Sioux Falls City Council approves land transfer in Public Meeting without providing public supposed confidential legal documents

At the council meeting tonight you will hear a lot of legal mumbo jumbo about ethics ordinances, Supreme Court rulings and executive confidentiality. The problem is that it’s all horse pucky.

I am still of the opinion that the city council CANNOT meet publicly and vote on publicly announced agenda items in a public meeting without sharing the legalities of this land transfer. This is what they were told tonight, that they would essentially be violating ethics rules if they talked about the legalities discussed in executive session in a public meeting.

The whole purpose of having a public meeting to approve an agenda item, any agenda item, is to release that information publicly to the public before it is voted on.

Ethics be damned if you can approve deals like this in a public meeting without giving the public the legalities of the deal. I believe it is a gross violation of public meeting laws and rules and I would have been sitting up there tonight, I would have recused myself from the vote and stated that I would be violating said rules if I voted on it. I found it interesting that one councilor probably knew that since they were absent tonight, or likely they are heavily invested in the project.

When I talk about corruption and openness in government, this is a prime example. It’s what the public doesn’t know that corrupts the process.

I have never been so disappointed and disgusted as I was tonight watching this boondoggle. What makes it even more hypocritical is the very people who benefitted from this top secret land transfer didn’t even have the courtesy to show up tonight. Go figure.

Sidenote; there is a new public advocate in town that moved here from Florida in March who speaks during public input. He is very well spoken and takes the council to task for the issues with housing, public transportation, internet access monopolies and lack of affordable healthcare for self-employed individuals. It only took this person a couple of months in Sioux Falls to smell the lack of leadership in our city government.



17 comments ↓

#1 You Betcha on 07.21.21 at 9:21 am

And the smoke show continues. They can discuss anything they want in a public meeting, but technically it would need to be discussed again. What happens in executive session stays in executive session, but they can still have the exact same conversation again in public. If they choose not to, that is on them.

#2 D@ily Spin on 07.21.21 at 10:56 am

It’s disgusting how city government acts on projects not supported by the public. Land deals such as Fantasy Island have become common. They gave the railroad millions for land they didn’t own. They encroached on federal land at the VA to build a swim center. I’m surprised there are still post offices and interstate highway they haven’t purchased with bitcoin. Such dealings are squating the Feds should recapture before the city limits becomes a separate republic.

#3 Mike Lee Zitterich on 07.21.21 at 12:13 pm

I was disapointed in the decision not to speak on the issue of whether the land was a public park prior or after the fact, but let fix an error first:

The City Attorney said, that if it was discussed in a “Executive Session” the Council could by a public vote of the body vote to discuss the issue during public discussion. What the “Attorney” did stress, that if it was NOT an issue discussed in “executive session” the council could not vote to discuss the matter publically. Lets get that straight first …

The issue of whether it was a public park was NOT discussed in a executive order, it was simply the “means” of legal discussions related to a “contract”, meaning that specific conversations are blocked from public in order to safeguard those involved personally, or personal matters. Since the ‘issue’ was NOT addressed during “executive session”, the City Attorney told the Council, which the Attorney’s Office represents both the City and the City Council, has the so called “Attorney-Client Privilege” of keeping specific discussions confidential.

IF, if the discussion was addressed during a “Executive Session”, then in the opinion of the City Attorney, the Council could have if it wanted to, vote as a body to bring that discussion out in the open.

That was what was actually said.

Regardless, what I found interesting, was if it is true, a previous “Council” or “Commission” whatever ‘we’ had at the time prior to 1994, if the body took a public vote to make this land a “public park” that previous vote would have been public. Did or Did Not a previous City Commission/Council publically vote to make the land a City Park? Does 1906 ring a bell?

The 1906 City Commission voted YES 10 to 1 in favor of making this “land”, or more specifically “the island” a City Park allowing the “City” to lease the land from a Mr Coughran in exchange for ‘taxes owed’ for a period of 1 year. The YES VOTES were: Gates, McDonald, Sanders, Bergh, Pankow, Hall, Mills, Marstad, Johnson, Salzer, and the lone NO vote was Niel.

