Sioux Falls City Council discusses Ethics Attorney insurance at informational meeting

A South DaCola foot soldier sent this to me last week when I first posted about this;

Sioux Falls Human Resources Director Bill O’Toole sent an email on December 17, 2020 to let city of Sioux Falls elected officials know there will be changes in the South Dakota Public Assurance Alliance (SDPAA) policy for 2021. There are changes in it, that makes a person think, after the Neitzert impeachment, it was the result of falling out of the crazy tree and hitting every branch on the way down in order to protect the mayor and anyone connected to the illegal trips and other questionable actions.

Mayor and City Councilors,

The City will soon renew its Liability Coverage for calendar year 2021 with the South Dakota Public Assurance Alliance (SDPAA). I wanted take this opportunity to provide a general overview as we are about to enter the new year.

As an optional special endorsement, a new defense coverage is being offered for this upcoming calendar year for any public entities who have created their own ethics board. If a Member elects to purchase this additional coverage, then this special endorsement will provide an expert attorney to defend an elected official from the moment an ethics complaint is filed and through the entire administrative processing of that complaint from the hearing(s) before the public entity’s ethics board to the conclusion of any appeal hearing(s) before the local governing body (city council). This defense coverage will cover up to $10,000 in attorney fees and expenses per occurrence, or up to $20,000 aggregate for any calendar year. Please be aware that SDPAA panel counsel are retained at more competitive rates than those retained independently. This special endorsement will represent an additional annual premium of $7,500.00 and the Human Resources Department is in the process of securing this special endorsement for 2021.

Note how this additional coverage is only available to South Dakota members of SDPAA which have something called an “ethics process”. Why don’t they offer the other SDPAA members who don’t have an “ethics process” in their jurisdiction? It will only cover unethical behavior or accusations thereof if the jurisdiction has a pseudo ethics process. In other words, this is a corruption insurance rider. If a citizen or government entity decides there might have been unethical behavior caused by one of their elected officials, such as all-expense paid trip bordering on criminal tax evasion or at least unethical quid pro quo self-serving actions, SDPAA will now have additional coverage to pay for the defense of a Neitzert like clone or other elected officials when the offensive behavior is brought to light.

The Board of Ethics is a lay board of citizens, usually without legal background or training. Just thoughtful citizens of high integrity. The Board is not a court of law or does it have the ability to hand down legal conclusions. Board of Ethics decisions are not based on the low bar of legality but a higher bar of principles in their oath of office, promising high standards of moral, fair, non-political and conflict-free actions. The ethics board is not a legal body, only a board there to assist a city person find the ethical response to an issue or if a complaint, the probable cause the person did something which offends the senses of the community.

In Sioux Falls, our ethics board has as a charter function, to decide if ethical lapses occurred in a decision or action of a Sioux Falls government person. The only decision the ethics board can make when the question is presented, “was the issue raised frivolous or was there probable cause for the complaint”. If probable cause for the ethics complaint is found, the issue is then decided by the City Council and punishment if found is meted out.

Remember, the ethics board cannot find or decide a legal issue. Legality is not in the board’s purview. There simply is no legal decision the ethics board can make or find, only if there was a breach of a higher standard called ethics. There are criminal courts for legal issues with all the protections due criminal complaints.

This action by the SDPAA, if purchased by the city of Sioux Falls, will be to endorse the idea of the city paying for the defense, prosecution and exoneration of their elected officials at bargain basement legal rates. This paid for legal assistance for the elected person will start at the moment a complaint affidavit is filed in the city attorney’s office before there is any action other than a question was raised.

Note the policy will not cover employees who have been accused of the illegal or unethical behaviors only the mayor and city council members. This is corruption insurance for our elected officials, paid for by us by way of our taxes, to possibly make unethical behavior easier?

The current executive director of SDPAA is the former ringmaster of Sioux Falls city questionable behavior. When he was chief legal officer of the city, he made so many questionable things possible, to actually make them happen and then created the cover needed to make it look legal. Remember the Event Center siding study that was to be conducted and never happened? The Spellerberg MOU needed to build an indoor pool on borrowed land? A parking ramp to nowhere? A needed office building, just to satisfy the mayor who built to much? How about as the city attorney who had conflict of interest in an ethics board hearing where he represented the city AND the mayor AND the ethics board? He had to take the job over at SDPAA just so he could control the release of information and continue to protect himself for all his errant ways. Is the current SDPAA director supplying personal protection for the city at a bargain basement price to keep his fingers in the Dutch dike?

