Theresa touched on Gavel-Gate, City Attorneys, Smoking Ban and Solar speed signs. Surprisingly no one called in and called her ‘Councilor High Crime’. Podcast should be up early afternoon.
Entries Tagged 'Theresa Stehly' ↓
Yeah, I know, you never thought I would agree with Mr. Brown, did you? We will get to that shortly, but first with councilor Theresa Stehly’s idea of having separate legal council for the city council;
The distrust, she said, stems from conversations with City Attorney David Pfeifle in which she was told she was vulnerable to ethics violations if she continued to speak out against city-backed initiatives, policies and projects. She said those comments were made in an attempt to stifle her efforts to generate public opposition to the city administration building and a Terrace Park improvement project that the city’s historical preservation board put a stop to earlier this year.
“The agenda and wishes of the mayor are coming first,” she said.
Many would argue that another attorney would cost us more money, not the case at all. They could easily move one of the 6-8 attorneys that already work for the city over to the city council position. You wouldn’t have to hire anyone new. I think we should have learned our lesson when we fired an incredible city clerk (Debra Owen) and had to hire 3 employees to replace her. Not only did Owen do all 3 of their jobs for a lot less then the unqualified city clerk is doing now, she also had a law degree and advised the council on legal issues (one of the reasons I think the city attorney broke open meeting laws to get her fired).
In 2012, after the council voted to fire former City Clerk Debra Owens during an executive session, the city was brought up on open meetings violations in front of the South Dakota Open Meetings Commission.
I was at the meeting where the city attorney attempted to Fiddle Faddle his way through violating open meetings laws. He looked like a fish out of water and was chastised by almost the entire board of very seasoned government attorneys. As I said above, whether he is qualified or not, the council had excellent legal representation with Owen, who also championed transparent government. I have often been puzzled why it took three positions to replace her, and I still don’t know what these guys do besides making power point presentations and stamping official election documents with a blind fold on.
However, making the office of city attorney an elected position would alleviate perceptions that the city attorney is beholden to the mayor, he said.
“You know who hires and fires if you’re the city attorney,” he (Vernon Brown) said. “But should the city attorney be elected? Because then there’s some accountability besides to the mayor.”
I have suggested this in the past, making the city attorney an elected position would be excellent.
As for how Stehly has been treated, I haven’t been privy to those conversations, but there are some obvious missteps by the city attorney that reveal his vindictive nature towards councilor Stehly, for instance shouting from the crowd to stop her while she is being gaveled by Rex Rolfing. We know where David gets his marching orders from, that is obvious from how Debra Owen was fired and how he handled the siding settlement;
Former council chairman Kenny Anderson Jr. said there were times during his tenure that he felt outside counsel would have benefited the City Council.
When the city attorney’s office was negotiating the Premier Center siding settlement, the council was mostly kept out of that process and had to defer to Pfeifle throughout the process.
“There were times I felt we should have had a second opinion. I don’t disagree with Councilor Stehly on that,” he said. “I would say one good discussion point would have been the contract that the mayor and administration signed with the parties in the event center and where the money was placed as part of settlement.”
If you don’t think David is keeping things from the public and the city council, all you need to do is look at his track record and his loyalty towards the mayor. When he became the mayor’s personal attorney during an ethics hearing because the mayor couldn’t walk a 100 feet to defend himself, is another prime example.
Either way, I believe city charter has changed now so that the next mayor will have to have the consent of the city council before appointing a future city attorney. Spring of 2018 can’t come soon enough.
This is what a leader looks like – The other guy, not so much.
I was happy to see that the Argus Leader allowed Theresa to weigh in;
I was excited to step into a role on the council where I could use the resources of our city government to better serve our people.
Unfortunately, this has not been the case. I have been told by our council leadership and our city attorney that I should not talk to the media, that I should not advocate for citizen issues, that I now work for the city and I should never criticize my boss, the city. One of the most disturbing comments that was made to me was:
“Don’t let the tail wag the Dog.”
