Chamber: Calling out Karsky’s conflict of interest is laughable, but nobody is laughing

Well got to hand it to the Chamber, they were quick to respond to me, in a very nice NON public passive aggressive way, (which I expected) with an email story to their members;

During the Council’s public input session, the Council’s constant commentator Scott Ehrisman maintained that Councilor Dean Karsky should recuse himself from any Council agenda item that includes any member of the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce since he is now a Board member. As is typical, councilors do not respond to the public input sessions.  It seems, however, we should.

Yes, the councilors don’t respond because they don’t give a rat’s ass what a citizen has to say, just the big wheels in town, you know, like Chamber Members. So instead of Karsky or a city attorney responding in a official public meeting, which would have been the appropriate place to do so, the Chicken Little Chamber does it in an email to their members. You must be so proud of their defense Dean. Did you help them type the email?

The comments seem to show an incredible lack of understanding of the nature and role of citizen-composed legislative bodies that are so vital to our state’s history and current function.  Conflicts of interest are inherent in the way we do business, but a conflict is not synonymous with impropriety. The state constitution deals with the issue in Article 3 Section 12 where it prohibits state legislators from having an interest in any contract with the state authorized by any law passed during their term. That makes sense; you can’t authorize a contract or appropriate money for your own gain.  However, in our legislature, farmers vote on ag issues; teachers vote on educational issues; bankers vote on banking issues; and so on. We expect them to and we have the choice to remove them if they abuse their power.

Oh, so when the city charter doesn’t fit your loophole rule book, you run to state law. This is what the city charter says about the issue; Section 35.053 CONFLICTS OF INTEREST; CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS.

Typically, conflict of interest issues rise to the level of impropriety when a public official uses his or her office for personal gain or benefit. Councilor Karsky has noted that he would be willing to recuse himself from votes that affect the Chamber specifically. While a noble thing to do, that’s probably not even necessary. But, to maintain that an improper conflict of interest exists whenever a Chamber member has an issue before the Council and Councilor Karsky votes on it is not just a stretch, it’s somewhat laughable.

The only thing that is laughable is how Dean’s position on the Chamber Board is defended, in an email from the Chamber, not from the city attorney’s office. Secondly, this is more about ethical behavior not if what Dean is doing is legal or not, it is perfectly legal in South Dakota to be unethical. We expect our public officials to have integrity, by serving on both boards, it shows Karsky lacks integrity and the ethics to serve the public. I would much rather he resigned from the city council, the Chamber can have him. But if you do keep him on the board, you should probably try to spell his name correctly. Heck you figured out how to spell mine.

Farmers Insurance Group/Karksy Agency


#1 Karksy on 11.11.14 at 7:24 am

Mr Karksy needs to answer questions not let the Chamber do his talking. He has been selling insurance for Farmers Insurance for many years to the point of owning the agency.

Who are his customers?
Are any of his customers members of the chamber?
Does he recruit new customers because of his position on the council?
Do any of his new customers buy insurance from him because of his two positions?
Does he currently recuse himself from decisions touching his customers?

If his customers do well, they may buy more insurance from him. Does he not see the potential conflicts of interest?

#2 Enough of shape places and mmm legacy on 11.11.14 at 8:58 am

I for one am tired of how he has voted on the council and lack of respect for citizens and taxpayers. I think these guys love the ego fix and it needs to stop. I have never felt so much negativity when at the council meeting and the greed factor when Lloyd stands in the back of the room dictating how votes are to go. Sad for Sioux Falls even sadder if it continues as it has the past 5years

#3 hornguy on 11.11.14 at 10:33 pm

You have an expansive definition of conflict of interest that almost certainly exceeds anything a court would ever infer from the language that exists. Having read this post and others, your standard would mean that a citizen legislator that is eligible to vote on 100% of what comes before the body would have to live under a rock. And even then, he better hope that there’s no discussion of landscaping because you’d allege his living under a rock disqualifies him from voting.

The standard laid out is fairly common – direct or indirect financial interest. Membership in a community organization like the Chamber creates no conflict for Karsky.

But as is too often the case, you leave yourself all the wiggle room you want to be critical by saying “well, it doesn’t matter what the law actually says, it matters what I think is ethical.” You attempt to insulate yourself from criticism by disregarding any objective or legal standard as irrelevant.

Except as we’ve seen with your history regarding the south side Walmart – 69th and Cliff, neighbors can suck it, 85th and Minnesota, whatever Bonita wants should rule – you often fail to adhere to a consistent internal standard on these matters as well. Your argument would be easier to take seriously if you actually showed some commitment to internal consistency on these subjective claims.

I get that you think Karsky sucks, and you’re entitled to your opinion. But constantly suggesting that the guy is unethical because he votes on matters that directly or indirectly effect any one of hundreds of businesses that happen to share a community affiliation with Karsky – jeez, I hope he doesn’t vote on anything that affects members of his church, or parents of his kid’s friends, or that restaurant he ate at last night and really likes.

You do a lot of great work on this blog. Hell, I don’t even live in Sioux Falls anymore but I still get a kick out of popping a few times a week just to see who you’re skewering. But stuff like this just seems a little cheap.

#4 l3wis on 11.12.14 at 8:38 am

I see your point Hornguy and it is noted. I guess the way I look at it is as an integrity issue. I just don’t think Karsky should be serving on a Board while he is chairing the council. I felt the same about Entenman when he sat on the Sanford board. I just think being a member is different then being a board member. I also think since the taxpayers of SF are paying Dean to be a councilor, he should focus on that. The guy can’t even get council staffer names and titles correct, what makes him think he can serve on to boards and run a business? He is being used as a pawn by the chamber and the mayor, that’s it. Look at the shingle permitting issue, failed hard.