UPDATE: Sioux Falls Secret Study Groups and a ‘War Room’

As transparency continues to go in the toilet bowl in our city (getting worse than the last administration) we found out last night that our (uncertified and overpaid) City Clerk did not have access to city contracts that the city council has to vote on in the consent agenda. Further more, the council doesn’t have access either and are expected to ask in advance of the contracts by NOON on Monday before the meeting on Tuesday. Apparently instead of these being filed in the clerks office (where they belong) they are filed in various other departments. Besides NOT being readily available to the Clerk and City Council, the citizens should be able to go into SIRE and read these contracts online. Reminds me of the disappearing act of the Executive Orders.

But it gets even better, today Mr. Epp decided to interview Deputy COS, TJ TypeOver about transparency and specifically the secret study group. While TJ tried his damnest to argue the administration has been transparent, there was a few snags in his testimony. 1) was how this secret group will have the opportunity to bid on RFPs that may be produced from the recommendations of the study group (well isn’t that F’ing convenient);

Nelson did not say members of the study group would be barred from bidding on any Requests for Proposals that might come out of the study. However, he said anything that comes out as an RFP will be “very clear and very prescribed.” He said it would not be an “open-ended stew.”

“This group is not an advisory board in the capacity of those (official) groups,” Nelson said. “So the study group is really no different than the mayor bringing in a consultant to create a report, beacuse this group is making recommendations for the Mayor’s office.”

He keeps peddling this two-sided story that on one end they are un-important volunteers then on the other end he calls them paid consultants. So which is it? But this statement should have us all worried (not in the text of KELO’s story, audio translated);

“There are times when you just have to shut the door and get stuff done.”

He also went on to say;

“We won’t get all the facts only the ones they feel we need to see.”

I had to rewind and make sure I wasn’t hearing former Mayor Bucktooth & Bowlcut. When it comes to government, these things must be open. We are not running some race to see who can redevelop this area the fastest. Most everyone who has attempted in the past has failed. The only thing that ever manages to stay viable is private entities that are propped up by taxpayers, like the recent hotel and restaurant that was built there. And also remember, even with all the success of the Denty, we still have to subsidize the place around $10 million a year for the mortgage payment out of the 2nd Penny CIP fund (intended for roads). Ramrodding any secret plans down the throats of the citizens or city council will only result in failure. Have we learned nothing about the history of this cursed area of town?


I have often argued when you open these discussions up for public inspection, some of the best ideas and suggestions from the public can be molded and refined by the specially selected ‘study group’. I don’t have an issue with study groups or task forces, but they must be open and they must involve people with NO conflicts of interest.

So there is another group meeting on the unfinished 3rd floor of the new administration building (Transit Study group), in which the group is calling the ‘War Room’. I guess solving our transit problem in Sioux Falls is like fighting a war. Who knew?

A SouthDacola foot soldier had a recent tour of the ‘War Room’ by the recently anointed by God, Innovation Director, Jason Reisdorfer. To Jason’s credit he did tell them that he was willing to show the war room to anyone that wanted to see it (City Councilors, public, etc.). I guess it is curtains suspended by poles with hundreds of sticky notes of ideas tacked to them.

Jason said that this study group is limited to 12 directors/management that work for the city. The group is also engaged in the Harvard/Bloomberg leadership training program, and learning how to solve problems as a group is part of the training and solving the transit issues.

On the more negative side of things, it appears that the study group will not be looking at older studies or ideas from the past. They also will not be bringing in experts at this time in the field of transit (it may happen in the future).

Some other things this person observed was that they felt Jason was unaware that the city OWNS Sioux Area Transit (SAM) and it’s busses, facilities, etc. and that the outside contractor only manages the the system and it’s employees. I would think this would be an important thing to know if you were leading this group.

They also observed an idea in the ‘War Room’ that businesses may be requesting bus passes for their employees at a discounted or FREE rate to help get their low wage employees to work. There is a whole host of reasons why this is a bad idea. It only encourages businesses to continue to pay poverty wages while getting subsidized by taxpayers. If these businesses want to PAY for the passes and GIVE them to their employees, so be it, but we shouldn’t be subsidizing a private industry so they have bigger profit margins by tapping into a low wage workforce by giving them free bus rides to work.

I asked a city councilor today if they knew about the ‘War Room’ and they said they were unaware, but I was told by another person today that the Argus did this story about it.

I’m not sure why the contracts are being withheld from the public, or what the EC Campus study group will be discussing or what the transit/leadership group is up to, but it’s time we let a little sunshine in on Sioux Falls city government, or I’m afraid it’s going to get very dark for our citizens.