What is so secret here, did a previous City Council/Commission vote publically to make this land a city park yes or no?

This means, from 1906, for a period of 1 year, most likely until 1908 – Seney Island as a whole was commissioned a “CITY PARK”.

I shared this time line prior:

1862 Land Patent sold to DAKOTA LAND COMPANY
1877 Land Patent sold to W.W Brookings
1902 Land Patent/land ceded to the State of South Dakota by W.W Brookings in favor of using the property for public use, allowing the State to divide the land into 3 parcels.

1906 The Land was “Zoned” Light Industrial, the land commissioned by City to be a City Park for 1 year.

1908 the West Channel was closed off on both ends (boulders on one end, landfill/dirt on the other end (evergreen tree).

1910-1936 the West Channel used as a City Landfill, finally enclosed.

1910-present day the St Paul/Omaha Railroad today the Burlington Northern/Santa Fe Railroads have used this land as their railroad connection

1918 Sioux Steel signed on to “use’ the land for their steel company

1922-1995 Pitts Steel signed on to ‘use’ the land for their recycling company.

Then of course ‘we’ got the state statutes:

SDCL 5-2-4 –> For the purposes of §§ 5-2-4 to 5-2-9, inclusive, the bed and channel of any lake or river in this state or bordering on this state to the middle of the main channel thereof, and all islands and sandbars lying therein shall be considered the property of the State of South Dakota unless this state or the United States has granted or conveyed an adverse legal or equitable interest therein. Nothing in said sections shall affect or impair the rights of riparian owners; whereas as per 5-2-9. It shall be the duty of the attorney general, or any state’s attorney, on direction of the Governor, to commence any action necessary to protect the rights of the state under §§ 5-2-4 to 5-2-8, inclusive.
The State of South Dakota, through its several departments, agencies, and institutions, and counties through their boards of county commissioners, may grant perpetual easements on lands under their control, dedicating to the public permanent use of the same in the use of water conservation projects or public parks, and may grant easements on or over such lands to any person, association, or corporation, granting the right to erect and maintain poles and wires for the purpose of conducting or transmitting electricity for lighting, heating, and power purposes. The Board of Regents and the executive branch may also grant easements for water, sewer, and fuel lines on land, or air rights over land, at the institutions under their control, which shall be executed pursuant to § 5-2-11.

Riparian Owner defined as: Under common law, a riparian owner possesses rights over and responsibilities for the stretch of a watercourse that forms the boundary of their property. A riparian owner is anyone who owns a property where there is a watercourse within or adjacent to the boundaries of their property and a watercourse includes a river, stream or ditch. A riparian owner is also responsible for watercourses or culverted watercourses passing through their land. Riparian responsibility can also lie with the tenant of the property, depending on the agreement, whereas A watercourse is any natural or artificial channel above or below the ground through which water flows such as a river, brook, beck, ditch, mill, stream, culvert, drains, cuts, dykes, passages, pipes and even sewers (other than public sewers). Watercourses drain the land and drain surface water away and help to prevent flooding and assist in supporting flora and fauna. Watercourses take water runoff from buildings and roads and fields and parks. If the system of ditches and culverts are maintained, any flooding is likely to only affect the area in the floodplain.

So – DID the “State” upon obtaining the Land Patent from the ‘land owners’ then section off the land into 4 sections, then convey to the Railroad Companies, Sioux Steel, Pitts Steel, Ravens, then the “City” to use specific
sections in specific manner…

The only section that was being discussed was ‘land’ that the city at the moment has never had any control of, but needed in order to extend their “greenway” let alone Kiwanis Park to connect to the northern side of the “island”. An “Island” that in 1906 was commissoned to become a City Park, until in 1909 it was given back to the other “users” who then took possession back for their own benefit.

The true answer is: NO – at this particular time, the land in question was NOT a City Park.

Was this to difficult to answer?

#4 l3wis on 07.21.21 at 1:18 pm

Mike, when a private entity does business with a public entity it becomes public not the other way around.

#5 Steve on 07.21.21 at 2:31 pm

So basically, the slickery city attorney is protecting the slickery Mayor. Looking ahead, am wondering who will be occupying the Mayor’s office in a year. Can it get any worse?