Some have said that I should just discard these comments. But when you have the power and threat of the city attorney’s office coming at you, it is hard to defend yourself. I have had to get my own attorney to be an advocate for me and my rights to speak up for the citizens of Sioux Falls.
Something needs to change. The city council as a legislative branch needs their own attorney, separate from the executive branch (the mayor’s office). We need checks and balances to keep integrity and transparency in all that we do as a city. We need to have an open discussion to discuss what the public wants and expects from their city council. I want to assure the public that I will always work for their best interest.
What most people don’t understand, there is a whole other side to what has been happening to our councilor, a side the Mayor and his administration doesn’t want you to see. Because while Stehly works on helping the average citizen get a fair shake, and the county concentrates on keeping us safe with building a new jail, our mayor fiddles around with crying at an indoor pool.
And then the local MSM chimes in;
The shadow of secrecy continues to creep and the council’s action in the Stehly incident is just the latest worst example.
City Attorney David Pfeifle has refused to answer questions at to the legal justification of this secret session. This is unacceptable. Pfeifle is a public official and as such answerable to the people, which in this case is Argus Leader Media.
There is no place in a free society for the secrecy and subterfuge currently engaged in Sioux Falls city government.
It must stop.
First off, thank you Pat for writing this column, though I don’t agree with your digs at Theresa (surprised he wasn’t able to work in some Staggers digs in to). As I have said, this kind of bullying and intimidation has been going on for a long time. Kermit comes to mind, and ironically the AL has chimed in encouraging the bullying against him. Funny how these things work.
The Strong Mayor form of government in Sioux Falls doesn’t mean the mayor is in charge of the city council
During the latest installment of “Ask Hizzoner” Mayor Mike talks about his relationship with the council (FF: 20:00). He touches on some interesting points;
• Strong Mayor form of government
• Transparency with the Council
• The role of the council and the executive branch and his position in those roles
One of the main roles as the mayor under this current charter is to be the city manager, and that is a simple task. He is in charge of the city employees (mostly the department directors). But the mayor seems to think he can be in charge of the council and their staff (bullying). He is not, though he has been very successful so far in turning the tide in his favor.
He also talks about how the city clerk and the city attorney were treated during the city administration debate by certain people who were spreading false information about what they were doing. I’m still confused by this defense. There was proof in an email from the city attorney of how they were going to try to stall the process. There is also the famous ‘stamp’ incident in which the city clerk claims he didn’t look at something he officially stamped. These are not falsehoods or lies, those are the facts. If the mayor and the citizens want to defend them and what they did in the process, I am all for that, but let’s base that defense on what was truly said and done. Otherwise it’s just another load of crap from the executive branch.
This is where the mayor goes into a rant about transparency between his office and the city council. He feels this transparency is important for the CITIZENS. Ironically he doesn’t share the same feelings about transparency when sharing details with the council or these same citizens, but he wants to require it of the council. What color is the kettle Mike?
This really ties in with the ‘threats’ of ethics violations towards councilor Stehly (or any councilor for that matter) that doesn’t fall in line with the administrations wishes. If the mayor can’t control city councilors he has his attorney threaten them with concocted ethics violations. And BTW, how are those violations coming along? Or are they only empty threats from a bully? This is why it would be important for the council to have their own attorney to advise them on ethics and other legislative matters. Sure we have a guy who uses a stamp with no recourse, a guy who makes budget number spread sheets once and awhile and another guy who is good at power point presentations but the council has no legal advisor. They had all three plus an attorney in Debra Owen, and guess what happened to her? Another victim of bullying from the executive branch.
I believe the mayor is using his city attorney to bully certain councilors into following his agenda. He believes he must control the city council by using council leadership (who don’t have a clue) and the city attorney. It has been evident who controls the city attorney when he acted as the mayor’s personal attorney during the mayor’s ethics hearing.
