The City of SF found in violation of the open meetings laws

(Image: KSFY-TV Screenshot)

I was at the hearing/meeting today of the Open Meetings Commission, which involved the termination of city clerk Debra Owen. It was probably one of the most interesting public meetings I have ever attended. At one point, the crowd applauded the AL’s attorney, Jon Arneson after his opening statements. And there was a lot of audible snickering anytime David Fiddle-Faddle from the city would say something.

According to KSFY, the commission still has to decide punishment;

The South Dakota Open Meeting Commission says the city of Sioux Falls violated state open meetings laws when it fired former city clerk Debra Owen last fall.

The city will be formally reprimanded once the commission gets more information from both lawyers involved.

I think the vote was 4-1 in favor of violation. I had to leave before the final vote.

Stormland-TV also covered the event.

I congratulate the Argus Leader and Debra Owen for the victory, even though, once again, like the violation against Dr. Staggers, too little, too late. Debra is still terminated, and the public still does not know why.



#1 l3wis on 03.08.12 at 9:51 pm

Speaking of the media, and coverage. I had a South DaCola foot soldier tell me they attended the open house of Sanford’s Heart Hospital, and Huether and Randell Beck of the Argus Leader were in warm embrace when they greeted each other. Wonder if Beck is coming along on the chislic feed in Parker with Jorgensen?

#2 Shrimp Taco on 03.08.12 at 10:53 pm

May not be too little, too late after all – at least in one respect. KELO had a fantastic story at 10pm tonight with The Velvet Hammer calling for the firing of The Fife and O’Toole. Monday night’s council meeting will be one for the DVR!

I’ll post a link as soon as they put it on their web site. In the meantime, this classic reminds me a little of this whole fiasco. Enjoy:

#3 l3wis on 03.08.12 at 10:58 pm

I heard about the Hammer. Hilarious.

#4 Shrimp Taco on 03.08.12 at 11:04 pm

Here you go:

I don’t get Karsky’s quote. He was overheard bragging about the firing just days after. Now he’s trying to run the other way? Man up.

#5 Scott on 03.08.12 at 11:06 pm

Karsky doesn’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

#6 Detroit Lewis on 03.09.12 at 5:33 am

Funny how KELO has NO video of the interview, as of yet.

KSFY does:

Also KDLT:

I think Brown, Jamison and Anderson should have walked out of that meeting and never participated. I think they probably look back now and wished they did. I don’t give the hammer many kudos, but I say bravo to his KELO interview. Of course it is easy to be critical when you already have one foot out the door.

#7 cr on 03.09.12 at 6:30 am

Greg Jamison was the ONLY Councilor who had the courage to show up at the Open Meeting Commission meeting yesterday.


Sue Aguilar
Jim Entenman
Michelle Erpenbach
Dean Karsky
Rex Rolfing

#8 l3wis on 03.09.12 at 6:49 am

It did take a lot of courage to come to that meeting. Watch the KSFY interview. The council really did get bad legal advice. Business Acumen I guess, twist your interpretation of the law to fit your (capital) needs.

Funny how this was all a big ‘secret’ to protect Owen’s reputation. Yet I knew about it the day before, and was told about it by a prominent journalist in town. In fact, an internal memo (that I am still trying to get my hands on) went out about the leak on DaCola. This was about protecting their asses (the council, the mayor, Bill O’Toole, the attorney’s office). I hope in the coming days the whole story comes out.

#9 l3wis on 03.09.12 at 6:51 am

Remember, this is the same crew that sold us the Events Center.

#10 Anooner on 03.09.12 at 8:04 am

The line about protecting her privacy is BS. Is that why they called in the cops? Also bs Brenner waffling on “official action”. Can’t believe they came out of executive session and moved simply to do what was dicussed in executive – and not say what that is. They didn’t need to tell us the why, but they did need to tell us the who. An AG’s opinion is not law. Not sure what Pfiefle is taking about as it still being “good” If you are not sure something is an official action, you better start with the presumption that it is.

Here is the question I have: When you get smacked by the Velvet Hammer is it any less painful?

#11 Sy on 03.09.12 at 8:53 am

That look on Owen’s face in ths screen shot says it all.

Congrats to her and the AL on their victory.

#12 Alice15 on 03.09.12 at 9:19 am

And now we may have a little notion of why Owen has been silent for so long.

I have one question. Why does the Mayor get off scott free in this deal? Yes it was a council issue of which in my mind the almighty should have NEVER been present – but he was. He participated, and from what I heard, he participated quite loudly. Why is he sipping a pina colada in this deal? Can we fire him too? 🙂

#13 Dan Daily on 03.09.12 at 9:41 am

I was there and have a few comments.

First, Debra is an attractive woman. Pictures don’t do her justice. Her husband was attentive and running interference. They’re a representative Sioux Falls couple.

Second, the Argus came out from their usual city support. Except for appearing, Debra was not a party here. The Argus hardly gains. They stood up for citizens and democracy.