#6 D@ily Spin on 07.21.21 at 2:43 pm

There’s the legal aspect of ownership. However, why does the city want useless land that now and forever will be a sandbar in the middle of a water course? Why will they pay millions for something of no value that would come off property tax status? It seems apparent this is a sophisticated method for the Sioux Steel developer to steal millions from city taxpayers and pay less property tax. At times Sioux Falls Oligarchy is a dictatorship when a developer finds another corrupt method for relieving tax dollars from the public. Unofficially, according to insiders, the city flag flies over the US and state flags.

#7 Mike Lee Zitterich on 07.22.21 at 1:39 pm

Scott, for that to be true, you now have to define how or who ‘controlled’ the land in question for the past 100 years. We are discussing SENEY ISLAND here.

The “land” in question was a sovereign piece land up until 1902, when I believe it was ceded to the State of South Dakota.

The reason I stated the time line of events concerning this land, and highlighted specific statutes, was to attempt to connect the “chain of command” of the Title Ownership.

Its a fact, if you hold the LAND PATENT – you pay no property tax, thats evident in Article 22, Section 2.

This “land” was ceded to the State to become Public Lands, allowing the “STATE” to now convey its use.

This now allows the STATE to levy and collect “property tax” on the land by the “users” of such land.

We can agree, the 3 users over the past 100 years were: The Railroad Companies, Sioux Steel, Pitt Steel, and Ravens occupied the southern section.

Now…we got to decide at what point did the City of Sioux Falls take possession of the far ‘eastern’ edge of the Island, you know, the part where the Historical Marker is at today? This is the so called Kiwanis Park.

Did Sioux Steel convey this portion of land to the city sometime ago to allow it to become a park? I have always thought of this to be a park, cause I have always walked out onto the land myself. BUT…I could never get past the Dam, the Sioux Steel Fence was in the way, plus the TREES and shrubs were to thick there, plus you had the “channel” to hop over.

If there was any question of there being any “Private-Public Property” – it would be the so called Kiwanis Park area of the island itself,

You could always access Kiwanis Park from 1st Avenue, you know the road that connects Sioux Steel’s parking lot to 6th Street…

Janet Brekke raised an interesting question, did the CITY ever declare this a public park? Or did we simply treat it as such for nearly 100 years, becoming tradition.

But then again, I refer you to that public vote in 1906. That 10-1 vote to make Seney Island a Public Park for 1 year (1907-1908) became this ‘declaration’, and once Sioux Steel became the propety owner in 1918, they basically left that small little area open to the public to be used as a ‘park’.

And with the sale of the land to Lloyd Properties, they are now giving the CITY access to the northern edge of the land along the river, connect Kiwanis Park to Falls Park North.

I am not defending the city here, I am simply trying to connect the dots.

The Sad part here, is “WE” lost our Seney Island long ago, due to corrupt bargains that predate the State itself.

#8 The Guy From Guernsey on 07.22.21 at 6:08 pm

I listened to portions of the most recent two Council meetings which are relevant to this issue.
The City Attorney apparently never fulfilled Brekke’s reasonable request for definitive determination that the parcels involved in the easements are factually and legally to be considered as “parks” (nor did the Deputy City Attorney).

This should be a rather straightforward transaction – granting of easements on land parcels owned by the City of Sioux Falls in return for “good and valuable consideration” from Lloyd.

That the reply to Brekke’s request, if fulfilled, may have been buried in the communication, marked as privileged, from the City Attorney’s office to Council members, with veiled threat that Councilors risk breach of ethics ordinances by divulging contents of the communication – leaves me to conclude that the transaction is NOT straightforward.

What are you hiding Paul?

And LO f’in L holding over the Council the threat of an ethics violation to keep them quiet. Jack Marsh and others on the Ethics Board have proven to be so toothless in pursuit of any violation complaint that I am certain that their food is chewed for them.

#9 Very Stable Genius on 07.22.21 at 11:43 pm

“You could always access Kiwanis Park from 1st Avenue, you know the road that connects Sioux Steel’s parking lot to 6th Street…”

Except, you had to enter from 1st Avenue, and then cross the Sioux Steel parking lot to do that. A canoe, by navigable waters, is the only legal access.