There is also this hypocrisy the mayor possess when it comes to being a city councilor. He claims to be a part of their group when breaking ties to get his way, but claims to not be a part of them when controversy arises over ethics. Which is it Mike? Either you are a part of the council all the way, or according to the charter simply a tie-breaker. If you were a true member of the council, you would attend all of their meetings (that’s part of that whole transparency thing you were bitching about) or not.
It’s simple, you run the operations of the city and the council is in charge of legislating it. Stop sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong, because frankly threats of ethics violations run both ways. And if that happens, I suggest you hire your own personal attorney (like Stehly had to) to defend yourself against the accusations instead of wasting taxpayers money using your (personal) city attorney.
The city isn’t a business where you are the CEO that controls everything, it has checks and balances in place. Those balances must remain unfettered, otherwise, as Dan Daily famously said at a recent public input to the council, “You can go home now, we don’t need you anymore.”
The very complicated garden of the very complicated Theresa Stehly.
For the record, I did not get approval or have told Theresa I was going to write this post about her. These are just observations I have made throughout the past week from reading FB comments, comments on news sites, letters to the editors, call in radio shows and personal conversations with private citizens and local elected officials (past and present). Hundreds of people weighing in.
Theresa is the winner in all this, as well as all the citizens that admire her as an elected official, and frankly all the citizens of this city. There is one thing I have learned over the years with my friendship with Theresa, she cares about people, and sometimes that caring can be overbearing and may look self-serving, but most people don’t have a clue about some of the charitable deeds she has done for our community that never make headlines, and that’s ok. You should always be humble about your charitable deeds (someone should clue in Denny Sanford), but sometimes as an elected official those deeds overflow into the media, that cannot be overlooked or prevented and when that happens it seems other elected officials get butt hurt over the fact that another elected official is getting the spotlight.
A couple of letters to the editor spell out Stehly on a different level;
Know always that our city councilors are here for us to answer our needs and solve our problems.
Read that carefully, that is why we have elected ‘representatives’, not elected ‘dictators’. Trust me, after following the public’s commentary on this, they are very aware of who represents them on the council, and it isn’t Rex Rolfing. Just read this letter to the editor about his treatment of his fellow peer in front of the media and public in the lobby of Carnegie Hall;
While the Council Informational Meeting presumably remained in progress, Rolfing marched out to the Carnegie lobby and inserted himself uninvited into an interview of Stehly by a local print reporter. In the ensuing verbal exchange, Rolfing made a lecturing index finger gesture in Stehly’s face and aggressively demanded she be, quote, “Quiet!”
This is no way to treat your fellow peers. What most don’t realize is that while the council chair (Rex Rolfing) may think he has a lot of power and control over the other councilors, he does not, he has two main functions as chair, he gets to go to more meetings then them (and must be the communication of those meetings to the rest of the council, basically the council’s secretary) and he chairs meetings. Other then that, his vote and stature is equal to other councilors.
Some may argue this is a ‘sexist’ issue. I am not buying that, and Stehly has never brought it up, because frankly, I think Theresa could care less if one of her fellow peers is a pig. This is cut and dry bullying.
Theresa was right to bring this issue to the surface and Rolfing was wrong to try to stifle her. As many in the public have said, and I would agree, if anyone should be brought up on ethics violations it should be Rolfing.
Theresa didn’t apologize for speaking out for the citizens, but she did apologize for ignoring the gavel;
“Today I want to apologize to you for not recognizing the decorum of the gavel,” Stehly said.
“I want to say that moving forward, I hope that we can work together with a renewed sense of peace, integrity and respect,”
I will give Theresa credit for taking the high road on this one. Can we expect an apology from the chair? I know this wasn’t easy for her, but sometimes we have to face our humility.
The timing of her apology is kind of ironic especially with all the different letters to the editor supporting her online today;
As for Councilwoman Theresa Stehly, “You go girl.” She can keep fighting for us, the voters.
