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Sioux Falls Board of Ethics gave NO OPINION on Petition Gathering

I did not attend the meeting but was told by a foot soldier that the BOE told councilor Stehly they could not give her an opinion based on asking hypothetical questions. She did not tell them a specific petition drive she would be working on.

However she did argue that former councilor Staggers and Erickson have circulated petitions. Speaker of the House Mickelson lead a state wide petition drive and the county commissioners have circulated petitions in the past. The precedence is there. This isn’t rocket science.

It just sounds like they want to say NO but they need her to bring something forward solid so they can have a quasi-argument to say NO to.

Will the SF Ethics Commission share an opinion on Mayor Huether being an Obama Delegate?


Where’s Waldo Huether? (he’s hiding in the back row-click to enlarge)

I find it interesting that the Ethics Commission would find it Unethical for councilors Erickson and Staggers to be committee members for the Minnehaha County Republican Party, but say nothing about Huether being a delegate for Obama.

Like I have said, I find NO conflicts with either. Huether serving as a delegate for the Democratic party for Obama has NOTHING to do with him acting as our mayor, just like the committee positions for the Republican party have nothing to do with the city council.

If Huether wants to assist his party, as do Erickson and Staggers, that is fine, and I find no conflicts. But there is a conflict. Why are councilors being treated differently when reviewing ethical behavior? I think someone needs to ask an opinion about Huether being a delegate, just as the councilors were. All is fair in Love and War.

As for Karsky, he really needs to resign from either the Chamber Board or the City Council. The Chamber works too closely with the council, it is way to close for comfort and an obvious conflict of interest.

Kermit Staggers as ‘Cool Hand Luke’

As you may already know, the SF Ethics Board has been reprimanded (only as a board, not individually) for wrongfully accusing councilor Staggers of ethics violations.

Here is a list of the actual board members;

Mike McKnight (lawyer), Howard Paulson (lawyer), Bill O’Connor, Mari Robbennolt, and Bob Swanhorst.  Please note that two members of the board are lawyers by profession. This information is available on

R. Shawn Tornow was the lawyer from the City Attorney’s Office who advised the Ethics Board when the Board was dealing with his case.

The case began when two union leaders from the Fraternal Order of Police filed a ethics complaint against him with the Board of Ethics on April 8, 2010, five days before the first mayoral election on April 13th. The Board eventually determined that there was no merit to the accusations. They were truly frivolous claims.

This should have been the end of the matter, but it wasn’t because now the Ethics Board on their own and with the assistance of Tornow came up with two of their own ethics claims against him which he first learned about at the Ethics Board meeting of May 4th.  Kermit had his lawyer with him and they were both surprised how baseless these allegations were.

The first allegation was that Kermit was soliciting city employees in a letter that he sent to city employees. The sentence that they supposedly got him on read as follows:  “As a citizen, any suggestions that you may want to communicate to me can be done in the absolute strictest confidence by contacting me at my home phone, 332.0357.”  In the letter he never asked for money or for them to even vote for him.  The purpose of the letter was to simply inform city employees about his views on city government.

The second allegation contended that by serving as a Republican committeeman while a member of the City Council was a violation of a provision against holding another publicly elected office.

In a nine page-brief to the Board of Ethics Kermit’s lawyer demolished these allegations by saying that the act of soliciting deals with asking for money which he never did and that the holding of another elected office by the Board’s interpretation would have prevented him from serving as an elder in his church because he was publicly elected to that office. Obviously, the prohibition on holding another elected office deals with holding another publicly elected government office.

Despite Kermit’s lawyer’s brief, two days before he ceased being a city council member he received a confidential letter in the mail saying that he had been privately reprimanded by the Board of Ethics because of soliciting city employees and holding another publicly elected office. Kermit was instructed to keep this letter confidential. The Board’s issuance of a private letter of reprimand was an abuse of power because the Board of Ethics does not have this power; this power belongs to the City Council.

Eventually, he was successful in demonstrating that the Board of Ethics had violated the state’s open meetings laws, and for that the Board received a letter of reprimand.  Now he is trying to get the Board of Ethics to retract their illegal letter of reprimand against him.

