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.”
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.
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.
Their “top 10” included how the proposed plan for the $115 million facility is to borrow 100 percent of the money, how there are no signed tenants for the proposed facility and examples of city projects that could potentially be cut in order to make the annual loan payment of $9 million after the facility is built.
“Our goal is to put everyone on the same playing field, except the pawn shop owners.”
Here we go again, our constitutionally inept city council with the help of the SFPD and a laundry list of consultants have decided that pawn shops, flea markets and antique dealers should be treated differently then other business owners;
The main concern is that a third-party private company will have their customer records and officials are able to view them without a warrant, she said.
Industry members proposed their own ordinance, which would require a warrant for law enforcement officials to be able to look at store records.
Twenty-one Sioux Falls businesses have signed off on the industry’s alternative proposal.
What’s one more ordinance on the books in Sioux Falls that violates the US Constitution? We gotta keep our city attorneys busy. It’s kinda boring when they only have one constitutional lawsuit going at a time. (currently they have lawsuits against them on code enforcement, red light cameras and sewer backups that occurred during the Munson administration.)
But as usual, Vernon has a great excuse;
Councilor Vernon Brown said the new ordinance is by no means extreme, especially compared with other states.
“The pawn industry is able to be regulated according to the courts for consumer protection.”
Who gives a rat’s ass what other states are doing? It’s blatantly unconstitutional. But you seem to want to roll the dice and see if the courts will rule in the ordinance’s favor. That is silly. Why put ourselves in that position? Councilor Anderson is the only one to stand up to the ordinance (ITEM #52 • FF to 1:50)
Instead of trying to find out who is selling stolen Sublime CD’s maybe you should be trying to catch casino thieves.
“Today when we fund the zoo, it’s coming out of our general fund, which would normally fund street repairs, police and things like that. Philosophically, the zoo should be funded with an entertainment tax,” city council member Vernon Brown said.
Philosophically it SHOULD NOT BE FUNDED BY ANY TAXES! Vernon will fight tooth and nail to not provide a service like snowgates (even though a majority of taxpayers support there use) then turn around and complain that the zoo isn’t getting there ‘piece of their (Banana Creme) pie.’
It’s time to get the zoo off of the city’s books and hand it over to a private non-profit. I would even suggest that the city gifts the property to them, and cut our losses. Is the Zoo good for our community? Yes. Should we fund it? No.
The original story was about recent shakeups at City Hall, including replacing the City Attorney (Maybe Todd Epp will apply, heard he needs a job 🙂 But the story ends with a little tit-for-tat between Mike and Vernon;
Councilor Vernon Brown, who ran against Huether for mayor, said time will tell.
“It’s too soon to tell on how the communication will go,” he said.
Brown is more concerned about the secrecy of Huether’s transition team.
On Monday, Huether said he would not name the group of people who are helping him choose directors because personnel matters are a confidential process.
“I really would encourage him to let the voters know who’s advising him. I think a transition team is very important and should be open and transparent,” Brown said.
Brown said he also has heard from residents who were concerned about Huether not revealing the names.
“I don’t expect there were a lot of citizens who were concerned. I suspect the person who was concerned was Mr. Brown,” Huether said.
This pains me, but I have a feeling I will be siding with Vernon quite a bit in the coming days. Trust me Mike, many citizens and people in the media are concerned about you not being transparent about your transition team, when you are promising transparency. You can’t have it both ways. Munson understood that, and simply just withheld information from the public. Keep talking out of both sides of your mouth and find out where it gets you.
Rumor has it that former city planner, Steve Metli is one of the members of the transition team, no wonder he wants to keep it a secret. If this is true, I find it ironic that a mayor that preaches change would bring in someone from the OLD GUARD.
It seems not only does the Gargoyle Leader have to put Staggers down, Stormland-TV news cannot resist either. At their six-o-clock news it was clear that Kermit had won their poll, but instead of presenting those results they showed Vernon as having the top favorable rating;
Not only is this misleading, it borders on deception and libel. Doesn’t matter if you like Oklahoma State or Nebraska, it only matters who wins. Kermit won the poll, the poll you paid for. I like Santa Claus, doesn’t mean I would elect him to mayor.
This election is about qualifications, something your editors, news directors, camera men, photographers, journalists and probably janitors lack. You are pathetic source of news and you wonder why day in and day out people tune out the news? Because you try to influence instead of inform. In these last 12 days, I beg you to report the news, as is. In fact, I challenge you, because it seems you struggle with it.
As a blogger, it is MY job to influence, not inform. But it seems now days I’m the one that has to put the truth out there. How sad coming from a guy who does it in his underware while listening to his I-Pod.
Get out your feather boas and unicorn saddles, because Sweet Vernon ‘The Velvet Hammer’ Brown is in the HOUSE!
While I have been telling you over the past, oh, I don’t know, 3 years that Kermit is the man, I came to the realization that we need someone sensitive in the mayor’s seat, and Vernon is the man. NOT KERMIT. Who else has;
• Taken taxpayer money to bailout the zoo
• Flip-flopped on tax increases (cuz, god dammit, those developers need help)
• Talked about how adorable his daughter is one too many f’ing times.
• Cries about not having an indoor pool on a daily basis.
• Deletes blog comments on his site.
• Claims to be a fiscal conservative while advocating a million dollar rhino barn and flamingo shed.
I could go on an on about all of his experience as a KELO-TV jokalist and a marketing manager for some communications outfit, but why bore you with his inexperience? Just vote for Vernon, and he will read you a bedtime story on Channel 16 every night and tuck you in while a silhouette of an American Flag waves in the background. Don’t hold back, vote with your heart, not with you head.
Give me your thoughts on this latest Vernon Brown postcard . . .
I will give you my quick thoughts; I do not respect any politician that uses their children as political props, in fact, I consider it desperate. I will give props to Costello, Peterson and Staggers for not dragging their kids into this. Sure, they mention them, but don’t use them in marketing materials. That is a good thing. Your resume should speak for itself.