We are still wondering why three other councilors made a huge change in their vote on the new city building. The only reason given was that Mayor Mike Huether would have gone ahead with his plan unethically, no matter what the vote was. To change your vote just because you will lose anyway, is neither staying with your conscience and values, nor good for good government. Those three counselors all passionately said it was a hard vote. Voting right is not hard, but making a wrong turn is hard if you have a conscience.
And one more for good measure;
I have read a few articles on what Councilwoman Theresa Stehly is doing wrong, but in reality, these articles are saying what we the people are doing wrong. Stehly is the voice for those of us who voted her in, and to date, based on many examples she is doing, what we want her to do.
The mayor finally weighs in. And as usual when you give him a microphone he can’t resist to go on.
He says that he wishes he could say what went on in the executive session. Huh? Did I miss something? You were not in the meeting, so who shared it with you? I thought those meetings were not recorded and the people in those meetings cannot share what is discussed? So who shared that information with him? Is that a violation of the executive session?
He also goes on about the attacks to the city clerk and the city attorney. He claims the city attorney doesn’t just work for him, he works for the city. That statement in itself is hilarious. When Danielson brought up ethics charges against the mayor, he couldn’t walk 100 feet to his hearing, and the city attorney stepped off the dais as the advisor to the Ethics Board and defended the mayor as his personal attorney.
As for the city clerk, that is still unresolved as far as I am concerned until a judge rules in the case tomorrow.
Once again the mayor admits to some interesting stuff over the 34 minute interview.
Since I have been writing this blog, I have been a strong advocate for open government, transparency and 1st Amendment free speech rights. I think you all know that. We may not always agree on what people have to say, but we have that right.
Theresa defended that Tuesday afternoon.
But to call Theresa a ‘Lone Wolf’ is the furthest thing from the truth. She has formed coalitions in every political activity she has been involved with. She has embraced the community and worked for them. It is no secret why Theresa is sitting on the council, because of her community involvement and sticking up for the little guy. I would call her ‘Mother Wolf’ before I would ever call her ‘Lone Wolf’.
Gawd, Rex, what the heck is wrong with you? Seriously Dude?!
Ironically, while everyone wants to blame her for the ‘drama’ if Rolfing would have just let her speak and not gaveled her (there was NOTHING confidential in what she was saying) there would have been no drama. And the chickensh*t council just sat there and let it happen. Wow!
As a citizen we have a right to transparency, the Argus Leader is in the middle of a lawsuit right now with the city over it. We talk often about transparency in our government, we get no where.
I know about the charges lobbed at Theresa (a butt hurt Chief of Police and moving chairs around Carnegie because of the 911 aniversary), they are petty, in fact not even worthy of blogging about, or an ethics charge, just prattle from perfect hair Mike.
This of course is NOT over, chickensh*ts and idiots get emboldened when they are embarrassed. They have there resources, and we have ours. You want a fight on transparency? You are going to get it. You are going to lose, big time.
First off, props to Cameraman Bruce and our credit on the video. Our cameras are always rolling.
As I argued last night at the city council meeting during public input, the city would have true value in the old building by selling it or gifting it to the Glory House;
“One of the options is to allow the Glory House to expand. The Glory House is just adjacent to this piece of property,” Starr said.
The Glory House, which helps former inmates find jobs to get back on their feet and transition back into society, is already working with a developer to tear down the old building and construct 50 to 75 affordable housing units here.
“Over 80% of the people who graduate from the Glory House have full time jobs, what they’re having difficulties with is being able to find a place to live,” Starr said.
“We’re not in the land speculating business, we’re in the human services business as far as I’m concerned,” Starr said.
As I said last night, this is truly a ‘value’ issue for taxpayers. By keeping former ex-cons out of jail, we save the taxpayers money, a lot of money. It only makes sense to sell them the property. Even Erpenbach nodded her head at me in agreement while speaking of the issue. I think this will get a majority of the council to approve this sale. Ironically, while everyone is throwing Stehly under the bus, her and Starr were the first to look into this issue.