Open meetings commission advises reprimand of SF Ethics Board

KSFY Screenshot

This of course after the City Attorney advised the same in his testimony today in front of the commission. The city of course blamed Shawn Tornow for bad counsel to the Board and claimed the Board acted in good faith from his counsel. Of course it’s easy to blame a former city employee who is ‘no longer employed by the city’.

Staggers wanted individual reprimands of each board member AND the dates of the private meetings. He got neither request.





Here is a detailed PDF of Kermit’s testimony and city correspondence;


Vernon Brown to the rescue of Staggers?

Image: KELO-TV screenshot

Is Vernon defending Kermit over the bogus ethics investigation because he feels Kermit was wronged? Or is afraid it may be his hide next? Makes you wonder if the ethics committee was trying to dig up dirt on Vernon to?

Staggers is concerned that the investigation went beyond the scope of the original complaint. Something that also concerns city councilman Vernon Brown.

“Probably, the most disturbing part for us is the complaint was filed but the investigation went beyond what the complaint was,” Brown said.

And let’s hear the bullshit response . . .

Mike McKnight, the chair of the Board of Ethics, says local laws give them the ability to go where the evidence takes them, and if any changes were made to that part of the law, it would limit their work.

LMAO! You mean the same ‘unconstitutional’ laws that tell people when they are in violation of city code? A city can’t just make up laws that are in violation of the US Constitution and the State Constitution and then use those bogus laws to assert power. Kermit nails it with this comment;

“In making it public then they’re going to be held accountable. When you have a situation where things are done in secret, accountability goes by the wayside,” Staggers said.

The Sioux Falls Board of Ethics doesn’t want us to think (or know) that they are A-Holes?

The ethics board chief advisors

I am amazed that in such a small town that we have such huge egos and arrogance by the few in power;

The Sioux Falls City Council wants to make the ethics complaint process more public and give the Board of Ethics less authority to impose penalties as it works to amend city law.

Right now, the board has the authority to impose several penalties on city officials or employees if they are found to be in the wrong.

The penalties include a reprimand, suspension or removal from office or a fine.

“They serve as the prosecutor and the judge at the same time,” Councilor Kenny Anderson Jr. said Monday at the council’s Public Service Committee meeting.

Oh, but wait, even though Kenny is right, and it is LEGAL, the boo-hoo ethics board doesn’t want you to think it is all their fault.

Chairman Michael McKnight said the board simply was following the city ordinance.

We are the favorite whipping boy. What can we say? There’s not much we can say about the specific incident because the process is confidential,” McKnight said.

That is just it. Instead of just responding to the one complaint about the city employee addresses they went on a ‘fishing expedition’ and tried to find other ethics violations against Dr. Staggers. This WAS political, and it so f’ing obvious that heads should role. I mean, C’mon, these people are volunteers, boot their asses. The job of a GOOD and FAIR ethics board is to look into complaints and make recommendations. That’s it. Seems pretty simple to me. Instead, they have the city attorney’s office and their TOADS digging up empty graves like no tomorrow.

Huether and the council need to remove everyone from the ethics board and city attorney’s office and start fresh.

The CENSURE of former city attorney, Shawn Tornow

Book Em’ Danno!

This censure has all the makings of a Greek tragedy (Document: Censure-Shawn-Tornado )

It has all the deception, hidden evidence, deleted recordings. I joked to a city public official yesterday that Tornow must of had a 4-HP Briggs and Stratton motor on his paper shredder.

It also has a band of characters;

David Fiddle-Faddle (who filed the complaint against Tornow)

Huether (who plays dumb about the Staggers ethics complaint (that part is interesting)

and several other characters and subplots.

It’s a sad read if you got an hour to waste.

Here’s some other fun reading about Tornado’s employment ‘history’ with the city;

TenHaken’s Deputy COS is running for a Republican Committeeman

Deputy COS T.J. Nelson is running in Precinct 309 and City Councilor Greg Neitzert is running in Precinct 317 for Committee people in the Republican Party.

