My look at Sioux Falls city government amid the COVID-19 crisis

Guest Post, Bruce Danielson

The Mayor and City Council have a problem, a problem of credibility. We citizens are attempting to understand the ramifications of the COVID-19 crisis not only on our medical and financial health, but on the health of our democracy.

Those of us in farm country look at the local, state and national responses to the corona virus and are appalled. It reminds me of chicken butchering day at the farm. You’ve heard the expression, “they’re acting like chickens with their heads cut off?” Just like the scene in your head, our headless leaders just scrambling about. I won’t get more graphic but we are witnessing it every day as we live through this mess.

Not only were the “leaders” of our community, state and nation given ample opportunity to have plans in place to deal with this pandemic, they consistently lie about it. If they aren’t lying, they are at least placing the blame on someone else. The infamous statements of our leaders saying “I didn’t sign up for this” is prophetic. Anyone studying history, knows these things are going to happen and they must be prepared. Their lack of study, planning and structured action, convince many of us, the children running our governments are accidently preparing us for disaster. This is why we must take personal responsibility and hope we are doing enough to save our lives.

The Sioux Falls City Council meeting held on April 15, 2020, is a classic pathetic case of responsibility shifting or just plain cover-up to hide embarrassment.

The Clerk notified through email those of us of a “REVISED 04/15/20 Council Meeting Agenda Available Online” sent at 4:52pm (April 14th, 2020) highlighting an updated agenda having been posted.

There was a lot of public interest in Item #22, so let’s take a look at the “Stay at Home” ordinance. The one being discussed at the Wednesday meeting, was not the same one legally posted to the city website.  The one being discussed, was illegally on the agenda. How do I know this? I downloaded the entire meeting agenda packet, all 78 pages at 7:33pm, April 14th, 2020, 23 ½ hours before the meeting start. Remember the time stamp, it becomes important.

In my review of the bundle and discussing specifically Item 22 on page 3 of 26 (or page 52 of bundle) the “critical infrastructure sector jobs” with a City Council member, a discrepancy between our versions was discovered. My 7:33pm official public agenda download listed six different bullet points. The Councilor’s showed five, as in only 5 bullet points. The missing bullet point was:

Fitness centers and gyms, so long as they are in compliance with all ordinances, rules, and regulations relating to their operations during the COVID-19 emergency

Why is this important? What started out as a simple clerical error of cutting and pasting information into a document became a potential criminal act on the part of the City Clerk and / or the City Attorney.

Approximately 22 hours before the start of the April 15th meeting, the City Attorney and Clerk were notified of the discrepancy found in item #22 by the City Councilor. The Councilor’s unofficial red line copy and the publicly posted official packet were different. Soon after the informal notification, so a strategy to officially fixit could be planned (this is done almost every week), a different packet version was posted without the page 52 discrepancy and without explanation. Here is where it becomes potentially criminal, SDCL 1-27-1.16 clearly states:

“Material relating to open meeting agenda item to be available–Exceptions–Violation as misdemeanor. If a meeting is required to be open to the public pursuant to § 1-25-1 and if any printed material relating to an agenda item of the meeting is prepared or distributed by or at the direction of the governing body or any of its employees and the printed material is distributed before the meeting to all members of the governing body, the material shall either be posted on the governing body’s website or made available at the official business office of the governing body at least twenty-four hours prior to the meeting or at the time the material is distributed to the governing body, whichever is later.”

Granted, the mistake was likely just a simple human error, posting the wrong bullet point list. The simple clerical error could have been simply corrected with a “motion to amend” the item. It is done almost every week during City Council meetings. Why was the document replaced after 8:53pm (another download time for me)? Was it embarrassing to the City Attorney, the City Clerk and / or the administration so it needed to be changed in the middle of the night? South Dakota Law does not allow for slipping changes into documents less than 24 hours before the meeting starts. But someone criminally did it anyway. Preventing a potential embarrassment of a simple fix now becomes criminal. What were they thinking?

Remember when I said above there was a lot of public interest in Item #22? Several participants in the meeting said to me privately they noticed the missing clause and attended the meeting because of the missing bullet point between postings.

During the Public Input, I pointed out the problem already discussed and included another cut and paste error made. Again on page 52, a whereas statement was inserted:

WHEREAS, the Sioux Falls Board of Health convened an emergency meeting on April 15, 2020 and unanimously recommends approval of the “Stay at Home” Regulations

The April 14th posted document clearly states how the Board of Health already had their April 15th meeting and voted. They not only voted, but all of them voted for it. How can a public board secretly meet and hold a vote before they attend a future meeting. Via time travel maybe? How do we reconcile this “Whereas” stating action on an Item from a secret or nonexistent meeting before the actual meeting; so they could put in a “Whereas”? This Whereas could have easily been amended into the document during the meeting (once again, done all the time).

Statements were made during the Council meeting in an attempt to justify their actions or insinuate my lying about the timing of the documents I downloaded. I had a witness to my downloads, I have the time stamps of the downloads, I have the phone logs to document the timing and I know the other person also has the phone logs. The city officials must retain their upload and call logs to meet the requirements of the SDCL Chapter 3-21 Notice of Claim I am filing.

What we have during this pandemic is calamity being covered up by Revisionist History. They are now trying to say: “this is what we meant” even though “this is what we did”. Were the parties to this screw-up, lying, frustrated or upset because they got caught? As someone who has fought the battles of Sioux Falls city government falsifying documents, I work to document the interesting transgressions.

We must have an administration following laws and precedent. They are showing they cannot honestly deal with us or the facts surrounding this crisis. A final food for thought:

Walworth County Auditor Rebecca Krein was arrested for violating a state law that requires materials related to an open meeting agenda item to be made available to the public. … Violation of the law is a Class 2 misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail, a $500 fine or both. (Aberdeen American News, Oct 18, 2019)



3 comments ↓

#1 D@ily Spin on 04.16.20 at 8:51 pm

Simply, the ‘Stay at Home’ ordinance is unenforceable. I was on my way to the grocery store. I was driving around without getting out. I was picking up a nurse to give her a ride home. What a waste of time setting something irrelevant. With the present charter, anybody can beat a citation. It’s why the city attorney doesn’t take you to court. Further, the courts are clogged. What a waste of time.

Advise citizens respectfully without ridiculous unenforceable ordinances. Find them help and focus on budget and revenue. Seems simple to me.

#2 D@ily Spin on 04.16.20 at 9:00 pm

City leaders should take off their tennis shoes and put on work boots. Stop skipping. Start working. This is no longer ‘Huether Fairy Land’ where we play tennis but only indoors. This is a time of crawling through trenches not jumping over a net.

#3 Bruce on 04.18.20 at 9:27 am

A side note to item #22, could pulling it be another way of saying they screwed up publishing it and now think pulling it might stop us from filing a state Open Meetings violation? The file is getting thick with violations due their trying to slip in things that should be publicly noticed and vetted.