Councilor Neitzert could end the ethics circus

As we all know by now, Councilor Greg Neitzert is in the center of an ethics challenge. Let’s recap;

• While Greg was at a partisan political event in Texas he decided to email the entire council about the trip. Mind you, he did this WHILE attending the event, NOT before. He also didn’t ask his colleagues in advance if they thought it was OK to attend an event paid for by the event sponsor. And here is the kicker, he still has NOT given a written or oral report to the entire council of what he learned.

• A citizen, John Cunningham obtained a copy of the email Greg sent. Which, BTW, was not marked confidential and sent to the councilors official email addresses. In other words, public property. Anyone had a right to read or obtain a copy of the email.

• As understand the situation, Mr. Cunningham was so upset about the blatant ethics and code violation, he filed a complaint to the Board of Ethics. Unfortunately, he filed the complaint siting the chapter in ordinance that pertains to city employees and NOT elected officials. Instead of the BOE correcting the chapter mistake at the first hearing by simply making a motion, they threw it out, so John had to refile it with the correct reference.

• Neitzert asked for confidentiality in the matter from the beginning, I assume because he was running for re-election. Since the City attorney had a conflict, they used outside independent counsel. Which has cost the taxpayers around $7,000 and maybe more before this is all done.

• After the correct chapter was referenced, the hearing began behind closed doors. The BOE met three separate dates in private before rendering a letter that basically said that Greg was in violation, but it wasn’t a big deal. Saying it was common practice. This part in the letter continues to confuse me. I’m trying to figure out what other councilor or elected official has done this (not asking permission and taking partisan money). I could find only ONE official that has done this for the past two years on repeated occasions; Mayor TenHaken.

• After the city council received the letter they claimed to be confused about what to do with it, Council Erraktison said it was ‘clear as mud’. I will admit, the first time I read it, it was pretty murky, but after a couple of times, it was clear to me that Greg was in violation of city ordinance. They returned it to the BOE for clarification, which didn’t sit well with them and they said to re-read it.

• Days before the BOE thru the letter back at the Council, Nietzert stupidly sent a letter to the BOE asking for it to be thrown out, without the advice of his attorneys. He also went on The Greg Belfrage show and spewed all kinds of things like suggesting that Cunningham (a private citizen) colluded with other councilors to do a political hit job on him before an election. As far as I know, Mr. Cunningham had nothing to do with Greg’s opponent’s campaign, and further more John is a retired municipal employee who has worked for several cities across the country. He simply was concerned about integrity and ethics. That’s it.

So where does it go from here? My understanding is that there will be a pre-hearing to give Neitzert the opportunity to call witnesses and for Mr. Cunningham to do the same. Than a hearing will proceed.

If I was still giving Greg advice, which I have not in several years, I would tell him he could end this circus and make this less expensive and less painful for all involved. If I was Greg I would do this next week;

• Admit guilt and apologize to the citizens, fellow councilors and especially Mr. Cunningham for trying to lay the guilt on them.

• As part of the punishment, I would pay back the partisan group for the trip and resign as council chair.

• And lastly, I would tell the council who the others were that attended the trip with him. We already know the mayor was one of these people, but who was the city staffer that Greg mentions in the Belfrage interview?

• Oh, and give us a report already of what you ‘learned’ at this event.

Ultimately, I think Greg will fight this to the bitter end, which will be a sad episode in our city’s history. And he will lose, big time.



11 comments ↓

#1 Jeff Barth on 08.30.20 at 4:24 pm

The “ethics board” says going on paid trips for fun stuff was “common practice” for our elected city folk. That suggests that they all went on these junkets. Exactly how common was it?
If they all participated, shame on them. Otherwise please name those that did not. Not to name the innocent, paints the innocent with the same brush as the guilty.

#2 l3wis on 08.30.20 at 5:59 pm

JB, my point exactly, as someone who has followed this for almost 20 years, I can only think of one person. PTH.

#3 D@ily Spin on 08.30.20 at 9:23 pm

A family man needs a philanderer trip once a year. It’s to bad that (because of COVID) the strip clubs and race tracks were closed. He couldn’t city expense garter belt tips and gambling loss. To bad.

#4 Matthew Paulson on 08.31.20 at 6:59 am

Two questions:

If Mr. Cunningham wasn’t working with other councilors on this complaint, how did he obtain a copy of the email that Greg sent to the council?

Second, Mayor TenHaken went on the same trip. Why was he also not named in the ethics complaint?

#5 l3wis on 08.31.20 at 10:46 am

Doesn’t matter how he got it, public property and not confidential. Oh, trust me the mayor, the mayor isn’t getting off so easily.

#6 Thd Guy From Guernsey on 08.31.20 at 11:37 am

Mr Paulson, are you suggesting, relative to shining light onto the corrupt and unethical conduct of elected officials, that the source of the light shining upon the rot and corruption matters?
“The citizen wasn’t sent that e-mail and should have never had knowledge of its contents” is extremely weak rationalization to justify unethical governance.

#7 The Guy From Guernsey on 08.31.20 at 12:22 pm

Speaking of coordinated, tactically timed actions, riddle me this series of events by the Board of Ethics –
– The Board of Ethics dismisses the initial referral (this action on that date, as well as Councilor Neitzert’s request of confidentiality, remove this as an election issue – at least for the originally scheduled election date).
– The complaint is re-filed. And, oops, the election date is relocated on the calendar!
In order to satisfy (barely) their Charter obligation, the Board of Ethics meets on a date just under the wire for the interval required of them to consider the matter.
But then the Board adjourns, without reaching a determination in the matter and without divulging a date upon which they would complete their deliberation.
– Sequenced immediately after the date upon which the City Council re-organizes and elects Neitzert as Council Chair (and almost magically), the Board of Ethics provides public notice that they intend to complete their deliberations on the Friday afternoon immediately following the Council re-organization.

The deeper question of ethics in government is –
Which member (members?) of the Board of Ethics are compromised and were complicit such that this series of events took place to the benefit of the City Councilor which they have determined to have acted in an unethical manner?
How deep needs to be the scrubbing?

#8 Reliable Voter on 08.31.20 at 12:41 pm

If only the Mayor would attend a seminar that explains how to read and interpret SD statute. The City Atty could go along. The ACLU could help. Cause damn, that tweet on drop boxes.

#9 Depression here on 08.31.20 at 2:09 pm

Why did Ten and Niezert go on a this tripThats why we miss a Stehley she would have held them accountable.Ten is no different than slick Mike the former mayor.

#10 Steve on 09.01.20 at 9:08 am

The puppets and powerful protect the puppets and powerful, no matter what board you are on or what seat you occupy. Corrupt is corrupt!

#11 Fear & Loathing in Sioux Falls on 09.02.20 at 10:30 pm

Is it true that Greg might have to pawn his ’57 DeSoto to pay for the legal fees?