While the waters have already been tested by Erickson and Staggers for councilors as committee people (the ethics commission said it was OK because they are volunteer positions) that question has never been asked about appointed city employees who work for a non-partisan mayor.

While I don’t take issue with T.J. being a proud Republican party member, I wonder if he is testing the waters on this?

If I sat on the Ethics Commission I would probably OK it, but the optics of it don’t look good when your boss has promised to be a non-partisan mayor in the campaign. I’m wondering if T.J. asked an opinion of the Ethics Commission or the city attorney?

What do you think?

It seems T.J.’s name is coming up a lot as a partisan, I think this will hurt Paul in the long run.

As I predicted, Mayor Huether cries wolf again and uses the media to take the temperature of voters

Time to collect some beer cans.

And he keeps getting the media to fall for it. Though I will give props to Stu for getting in some digs about his indecision, especially with including Jamison in the article.

He still hasn’t forgotten how Jamison attacked his ethics and credibility during the 2014 campaign by pointing to real estate investments held in office by Huether and his wife, Cindy, and questioning whether such interests impacted tax incentive decisions.

No wrongdoing was established and Huether went on to win with 55 percent of the vote. But he felt unjustly robbed of a landslide victory that would have more forcefully validated the successes of his first term.

I think wrongdoing was well established, but in the land of no ethics (and no ethics laws) there was really nothing the public or Jamison could do. Apparently family members can invest and benefit from tax dollars. Just look at the Huether’s Tennis Center.

“In my re-election campaign, our numbers were really positive, but what happens at the end of races is that sometimes people throw out everything to try to reverse that. The strategy in this case was that even if (Jamison) wasn’t going to be successful, he would make sure that Mike and Cindy Huether never got a chance to do this again. He decided to make it personal, and you can’t find a way to make it more personal than going after someone’s family.”

Classic Mikey, blame the messenger. He is the one who drags his family members into the fray then turns around and blames others for when he gets caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Recently he had his daughter be a part of a proclamation for her work organizing the ‘Walk for Science’ which was basically people complaining about Trump’s stance on science, ironically, Mike is a Trump fan.

Even in his 2010 race for mayor, the support of otherwise friendly business leaders such as Sanford and Beacom was more elusive than Huether anticipated, a lesson in party politics that shaped some of his later decisions.

This has always been a point of contention. While helping the Staggers campaign I found out that Mike’s departure from First Premier wasn’t exactly ‘smooth’. I have consistently heard from former FP employees and city employees that he isn’t exactly pleasant to work for. But this of course is all rumors, maybe if he runs for statewide office, we will get to hear more about his executive management style from some of them.

Nelson points to public projects that had “stalled out or become stagnant” under previous mayors but were brought to fruition under Huether. Much of that work came without collaboration with the city council, leading to criticism about the mayor’s oversized ego and strong-arm executive style.

I will never criticize Mike for his enthusiasm or getting things done, but I strongly disagree with his process. I have often said that Mike could have accomplished all the same goals with using honey, getting the public and council involved with decisions and using transparency at the highest level. When you step on toes, you piss people off, and if South Dakotans are good at one thing, it’s holding a grudge. Mike has made a lot of fierce enemies over the past 7 years.

Does that mean a bid for governor is unattainable and that U.S. House is more prudent? Is there a fallback position that says go for broke and then run for mayor in 2022 if you fail? Maybe Huether would be comfortable enjoying time with family and making memories without that burning need to succeed?

The stream-of-consciousness debate in his mind is political agony in real time, which some of his once and future rivals find distasteful.

“I see a guy who’s struggling,” says Jamison, who has yet to declare his own candidacy for mayor. “It’s like he can’t figure out the next step and doesn’t want to lose, but nobody likes to lose. If it’s really about public service and not just being the guy, why doesn’t he run for city council? That would be a great way to stay involved. But if he’s going to ride it out because he only wants the top job and that’s all he’s good for, I would caution him against that.”

