Sioux Falls City Council & Mayor TenHaken willing to possibly violate law with their war on transparency

Last night at the city council meeting there were three important first readings of ordinances. Mask mandate, meeting time change and moving public input dead last. While the proposed ordinances did appear on SIRE online with linked documents, there were NO hard copies available at the meeting (these usually appear in a white binder on a desk by the chamber’s front door). This is a clear violation of open meeting laws and the city council, city attorney, mayor and council staff ignored it.

What made it even worse was, out of courtesy, Cameraman Bruce let them know that they really needed to recess the meeting until copies of the ordinance could be handed out to the public in attendance. Nobody lifted a finger. The chair of the meeting, Paul TenHaken didn’t attempt a recess, the city attorney did not recommend one, the city clerk and city operations officer said and did nothing. Even after being told to correct this obvious violation, they all continued the meeting.

What does this mean? First off, an open meetings violation will probably be filed (more to come on that). If found in violation they could all receive fines and even jail time, it has already happened to a county official in the state for doing something similar. So who would be ultimately responsible for this fiasco and dereliction of duty? The chair, Mayor TenHaken could be but also the city clerk.

Even after warned to correct the issue, Paul just kept going. Why? Because of his deep, deep, deep hatred of open meetings and transparency. He will stop at NOTHING to make sure the public is NOT informed about what changes he is attempting to make at these meetings. He apparently will go as far as possibly violating open meetings laws to achieve his decimation of open government in Sioux Falls. Not sure what point he was trying to make?

I was actually astonished that they didn’t recess for 10-15 minutes to print out a few copies. It was baffling. What it showed me, besides the apparent disregard for the law, was extreme childishness, ignorance and stupidity of possibly openly violating the law when a constituent pointed it out. It’s like Paul was thinking, “If I just ignore Bruce, and pretend we are not doing anything wrong, we will be fine.”

I have seen city government officials do some pretty moronic things, but this one takes the cake. It’s almost like Paul tries to one up himself of doing idiotic things. Which used to be monthly, but now is coming a weekly endeavor.

When you have 9 elected officials and about 4 appointed officials essentially ignore a possible violation (and not even raise their hands and ask the city attorney) you wonder who is running this rudderless ship called the city of Sioux Falls?

Speaking of public input. Councilor Brekke did a fantastic job of explaining to the rest of the council that they are essentially ‘guests’ at a meeting that is for the ‘public’ and this is why it should remain at the beginning. Councilor Starr reminded them of all the citizens that have come in the past to bring important issues to the council. It looks like right now the only ones opposed to the move are Starr, Brekke and Soehl.



11 comments ↓

#1 D@ily Spin on 11.05.20 at 8:18 am

A governmental body must craft its requirements with care in order to to preserve the free speech rights of its citizens. State law and specific bylaws have higher standing than Robert’s Rules of Order.

The city wants to exclude the public. In fact, they’re setting themselves up for a SD Supreme Court case that can finally remove Strong Mayor Charter.

This is how to become known as the mayor who violated the constitution and (indeed) tried to impose socialism. Finally, there’s enough evidence for the ACLU.

#2 Anthony Renli on 11.05.20 at 8:41 am

What ALMOST pisses me off just as much as the violation itself:
This is an unforced error. This is screwing up and not fixing it even AFTER it’s been pointed out to you that you screwed up.
I’m not sure if it’s arrogance, ignorance, or stubbornness, but the City Government has, for years, made stupid mistakes that COULD have been nothing – could have been easily fixed and then gone away – and just doubled down on the stupid.
In this case had they said – “oops, let’s have a recess and run some copies” or even “oops, we’ll get someone to run some copies while we do ‘public commentary'” or something like that they could have fixed this f-up.

I hope the fines they face will teach them – but as the fine will be against the City as opposed to individuals I don’t have a lot of hope.

#3 Cameraman Bruce on 11.05.20 at 11:16 am

The penalties are enforced on the individuals as possible fines and/or 30 days in jail as a Class 2 misdemeanor.

#4 "Very Stable Genius" on 11.05.20 at 12:48 pm

The first question that ThuneHaken asks his secretary, when he gets to the office in the morning, is: “Has John King called yet today?”

#5 Watching from the South USA on 11.05.20 at 2:03 pm

I really appreciated Councilor Brekke’s reply to “Councilor-Mayor” Erickson while they discussed the moving of public input.

#6 Anthony Renli on 11.05.20 at 3:42 pm

Cameraman Bruce – That is the best freaking news I’ve heard all day.
I just hope that they don’t end up screwing some poor front-line worker and go after the whole council.

#7 "Very Stable Genius" on 11.05.20 at 11:17 pm

Republicans are no longer the party of liberty, rather they have become the party of authoritarian thought and practice similar to many right wing parties in Eastern Europe today.

