Sioux Falls isn’t the only one struggling with Public Input issues

It seems the war on open government is being fought across the state;

Two seemingly harmless words added to a state open meetings law in 2019 have sparked a debate over the rights of citizens to publicly comment at official government meetings in South Dakota.
Those words, “regularly scheduled” were added in front of “official meetings,” launching a legal tug-of-war between public officials and advocates of community input. Some government bodies have used the language as a legal loophole in which they have denied the public the right to speak at some official meetings.


This is often the game played with these kinds of complaints. Recently a Sioux Falls citizen filed a complaint with the Minnehaha State’s Attorney about open meeting violations when Mayor TenHaken was chair of a city council meeting in which he didn’t call public input on two pulled consent agenda items. It was pretty obvious that he didn’t call the public input on purpose because it concerned a bar that was in the middle of a pending sale and if their liquor license renewal would have been denied it would have affected that sale. I cannot connect those dots yet, but once we find out the new owners, it will look a little more clear. So what happened in that case? While MSA Dan Haggar admitted that city ordinance was probably violated, he said he has no authority to do anything so he sent it to the AG’s office. The AG’s office said this was a city matter and that the complainant had to take it up with the Sioux Falls Ethics Board (you know the place where complaints go to die). She also could have hired an attorney and took it to court. I have encouraged they at least file an ethics complaint to get it on record before they throw it out (this is probably one of the most cowardly boards we have in city government). Like the two examples in the SD News Watch story, you can see the run around you get when you challenge public input and how to remedy it. There is no remedy.

I have told the city council on many occasions that NO local government in South Dakota has ever gotten in trouble for being too open.



9 comments ↓

#1 I'm about to be Purple Rained on 03.09.22 at 9:26 pm

Note to self:

First, forget to advertise the school board election.

Second, change “official” to “regular”.

Third, begin to organize a 40 mile long tank and support group convoy.

#2 Mike Lee Zitterich on 03.09.22 at 10:11 pm

So why not take it to a court room? I mean, the Minnehaha County Attorney and the Attorney General are correct – its a CITY MATTER, make a case in civil court, and challenge it. If you think you have a case, challenge it in court. If not, let it go.

#3 D@ily Spin on 03.10.22 at 7:41 am

No, don’t take it to court. I did and proved the city unconstitutional. They altered ordinances then changed them back. It cost me $40k uncompensated. It was 8 years to get into State Supreme Court. I would compare the process to Putin proclaiming human rights then bombing the hospitals and women/children trying to leave.

#4 D@ily Spin on 03.10.22 at 7:48 am

Oligarchy is prevalent no matter what form of government. With socialism or communism it’s evident. With democracy it’s one big lie you’re expected to believe.

#5 Bruce on 03.10.22 at 7:57 am

There is more to the theme of this story, the Sioux Falls Mayor leading the City Council regularly violates open meetings laws because there is no consequence for their actions. The recent filing rejected by the Minnehaha County State’s Attorney is a clear example. In the past I also filed with the same results. Apparently political subdivisions of the state can violate their rules and ordinances because the right of the subdivision’s people rules and ordinances are not mentioned in the stated law.

We will continue to see more of these incidents because of the simple wording is being abused by those who wish to abuse.

Our current strong mayor form of government is designed to abuse the citizen’s rights. It’s becoming more apparent the Charter must be changed to protect its citizens.

#6 rufusx on 03.10.22 at 9:57 am

I once tried to get a SA and the AG to file a criminal complaint against a city official for having committed an obvious (if you read the relevant statute) class 3 felony. SA said I had to file the complaint with the Sheriff. Sheriff deputy told me if I didn’t like the way the town was run I should move out. Wouldn’t even investigate – told me he considered me a “troublemaker”. I complained to the AG. Ag’s office told me their job was to “defend the state”, against complaints, not to prosecute the state on behalf of its citizens. Yep, that’s the way one party rule works.

#7 Not just SD! on 03.10.22 at 12:59 pm

Even federally. You have politicians holding a vote at 1 am without warning, sending huge spending bills without a chance to view before voting on and passing onto the next phase! No big deal…a trillion here a trillion there.

#8 Mike Lee Zitterich on 03.10.22 at 3:30 pm

I do not think the current form of “City Government” needs to be substantially changed, I think the issue is being over exxagerated. I think small, finer changes can be made, and I think we can work thru them changes thru the City Council first, and the people need to remember – VOTE OUT all incumbants every two years, do that for 20 years, whether they are good or bad, does not matter. Changing the “governing boards” every two year woudl allow us to change legislation back and forth to fix mistakes. It also slows down the gtoverning process cause “THEY” cannot get stuff done. I made a few proposals at the C.R.C to make some minor tweaks to the Charter, and will keep those discussions going over the next few years.

#9 anominous on 03.11.22 at 8:29 pm

i dont really care if they didnt have a school board election cuz it wouldve been a clowncar of noems new numbnuts she got to move out here to try and keep her margin who lick mike flynn’s boots