Sioux Falls Board of Ethics, April 25, 2019

Surprise, surprise Sioux Falls government ethics is in question. The Sioux Falls Board of Ethics was asked what should have been a simple question by City Councilor Theresa Stehly on April 25, 2019.

Can a developer, who is planning a major downtown project where they will be pitching a $24 million tax break, host a food and booze event without an ethics violation being levied against the invited city officials?

Anything can be can be questioned if it has de Minimis or nominal value. Even if there is no minimum or maximum value, if there is no minimum or maximum time period, it can be an ethical conflict. If dots can be shown or perceived or the optics can make it look bad, it is an ethical conflict. These have been the rulings in two previous decisions of the Board of Ethics.

What we learned in this meeting, apparently this does not apply to City Council or department staff if a developer wants to wine and dine the right people.

This was a preemptive advisory request by Stehly, not a post event ethics violation she was asking the Board to rule on.

The Board decided, since there is no “crime” yet, there was nothing they could do to preemptively advise the people in their jurisdiction to not attend the heavy food and alcoholic drink event designed to soften the $24 million TIF request.

The previous ruling requests were preemptive in nature, so was this one. Explain this to the cops and librarians, how South Dakota has only ethics laws affecting them (kind of).


#1 Blasphemo on 04.26.19 at 1:15 pm

Interesting to note that one member of the Ethics Committee spoke up, adding her personal experience in similar event planning is that a “heavy appetizers” catering cost is $26.00 PER PERSON – an OPEN BAR IS ADDITIONAL. This is much more than a HyVee Deli cold cuts & cheese platter w/ free Kool Aid. That Committee Member’s contribution provided a hint of objectivity and validation of the question being brought before the Committee. Unfortunately, once again the Ethics Committee as a body seems to default to a “what we can’t do” or “why we can’t do it” posture in the discharge of their duties. When is the last time they have ever rendered a judgement of a potential or actual ethics violation?!!

#2 "Very Stable Genius" on 04.26.19 at 2:48 pm

For future reference, an other thing that works is to just go to court to get a stay against a law that impedes your abiity as a elected official to party with lobbyists. (Oh, and it might help to find a past partisan judge, too.)

How do we know this? Well, it’s how the GOP got rid of IM22, so that the following November they could attend the annual Chamber event with fellow legislators and lobbyist without any legal trouble.





#3 Matthew Paulson on 04.26.19 at 4:36 pm

I know we don’t pay our politicians amazingly, but who really thinks $26.00 worth of food is going to change someone’s vote? (I doubt it’s even that high though).

#4 l3wis on 04.26.19 at 4:43 pm

MP – once again you miss the point and obviously didn’t listen to discussion. Last year the Ethics board said the SFPD could not receive $10 gift cards. The value isn’t the issue, it’s the giving of gifts to begin with.

#5 Bruce on 04.27.19 at 10:10 am

The board really had a simple decision to make. The tour good, a party to sway officials with food and booze: bad.

#6 D@ily Spin on 04.27.19 at 10:42 am

A hearing isn’t that long. Just go without refreshments. Problem solved

#7 Public Perception on 04.30.19 at 2:38 pm

I was at this hearing.

They may not have ruled this an ethics violation, but the Chair of the Ethics Board sent a strong message to all City Councilors.

He warned them to be aware of public perception regarding Conflict of Interest, and strongly encouraged them NOT to attend the 5 o’clock event.

Scott, I hope you will post the names of those Councilors who choose to attend the 5 o’clock food and booze event. And, did they have a quorum?

BTW, four of the Councilors are potentially up for re-election (if they choose to run) in just a matter of months. Neitzert, Selberg, Starr, Stehly

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