#8 Mike Lee Zitterich on 11.06.20 at 10:48 am

As I ponder this; if ‘we’ are truly wishing to experiment with a more professional, respectful, public input, and want to make it better, I offered these comments in an email to the Council Leadership; please share, I want thoughts…

Directed to Council Leadership,

I have a proposal that may actually work upon listening to the discussion last night both by the public and the council, and the mayor …
Break up Public Input into 2 parts
A) 20 Minute Public Input @ 6:30 PM – make this a 20 Minute/4 person special request up until 48 hours prior to council meeting, no one gets more than 1 time per 15 days (2 per month) to pitch their concept, idea, plan, or proposal to council and each get 5 minutes; City Clerk arranges and manages these allotments of time;
B) 15 Minute Public Input at the Rear of Each Council Meeting – anyone attending a council session now gets 3 minutes to speak on any issue they wish, that is or was not on the agenda prior, this allows for no less than 5 people to speak within this timed allotment.
My proposed concept expands public input to two distinct sessions; 35 minutes, while allows for the citizens to request a special time before each Council Meeting to pitch or discuss a proposal, concept, idea, or suggestion; while after the agenda, the public may come back freely to speak for 15 minutes on any topic for up to 3 minutes.
Also note – that the public gets to speak for 5 minutes per each “agenda item” on First or Second Readings; so one person could actually speak for a total minimum of 8 minutes + plus each additional 5 minutes per ‘agenda items’.
The average council session tend to have 20-25 Agenda Items (sometimes 40); so a person could easily get 130 minutes of ‘time’ to speak. I do not see the issue here.
I am against moving the council session to 6 pm; however, I am flexible at starting the session at 6:30 PM – middle ground, there is no constitutional, state statute, nor anywhere in our charter that says we cant change our times, they merely imply that public meetings must be OPEN to the public at a time where as many residents can attend; 6:30 PM seems like a good compromise; especially if we then experiment with with MY PLAN for public input.

I listened very carefully to what Alex Jenson said, Pat Star was saying, and Greg Nietzert said, and IF, then Curt Soehl mentioned it (I believe) – “if the experiment fails, then we go back to the old plan”. Well, if we choose to experiment with all of this, why not take ‘baby steps’.

I believe the MAYOR himself does manage these meetings very respectively, honestly, and professionally, he does NOT allow disruptors, but lets be honest shall we; the PUBLIC wants public input at the beginning; keep it there. But try something new, inventful, and awesome. Try a new concept …

Tim Stenga is correct, while his words are a little harsh, maybe even a little degrading to some, one of his points is true – PEOPLE come to watch the City Council Sessions for the “drama” and some of the best most dramatized comments from from Public Input; use it as a tool to attract, motivate, and get more people involved, keep it at the front of of the agenda, but play with it, add a 15 minute closing public input session, keep people “interested”. He is also correct where he mentioned the “Resident” pay for the City Council, the Mayor, the Department Heads, the City Employees “salaries”, so like the developers whom pay to play, the residents also are ‘paying’ for the right to keep and maintain a ‘free and independent government’ and those words are clearly in our Constitution.

Food for thought ….
– Mike Zitterich

#9 Cameraman Bruce on 11.06.20 at 8:09 pm

I had served on the city of Sioux Falls and the City Council a SDCL 3-21 Notice of Claim concerning the city violating SDCL 1-27-1.16. Material relating to open meeting agenda item to be available–Exceptions–Violation as misdemeanor.

The SDCL 3-21 notice is necessary to inform the city of harm they have caused. in this case, the harm to me as a citizen who wanted the information displayed and the law requires them to follow. I will be preparing a complaint for the South Dakota Open Meetings Committee for the flagrant violations the City has continued.

The actions taken last Tuesday are illegal because they violated SDCL 1-27-1.16. If the City Council continues with the 2nd reading this coming Tuesday and casts any votes on the illegally passed items, the votes cast will likely be null and void.

The body cannot pass into law an item brought before the body illegally.

#10 The Guy From Guernsey on 11.07.20 at 7:37 am

MLZ,
In good faith, you outline some good elements of compromise in an invitation to the Mayor and Council to negotiate.
Have they accepted your invitation?

#11 Mike Lee Zitterich on 11.07.20 at 10:26 am

No One has responded as of yet, and I do intend to propose this concept this coming tuesday. IF, if they truly say this is an experiment, then instead of moving public input to the back completely, then try a real experiment. This issue relates 100% to what my “Letter to the Editor” spoke of, where ‘we’ must all agree to be respectful on both sides if we are to gain the respect of each other.
– Mike Zitterich