UPDATE: On Facebook today Mayor TenHaken clarified that 15 city employees are going thru a leadership program administered thru the USD Beacom School of Business. The program is called ‘ONWARD’. Not sure if this is tied to the Transit group.


#1 The Un-Affiliated Progressive on 02.13.19 at 7:59 pm

Just remember! There is no fighting in the War Room!

#2 Indy on 02.13.19 at 9:00 pm

Here we go again
Can you point out a city ordinance the provides clarity on all these ethics or is this the “southdacola” requirements? It would be really helpful to have some clarity regarding the standards. Who gets to decide what is transparent? You say it’s not transparent and others have no issue with it. Who gets to decide?

The mayor has full authority to have study groups and get input from whoever he wants before he brings a proposal to the council. There will be a first and second reading allowing for public input.

#3 l3wis on 02.13.19 at 11:14 pm

So as long as the trains are running on time, the public doesn’t have a right to know why they are running on time?


#4 "Very Stable Genius" on 02.14.19 at 12:58 am

War Room?…. Is war inevitable with Sioux City, and will Potsdam then come to our rescue?

(especially at 02:55)


#5 Bruce on 02.14.19 at 8:54 am

First off, if we do not study history we are doomed to repeat it. Somebody said this a while back but who in the war room cares, right?

I actually understand the idea of taking a fresh look at problems and looking for solutions, but to lock the keepers of knowledge out of the process is extremely wrong.

Now to the other point of what we have discovered in this article.

Indy, your question is not only covered in the Home Rule Charter Ethics section, it is covered in various state laws.

The Open Meetings and Open Records Laws are actually quite clear. All city records are available for public inspection except for personnel, health, some contract negotiations, security and a few more sensitive areas. History shows the fight for this information comes when someone has might have something to hide.

There are no top secret categories set aside for stupidity protection. We only have prosecutors refusing to help citizens press the issues necessary to open up the records.

Remember, The Argus Leader had to spend their resources to fight our battle to get the secret million bucks vs million dollars EC siding settlement of our former mayor.

Also consider, the Argus Leader won this case for us so we could prove we were right. We also found out there were possible billing misdeeds no one has been investigated for.

The former mayor gave away our EC building warranty and at least $450,000 to the Minneapolis builder while defaming a respected local contractor. In this process, they took the building’s savings account to double pay for contracted roofing work. Our former mayor gave his friends from Minneapolis an extra $450,000 they were supposed to have paid out of their Construction Manager At Risk, Guaranteed Maximum Price contact. This was done to try and quietly get rid of a pesky mechanic’s lien causing the former mayor an embarrassment and the possible exposure of the double payment.

Crappy siding is one thing but the uncovered lies (conspiracy) with over payments are another.

This is only one of the transgressions we have found when the books got forced open. What will we find as more things open up, secret committees, secret deals, secret slush funds? In this situation we don’t now know, but when we do, we will ask the transparency questions again.

Shame on us if we get sucked into more secret schemes again.

#6 D@ily Spin on 02.14.19 at 10:20 am

The root of this issue is Strong Mayor Charter. There are serious signs of an inside monopoly on city contracts with RICO repercussions. The SD Attorney General looks the other way. It’s time for an unencumbered FBI intervention. They were in town during Huether.

#7 The Un-Affiliated Progressive on 02.14.19 at 12:22 pm


#8 Bruce on 02.14.19 at 2:51 pm

Trump = Twitter
Tenhanken = Facebook?

No filters?

#9 PizzaBoy on 02.14.19 at 7:44 pm

This blog gets worked up about the stupidest issues.

Even a lowly pizza delivery boy like me knows they’re working on this stuff, I’d be pretty concerned with a city councilor that wasn’t aware of the transit room. That would be a fairly disconnected person representing us. Would be nice to know who it is so I could make a better choice next election

#10 l3wis on 02.14.19 at 7:57 pm

PB- So how many pizzas have you delivered there? Or is that a secret to? No surprise that JR’s choice of food delivery to the group would be pizza 🙂 it is one of his fields of expertise.

#11 LJL on 02.14.19 at 8:19 pm

So do all city employees have the opportunity to attend this education or is city admin playing favorites.

I’d say the EEOE needs to look into the mayors practices.

#12 Bruce on 02.15.19 at 7:46 am

Pizza Boy, this is the transparency we are talking about.

How would a city councilperson know about a secret committee being trained to do things in secrecy located on a supposedly empty 3rd floor of a secure building?

When accidentally caught, the officials claim it is open to the public and council to review? How is this review accomplished if no one knows anything about it? The only ones who know are the ones sworn to secrecy? How is this transparency?

In the words of the DCOS, the public won’t get all the facts, only the ones they feel we need to see.

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