#10 Mike Lee Zitterich on 07.23.21 at 10:14 am

Very Stable Genius – 1st Avenue is “Public Road” and accessible to all, I have walked down this road many many times over years and walked along the river. Not sure what you mean, I even have it recorded doing so. Many people have walked down this road to get to the ‘river’. Again, it is public/private property open to the public. You do realize, there is a “historical marker” on the island itself, correct?

My Walk/Tour Around Seney Island – the City Park that never was cause ‘money, greed, politics’ got in the way. I would hate for history to repeat itself, but lets keep in mind, the natural beauty of this once famed island, discovered by George Seney, Homestead by the Dakota Land Company, purchased by the Brookings Family, then ceded to the State (in care of) by that family to bring in the Railroad, then later Sioux Steel. Sioux Steel does NOT own this land, they pay property taxes to ‘use’ this land, I keep sounding like a broken record, but whom really owns this land, and what terms did we agree to when ceded to the State. Like the Lyon Family whom owns the Fairgrounds, the Tuttle Family whom owns Tut-Hill Park, and the Brookings Family whom owns this piece of property, how come we always lose our land rights to ‘property tax dollars’? A walk around the island.

https://www.facebook.com/mike.zsales/videos/120047116434513/

#11 Very Stable Genius on 07.23.21 at 11:08 am

But isn’t there a “private” parking lot between 1st and Kiwanis Park, which you have to trespass to get to the park?

#12 Mike Zitterich on 07.23.21 at 10:23 pm

It is considered Public/Private Parking Lot, and you do realize there are Apartments back in there now correct?
Never had an issue in my life…

#13 "Woodstock" on 07.24.21 at 1:27 pm

“Now wait a minute, just because the developers in town control our council doesn’t mean that everything that is private is public or everything that is public is private”…. (…”Well, some people in this ‘fair’ city might think so”….)

#14 Very Stable Genius on 07.24.21 at 1:31 pm

Are you saying the parking lot adjacent and just north of what used to be Dakota Casket (I am showing my age) and across from the entrance to Sioux Steel’s offices on 1st Avenue now has apartments?

#15 Mike Lee Zitterich on 07.24.21 at 7:55 pm

Yes, there are apartments in the building directly to the south of Sioux Steel, next to the Ravens Building along 1st Avenue.

I am pretty sure 1st Avenue is “Public Street” that connects the Sioux Steel Parking lot to 6th Street, and I am pretty sure the land area next to the river is a “public park area” since people are in fact allowed to walk out onto the land there, yet alone, you can also reach the same plot of land by walking from Falls Park North along the river, or thru the river along the rocks onto the property adjacent to Sioux Steel.

Pretty sure this has been a “Public Park” for more than 25 years at least, have been walking out onto the land in question for at least that long. And never have I ever been told to leave, or get lost.

I am pretty sure I am not the only one who has ventured onto this land area either.

Relax, Enjoy Life, Have Fun.

#16 Very Stable Genius on 07.24.21 at 11:21 pm

But this is a discussion about Kiwanis Park, right? I am taking about north of 6th on 1st where the Sioux Steel offices are to the right and a “private” parking lot adjacent to Kiwanis Park is on the right.

( and Woodstock adds: “What’s on second?”…. “Who’s on first?”…. (“‘Relax, Enjoy Life, Have Fun’?”…. “When did he become Dr. Phil?”….)

#17 Mike Zitterich on 07.25.21 at 1:53 pm

No where along 1st Avenue was it ever deemed a off limits by the residents, the parking lot was always accessible to the public, you had the shipping/receiving dock there, and there are NO “TRESSPASS” signs up. Again, what is your point sir…

IF it was deemed a Public Park, and the Historical Sign was planted on the land years ago, the public has access to the land in question. The County placed the ‘sign’ on the land, so the residents can tour the area and visit the island, and walk along the river. It was and always “Public-Private Property”.

The COUNTY paid for, and hoisted the Historical Plaque on the former Island, using public tax dollars.

Relax, Enjoy Life, Have Fun.