Third, Debra was not a civil service employee. Her firing was a civil procedure. City of Sioux Falls civil procedures are unconstitutional per Circuit Court Case #08-2478. They’ve not amended ordinances. Her firing was illegal and I hope she files and wins a 7 figures lawsuit.

#14 Dan Daily on 03.09.12 at 9:45 am

Jamison was there. I was impressed. Takes nerve. Hereafter, there’s one councilor I shall respect.
Staggers was there also.

#15 Analog Kid on 03.09.12 at 11:35 am

I rarely turn on the TV and happen to catch this last night. Was so glad to see people stepping up to shed light on these scumbags. Debra is an attractive woman but this photo shows her to have aged a bit through this deal.
Seems the city is only comfortable with the clipped haired type such as that Michelle broad.

#16 Detroit Lewis on 03.09.12 at 1:07 pm

That is a bad photo, she looked great, as usual, I was sitting right next her. Her husband did a great job comforting her, he made some pretty good wisecracks that I could hear.

I think the velvet has been removed from the hammer, here is Vernon’s video:

#17 scott on 03.09.12 at 5:32 pm

I hear their punishment will be no tv during the next council meeting.

#18 mhs on 03.10.12 at 7:05 pm

Local politics aside, the so called “open meetings commission” is a farce. No appointive, quasi-judicial body has the power to discipline, fine or judge lawfully elected officials. This sop to the MSM is violative of pretty much every major tenant of elective democracy and separation of power. A “man up” here would be for some local official to tell the commission to take a hike and rightfully refuse to recognize it as having any legitimacy.

#19 anominous on 03.10.12 at 7:13 pm

I know you’ll do your best to protect the firm. Won’t you, David.

#20 l3wis on 03.10.12 at 9:54 pm

I agree, it is kind of is a dog and pony show. They basically tell someone, “You did something wrong, but carry on, because we have no power to do anything about it.”

#21 mhs on 03.11.12 at 9:05 am

If we were serious, and we should be, put the process in the courts before a judge, where it should have been in the first place. The law is confusing because there is no law: the courts aren’t given the opportunity to interpret it or create precedent somebody can rely on.

#22 cr on 03.11.12 at 11:46 am

I will never forget that September day in 2011……..

Waiting for almost two hours in the room outside the Council Chambers………….

along with several other citizens, the Argus Leader and KELO to hear the fate of a well-respected, high profile city employee.

Finally, when the Council went back into public session to announce their decision, I was shocked at not only what had just happened, but the way in which the entire process was cloaked in COMPLETE SECRECY!!!!

Then to hear later that evening that the media had been removed from Carnegie.

Sioux Falls….. All of this took place in the people’s town hall………….your town hall!!!!

And, this is why what happened at the South Dakota Open Meetings Commission meeting last Friday is so important to every citizen!

Now, today, to read in Sunday’s Argus Leader quotes from our city’s leader, Mayor Mike Huether………..

“The Council cares about transparency as much as I do. They’re not trying to hide anything.”

He also said the Commission’s action does not cast doubt on his own commitment or the Council’s to open government.

He went on to suggest the personnel ethics followed in the corporate world with regard to the sensitive matter of firings should trump open government laws.

So, what exactly is our Mayor saying……

that his personal opinion should trump that of the members of the South Dakota Open Meeting Commission, who BTW, voted 4 to 1 to reprimand the City of Sioux Falls.

“It doesn’t happen in private business, and it sure as heck shouldn’t happen in city government either,” he said of bringing public scrutiny to employee terminations.

He went on to urge Council members “who want to spend all their time being negative and find crap in our city to stay away from me.” Although, he did not name Councilor Brown, this is who he is referring to. It is Brown who has suggested that City Attorney David Pfeifle be fired for his legal recommendation that led to the open meeting complaint.

As a citizen of the United States and a resident of Sioux Falls, I say that all of you………

Mayor Mike Huether

City Attorney David Pfeifle

Councilor Sue Aguilar

Councilor Kenny Anderson Jr.

Councilor Vernon Brown

Councilor Jim Entenman

Councilor Michelle Erpenbach

Councilor Greg Jamison

Councilor Dean Karsky

Councilor Rex Rolfing

are responsible for what happened on that dark day in the people’s town hall!!!!!!

#23 scott on 03.11.12 at 4:06 pm

“He went on to urge Council members “who want to spend all their time being negative and find crap in our city to stay away from me.” Although, he did not name Councilor Brown, this is who he is referring to.”

and yet vern will do all he can to make sure de knudson gets elected to rubber stamp everything mmm does. go figure.

#24 l3wis on 03.12.12 at 10:45 am

If I had one constructive criticism about Vern, is that he is a flip-flopper.

#25 Using Entertainment taxes for private entity setting a bad precedent — South DaCola on 06.28.19 at 3:46 pm

[…] years ago, former city clerk Debra Owen won an open meetings case over how her termination was handled. During the proceedings, City Attorney David Fiddle-Faddle argued his case based on the opinion of […]