the Argue Endorser and it made me chuckle. We at South Dacola have been real interested in the open.sd.gov website lately. Who wrote this? Under whose guidance? With the results we see, why bother? It kind of reminds us of putting lipstick on a pig.

Was it worth it?

The reporting / contracting agency is responsible for up-loading their contracts and expenditures when and if they want to.  Just go look for a company, law firm, or medical firm you know is doing business with the state.

Try to find the contract and the terms.

How do these outfits get paid? And how many of these companies (individual owners) are donating to the same old yahoos getting elected to run our state every year?

Look for contracts – payments the Attorney General, the Secretary of State, Governor or any other office out of Pierre. You will be hard pressed to find anything out there.  So much for the phoniness of ‘open’ SD government.  With all the legislative hearings without contract questions, no-bid contracts, hidden contracts, Governor’s club arrangements and other special deals reported out of Pierre we at South Dacola want to be able to trust something out of Pierre. But you know what they say, “You can only get the shit so shiny when you polish a turd (Pierre).”

What is missing from the Governor’s open government task force? Private citizens.

This list is a joke.

While there are some members that will be strong advocates of open government, they will be drowned out by other members. And like I said above, where are the private citizens? I guess we are not important enough to be concerned about open government.

I underlined the members that are truly laughable. One of them, the SF city attorney, was even reprimanded for violations of open government;

  • Diane Best, assistant attorney general, Office of the Attorney General
  • Dale Blegen, publisher, De Smet News
  • Jim Bolin, state Representative, Canton
  • Dave Bordewyk, general manager, South Dakota Newspaper Association
  • Pat Butler, managing editor, Rapid City Journal
  • Jonathan Ellis, journalist, Sioux Falls Argus Leader
  • Jason Gant, Secretary of State
  • Tena Haraldson, director of communications and media relations, University of South Dakota
  • Joe Kafka, press secretary, Office of the Governor
  • Maricarrol Kueter, executive editor, Argus Leader
  • Shawn Lyons, executive director, South Dakota Retailers Association
  • Jack Marsh, president and chief operating officer, Al Neuharth Media Center, University of South Dakota
  • Al Novstrup, state Senator, Aberdeen
  • Bob O’Keefe, deputy state’s attorney, Davison County
  • David Owen, president, South Dakota Chamber of Commerce and Industry
  • Dave Pfeifle, city attorney, Sioux Falls
  • Wade Pogany, executive director, Associated School Boards of South Dakota
  • Sara Rabern, public information officer, Office of the Attorney General
  • Bobbi Rank, assistant attorney general, state Department of Education
  • Mark Roby, publisher, Watertown Public Opinion
  • Lisa Rothschadl, chair, South Dakota Open Meeting Commission
  • Greg Sattizahn, director of policy and legal services, Unified Judicial System
  • Yvonne Taylor, executive director, South Dakota Municipal League
  • Kevin Thom, sheriff, Pennington County
  • Seth Tupper, editor, The Daily Republic, Mitchell
  • Tony Venhuizen, director of policy and communications, Office of the Governor
  • Waltner, Tim, publisher, Freeman Courier
  • David Wiest, deputy secretary, state Department of Revenue
  • Bob Wilcox, executive director, South Dakota Association of County Commissioners
  • Steve Willard, president, South Dakota Broadcasters Association
  • Susan Wismer, state Representative, Britton
  • Diane Worrall, executive director, South Dakota Association of Towns and Townships
  • Terry Woster, public information officer, state Department of Public Safety

 

Misc.

I have a few tidbits I wanted to share, so I thought I would just throw it all into one post.

MUSICAL PRECINCTS

I sent this email out today to the entire SF school board, Minnehaha county commission, SF City Council, city clerk, county auditor and mayor. I have already gotten two responses that are very positive;

Normally I do not email my elected officials, especially the entire city council, the county commission, the school board, the mayor, the city clerk and the county auditor all at once, but I did a recent post about the ‘musical precincts’ this city continues to play with elections and the mass confusion it has on voters. It’s time you all sat down in a room and figured out a standard already, this has gone on long enough!

As soon as most of them get back to me about it, I will do an indepth post about it.

LATE FILINGS

Ellis blogged about the supposed investigations the SOS’ office is going to conduct AFTER the election (yeah, that makes a lot of sense);

Secretary of State Jason Gant said his office will begin investigating a number of campaign finance violations as soon as Tuesday’s primary is concluded.

