Sioux Falls City Councilor Brekke is asking for an ‘Ethics’ opinion, NOT a ‘Constitutional’ opinion

As you can see in her advisory request (VIEW DOC), Brekke is simply asking is if it is within the council’s ethics cannon to publicly support, give money, throw fundraising parties for, etc. to candidates.

But Brekke said she wants the ethics board to square that with the canons of ethics in charter that say public officials “should avoid the appearance of impropriety in all his or her activities,” limit their “extra-governmental activities to minimize the risk of conflict with his or her official duties,” and “refrain from political activity inappropriate to his or her office.”

I’m glad she is asking because there seems to be a fine line. But let’s make this clear, I agree with Erickson;

Erickson also said participating in politics by supporting candidates is a First Amendment right that belongs to all Americans, including public officials.

It is well within a councilor’s constitutional rights to support other candidates, but just because something is legal or constitutional doesn’t mean it is ‘ethical’ and that that is what Brekke is asking here.

Personally, I could care less either way, I’m a big supporter of Freedom of Speech and I don’t think those rights go away once you are elected. If you don’t have a problem with looking like a big shot by throwing a fundraising party for a candidate, go for it. Visually, I don’t think it makes you look good, but hey, you have that right. Just like people have a right to come to public input and call the the previous mayor a SOB . . . twice. Doesn’t look great, but within your rights.

I just found it funny how another blog (who comments on Sioux Falls city politics a lot lately while being in a town 40 some miles away) doesn’t understand that Brekke is asking for an ‘ETHICS’ opinion from the ‘ETHICS’ Board. She isn’t asking whether or not it is legal. But of course, this is the same blogger who quit his cushy state job due to his ‘UNETHICAL’ behavior, while AG Jackboots cleared him of ‘Not Stealing’ from the state. Go Figure. Remember, there is a difference between, morality, ethics, and laws. Sometimes they don’t always align. Just look at who is running our country (into the cold, cold ground).

*Not worth the time, but I did get a chuckle out of Mayor Selfie’s comment on the matter;

“I’m choosing to stay focused on larger matters like crime, addiction, infrastructure, housing and economic development.”

Really? You better start focusing a little bit harder on that bro.


#1 Pundit on 02.13.20 at 8:52 pm

Christine Erickson is a sitting Councilor who’s made an endorsement of – and contribution to – a candidate campaigning for the seat of her fellow incumbent City Councilor Stehly, who is eligible to seek reelection for a second consecutive term. Mayor Paul Tenhaken’s PAC contributed to the campaigns of current Councilors Selberg and Neitzert, both up for reelection this year. These are situations of elected officials attempting to influence an election with cash contributions to manipulate the current makeup of the very government body in which they are mid-term members – Erickson’s fundraising/donation to unseat a fellow Councilor, and Tenhaken’s contributions to keep incumbent Councilors in office.

In contrast, when then-Councilor Dr. Kermit Staggers made an endorsement on campaign mailers sent by then-candidate Stehly in 2016, Staggers was supporting a citizen candidate seeking election to an open Council seat, not a challenger to a fellow Councilor’s seat. When Councilor Stehly made a contribution to then-candidate Brekke in 2018, Stehly was contributing to a citizen candidate who also was seeking election to an open Council seat, not a challenger to a fellow Councilor’s seat. When incumbent Councilors Starr and Erpenbach gave verbal support to mayoral candidate Jolene Loetscher in 2018, they were endorsing a citizen candidate for an open office, not a challenger to an incumbent mayor.

The Council Code of Ethics call into question a distinction between these differing scenarios.

As for Tenhaken’s opinion on election ordinances or an ethics inquiry…that’s irrelevant. The City Charter makes it clear: The City Council is the legislative body of the City. The Council is responsible for setting City policy through ordinances and resolutions. Conversely, the Mayor is the Administrative Head of City government, responsible for the day-to-day operations of the City. PTH has it partially right – he should instead be attending to “…matters like crime, addiction, infrastructure, housing and economic development”, which aren’t larger or more important (as he implies) than the policy responsibilities of City Councilors – but DIFFERENT.

The late Warren Bennis – scholar, author, Leadership Studies pioneer – made astute observations on leadership which are relevant:

“The manager administers; the leader innovates. The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why. The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it. Leaders are people who do the right thing; managers are people who do things right. Leaders do not avoid, repress, or deny conflict, but rather see it as an opportunity.“

In this cast of players, it’s pretty clear which person has real leadership qualities.

#2 Watcher on 02.14.20 at 7:21 am

There is a big difference between ethics and a law. The law sets a minimum legal standard.

Most of us strive to meet the law to stay out of legal trouble.

Most of us strive to be moral based on our upbringing or life experiences.

Ethics is keeping in mind the law as a minimum and adding our moral judgements to work toward the goal of being better.

Ethics is the shinning light on the horizon we are working to get to.

We have many laws we probably wouldn’t need if our society strived for the ethical instead of needing to set a low bar by creating a law.

We have a mayor and several city council people who think if they meet the minimum standard or law they are just fine. Believing they can cheat their way down to the point of meeting the law but claiming they are moral is just a way to pretend they are ethical.

#3 "Very Stable Genius" on 02.14.20 at 4:40 pm

So, if these were partisan races, then it would be ethical, but because these are non-partisan races, it’s unethical to support a particular candidate while being a sitting political officer yourself?

Don’t the Republicans and Democrats in Washington have House and Senatorial political committees, which raise funds to use against their colleagues of the opposing party?

What’s the difference? Is it the partisan element that makes it ethical and the non partisan element that makes it unethical?

Is a non partisan race to be void of politics? And how would that work, and can it work?

When Frist campaigned in Rapid for Thune back 2004 against Daschle, it was claimed that Frist broke Senate rules, or protocol, by publicly campaigning against a fellow leader of the Senate, who happen to be of the opposing party. Yet, at the same time, both Frist and Daschle were overseeing Senate partisan fundraising efforts to defeat conceivably a leader up for election, or in this case, Daschle in 2004.

So, even partisan races have, or did have, a concern for protocol, and thus ethics? Yet, a means to side-step all of this from the start.

This issue appears to be a political football, where only the distinction between partisan and non partisan lend it any credence, but then how does that game work? Is it really an ethical question, or one of protocol, and given the age we now live in is protocol still in vogue, sadly I ask?

( – and Woodstock adds: “Wow!”…. “But, it’s Friday, I think I’m just going to go order a pizza and not worry about it”….)

#4 Moses6 on 02.14.20 at 6:26 pm

Lets hope Theresa runs and wins, some one who watches out for us compared to the others on the council.

#5 Erica on 02.15.20 at 10:18 am

Moses6, agree. We need more Theresa Stehly’s (and Pat Starr) on the council.

#6 anonymous on 02.19.20 at 9:44 am

When is this hearing?