When looking at this added insurance, many things come to mind. Is this akin to a bribe to keep mouths shut? If you make any unapproved noise, the SDPAA will or won’t protect you? If a person was to run for office and asks or raises to many questions, will SDPAA decide not to cover the ramifications? Will it cover an official accused of criminal assault against a citizen?

So now, instead of the elected official paying attention to their ethical behavior, SDPAA and the city will cover any discovered activity. The elected person will not have to worry about the cost of the defense because once accused, SDPAA and the city will pay for their legal costs. For example, using the past cases brought before the ethics board (including the impeachment of Neitzert), the city would have had to pay all the costs for the lawyers hired to defend the accused person’s unethical behavior. Instead of just admitting the personal mistake and making it go away, the people of Sioux Falls end up having to pay for the defense of the unethical persons and their actions plus the prosecution costs.

What we citizens of Sioux Falls will be paying as part of the insurance bill this year, is a benefit for elected officials. A new policy clause to cover unethical corruption and criminal activity. Maybe we should start calling SDPAA, Your Source For Corruption Insurance.

EDITOR’S NOTE: After watching the meeting today where Brekke and Starr said that this is NOT an administrative decision, it is a city council decision (in which the rest of the council disagreed as well as the city attorney) what was revealing is that Neitzert admitted about 90% of his legal fees at his recent impeachment hearing were paid for by donations (around $15,000 he paid $2,000 himself). WOW! Who needs insurance with friends like that?! I encourage you to watch the video. As I have said, council wouldn’t need this rider if they would just act ethically, and if not, at least confess and apologize before lawyers have to be hired. I guess I’m not mad at Greg for what he did, I’m mad that he didn’t have the moral compass to just admit the wrong doing and take his medicine. Very cowardly.

LAST NOTE: I also see a reoccurring theme at the city council informational meetings, they don’t have enough time for presentations and questions because they moved the city council regular meeting up to 6 PM. We knew this would happen. In fact it was so tight, that councilors Neitzert and Kiley who were scheduled to attend the meeting on their phones were clearly voting at the beginning of the meeting while driving home in their cars because you could hear it. Once again, Sioux Falls city government is very predictable.


#1 D@ily Spin on 01.06.21 at 9:32 am

Isn’t an ethics hearing an opinion of the council and mayor (only)? The only outcome is scolding. There’s no punishment. Involving litigation makes the matter complex with opinion that’s held in suspense for the defendants term of office. If a councilor (ie Neitzert) wants to keep the matter unresolved, he/she can do so but they must pay their own attorney. Per the Judicial Ordinance, the matter cannot be heard in court. Hiring an attorney is foolish. Why should citizens pay for a foolish rambling Trump-like childish fit?

#2 Epstein didn’t kill himself on 01.07.21 at 11:11 am

What would make ya‘ll happy? I get it, you love to be coddled by the govt, but hate the people running it. You should run for office….just think, more statues all around town, more arcs across rivers, no money spent on bringing in more business, no improvements because it cost too much. Just think, we could be Sioux City!!!!!

#3 "Very Stable Genius" on 01.09.21 at 8:49 pm

Sioux City is a part of the old economy. They haven’t grown like Sioux Falls, which is a part of the newer predatory economy.

But unlike Sioux City, Sioux Falls has created the ‘Tale of Two Cities’ with many in Sioux Falls working to just survive. Our success in Sioux Falls is a illusion for most.

At least in Sioux City, the successes and failures are more honest and genuine, and not dependent upon a predatory economy of harvest fee banks and health care systems which compete in a Cold War manner.

As far as running for office, well, most of us would lose because of Taupeville. They vote as a block of upper middle income brats, who can’t think outside of the box (“Should I get white or black SUV this time?”… “Which taupe house?”), and with the absence of a middle class fear to survive, they live in a world of comfort and indifference to the real world around us, or what is north of 57th Street, that is.