“We will begin investigating Wednesday morning,” he said while touring a polling place at Hawthorne Elementary in Sioux Falls.

Some groups have not filed required campaign finance reports, even though they’ve sent out flyers. Other committees have sent out illegal mailings that do not include the appropriate disclaimers.

“Tomorrow we are full steam ahead on working out those issues,” he said. “If they are not filing, we’re going to find out.”

I have often thought instead of fining late filings (of candidates) they should just leave their names off of the ballot. If you file late, you lose your opportunity to run. To heck with silly fines, if you can’t follow the rules you don’t get to play the game. As for the PAC’s I think you should revoke their status.

ARE EMAIL’S OF PUBLIC OFFICIALS PUBLIC RECORD

Ellis also blogged today about his battle with city hall over public records from an administration of ‘one of the most transparent’ mayor’s ever :)

“The law includes data, data fields and e-mail in its definition of public records, and it lets citizens bring their own devices to a government agency to make electronic copies. Georgia thus joins a growing number of states that explicitly open electronic communication to and from government officials to the public.”

I’ve written before about how backward South Dakota’s open record laws are. Many states make emails among government officials public records. South Dakota is also the rare state in which police reports aren’t available to the public. Oh, and mugshots.

As for data fields, I’ve been fighting to get the names of data fields used by the city of Sioux Falls in a database since December.

Ellis makes a good point. Why can’t we see emails? It would put rumors to rest about how involved the mayor is in local politics and his supposed quest for higher office. As for the data fields, I know what this is about, but I will let Ellis break this story, that is if he gets the data.

 

 

 

 

Why the rule change? Just follow the open meeting laws to begin with.

(IMAGE: KELO-TV screenshot)

So let’s add another layer of rules that the city attorney can find a way to wiggle out of;

In the future, the City Council will have to name an employee and the action being taken against the employee. Pfeifle says going forward, city leaders intend to be as open as possible.

Wasn’t that what you were supposed to do to begin with?

Open Meetings Commission member, Brenner, loses in the SD Supreme Court

(Image: KELO-TV screenshot)

If Glenn Brenner’s name doesn’t sound familiar, it should. He is a member of the SD Open Meetings Commission;

Douglas Rumpca of Rapid City sued Pennington County State’s Attorney Glenn Brenner, saying Brenner stole the affections of his former wife, Kellie Rumpca.

Not only is he for open meetings, apparently he is for open marriages :) To be honest with you, I think this law is silly. If your wife leaves you, that is her decision.

As for Brenner, it is important to note that he is the only member of the OMC to vote against the rest of the commission on the recent decision about the SF City Council in reference to the Debra Owen issue.

SD rates 49th in lawmaker integrity (H/T – Big ‘B’)

Hey, we at least beat Georgia!

Rightly or wrongly, though, the numbers say otherwise, and there are a number of reasons why. For one thing, South Dakota is one of only nine states that lack ethics commissions. Such bodies, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, “represent the public’s interest and have a similar purpose: to ensure that groups under their jurisdiction follow state ethics laws.”

Chalk up another awesome rating for our state. We do have an open meetings commission, but according to our city attorney they are wrong. Go figure.

And the Black Hole award goes to . . .

(Image: KELO-TV) This is a picture of a sinkhole that erupted overnight in SF.

It seems our city council gathered another prestigious award (SD Newspaper Association);

And the “Black Hole” Award goes to…

Since this is Sunshine Week, a national observance about the importance of openness and transparency in government, I think it is a good time to give what I call the “Black Hole” Award. Webster’s in part defines a black hole as a space that light cannot escape. Certainly true in the case of the Sioux Falls City Council, which last week was reprimanded by the Open Meetings Commission for violating state law. The complaint that went to the open meetings panel was initiated by the Sioux Falls Argus Leader.

Last year in a special meeting executive session the Sioux Falls City Council decided to fire the city clerk. The problem: the official action related to the decision to fire the clerk was never conveyed to the public in the official minutes of the Sept. 14 special meeting.

Rather, Sioux Falls councilors decided, apparently based on advice from their attorney, to approve this motion following the executive session: “to authorize Councilors Erpenbach, Anderson Jr., and Entenman to take the personnel action that was discussed in Executive Session.”

Huh?

The city attorney said the council needed to be non-specific in its motion in order to “protect” city clerk Debra Owen and afford her the same rights as if she was a private employee.

Yea, right. Benevolent-sounding, but it appears to be more about city councilors wanting to protect themselves rather than Debra Owen.

At any rate, the open meetings commission was right to reprimand the council, and the subsequent media attention has helped put some bite in the reprimand.

The Sioux Falls mayor has since said the open meetings laws are “confusing.” The Sioux Falls city attorney has said the reprimand is no big deal and he would welcome the opportunity to work with legislators to “clarify” the open meetings law.

Really? Confusing? Clarification needed?

South Dakota’s open meetings laws are pretty clear cut when it comes to taking any official action related to executive session discussions. Public boards in South Dakota generally have operated well under those provisions of the law for 25 years. The law allows public boards to keep discussions and rationales regarding personnel actions in secret. The law is clear that any official action regarding those discussions must be made in public. It also must be clear exactly what those official actions are.

Why Sioux Falls city officials suddenly find it confusing is rather amusing. And sad.

Nevertheless, the 2012 Sunshine Week “Black Hole” Award is no laughing matter. It’s a serious reminder that open government in South Dakota is always a work in progress.

The Mitchell Daily Republic decided to chime in;

It seems that many boards do not take great offense when they are reprimanded by the Open Meetings Commission, a panel that hears public complaints about possible violations of procedure by elected boards.

That Brown is so offended shows he cares, and it shows that he truly wants to conduct the people’s business appropriately.

We don’t care that his scolding of the city attorney caused offense. If the attorney’s advice was bad and caused embarrassment to the board, so be it. The attorney works for the people; so does the City Council, for that matter.

And further, Brown maintains that his role on the board does not trump his First Amendment rights to state his true feelings about this issue.

Hear, hear.

Good job, Vernon.

Public Input stays as is, for now

During the working session today, the city attorney backed off in changing public input to the end of the meeting. The only change will be a more complex timer.

SF City Council Sh*tstorm!

“Not sure I did anything wrong or not. I’m too busy building sandcastles in Mexico for a month.”

I highly suggest you watch the discussion at the Informational meeting, which takes some very strange twists and turns, to say the least. My favorite part is when councilor Anderson chews Fiddle-Faddle’s ass, and tells him he is ‘out of order’ himself, after threatening Brown with a defamation suit;

The City Attorney stood by the advice given to the council and said the council was right to fire Owen.

“We certainly have more than sufficient grounds to not only justify the termination, but also it has been bolstered since she was gone,” Pfeifle said.

Pfeifle fired back at Brown, saying the councilman opened himself up for a defamation lawsuit by calling out Pfeifle, Human Resources Director Bill O’Toole and Assistant City Attorney Gail Eiesland by recommending they be fired.  Another council member came to Brown’s defense.

“Why are you stating that when that should be part of executive session?” Kenny Anderson, Jr. asked.

Pfeifle argued he did not release details about why Owen was fired; he just stated there was sufficient evidence to support that action.

“But you’re close to doing the same thing.  I think you’re very out of order with that comment!” Anderson, Jr. said.

Other parts of the informational that stand out is the apparent state of denial that councilors Erpenbach and Entenman showed during their comments. In fact, Entenman went so far to say that he didn’t think they did anything wrong. Uh, Okay. I suppose I could rant for awhile about how 4 out of 5 highly revered state’s attorneys think you were very wrong. But I won’t.

The worst part about this matter is that one of the city’s most valuable employees, Debra Owen, is still terminated (and according to Fiddle-Faddle is collecting unemployment – which I found interesting because I thought it was hard to collect unemployment when you are fired). Some may ask why Debra Owen was fired, as explained in the informational, it had to do with an employee dispute. I have always felt, that was the ‘excuse’.

Shortly after Huether took office, Owen and I had a discussion one night, the topic was about how she was researching contract approval by home rule councils. She knew at the time that the mayor was not to keen about her doing this research, and I still believe, wild speculation and all, that her termination was punishment for side stepping the mayor and giving the council that power. And how does the council show their gratitude (especially leadership, Erpenbach and Aguliar)? By participating in the mayor’s witch hunt.

What do I think the just punishment should be for the councilors? I think they should all be fined one year’s pay. If they are truly doing the ‘citizens work’ let them do it for FREE for a year.

A must see; The SF city council meetings on Monday

Since the Open Meetings Commission meeting on Thursday, things have been heating up. Between what councilors may or may not present and what the city attorney may or may not do or say, the only thing I can speculate right now, is get ready for some fireworks, debate and surprises on Monday.

You can access the meetings online HERE. I would make sure to tune into the informational meeting at 4 PM.