Personally, I think if Huether decides to ride it out for 4 years to run for Mayor again he has a strategy to keep him in the limelight. It is no secret in certain circles that he recruited Diamond Jim to run for mayor. IMO, if Jim wins, he will make Mike his Chief of Staff, and in essence, allow Mike to run the city for the next 4 years. I know this sounds like a crazy conspiracy, but just look how crazy the last 4 years have been.

There is also the possibility of Jim resigning after a year and having a special election for mayor in which Mike could run.

South DaCola 2016 year in review (Part I)

art-maze-mower-lrArtMaze, one of the better parts of Sioux Falls life in 2016

2016 has been a rough year for citizen activism. While it has been up and down here in Sioux Falls with many successes and failures to boot, it seems Washington DC has gone into full collapse as we allowed racist, sexist, hillbillies to elect our president.


But locally there were three things that stood out;

• Governor Daugaard claiming that voters were ‘hoodwinked’ into voting for IM 22, then getting the Pierre (in)justice system to go along with it. Funny how for over 40 years voters have been voting his party into power, and no word about ‘hoodwinking’ but once that corrupt power will be challenged, all the voters are idiots. As one official told me that used to work for Dennis, it’s not the public that are idiots, it’s Dennis. And his idiocy has been shining through.

• The South Dakota Democratic Party’s bottom completely fell out, and the people in charge patted themselves on the back. Insanity I tell you! Insanity!

• But one of the greatest achievements of the year is the Sioux Falls City Council’s change of power. The four new councilors have been flexing their muscles with a little help from Councilor Erickson, and while they have had a few missteps to start out, they have been learning from the battle scars. While ‘leadership’ of the council (Rolfing and Kiley) seem to be on a two man mission to rubberstamp all things Huether, shut down public input, and concoct false ethics charges against a fellow councilor (until they got caught lying like the snakes they are) they are becoming more and more in check. The city council has many big plans for 2017, and I have a feeling their agenda will push through easily as our lame duck mayor melts.

Let’s take a look at some the finer high and low points of 2016;

• The Huether Tennis center continues to block parking from other event attendees at the Sanford Sports complex though they basically stole $500K from taxpayers for the facility. Throughout the year there was several reports on cones and signs blocking the lot with not cars in it. But hey Mike’s Bride won an award this year and seemed surprised she did, without commenting that her check to the organization that gave the award wasn’t returned.

• The Sioux Falls City Council leadership and mayor’s HR department pulled a military retiree out of their asses for city clerk, a person who will be in charge of our city elections and hasn’t been registered to vote for years. He also proved his knowledge of official stamps when he stamped a petition without even bothering to read it. While Mr. Greco has gotten better over the year, the city clerk position should not be a $80K+ a year job as an apprentice, sadly being trained by one of his assistant clerks who has ten times the qualifications and applied for the position but was turned down. I’m sure it had nothing to do with the council chair’s view of women in the work place.

• Speaking of letting the mayor’s HR department and Leadership’s Mutt and Jeff pick the next internal auditor, the council barked loud enough that they did not want another ‘Greco’ pick. Not sure if the barking worked, but the person who was set to take the job saw the writing on the wall and turned it down. Hopefully the person who ultimately gets the position won’t be turned down because they shave their legs.

• The city continues to blow money on the Winter Wonderland Display, but the way the mayor has been cutting budgets these days, I expect next year’s display to be a couple of homeless barrel fire pits, sponsored by the Dudley House of course.

• After posting about the ridiculous corporate like raises the mayor has been giving to his management team, he turns around and still screws the minions with dismal raises again this year. I think in a special note to the city employees on their Christmas paystub he wrote, “I don’t care.”

• The city continues the FREE condom distribution program at area bars, and for some reason Monk’s is always emptied the quickest. Coincidence that is also a favorite watering hole of city managers . . .

• The Tuthill shooting case becomes ‘inactive’ and a tree branch shadow gets off scott free.

• The Erp wrongfully calls out local massage therapists as prejudice because they pointed out the ‘shower massages’ that were taking place around town. Apparently someone got a bad fortune cookie that day.

• The car rental tax and BID tax grabby-grabby fails in Sioux Falls, but the state legislature passes one of the most idiotic tax increases ever so our teachers are now just tied for last instead of dead last in pay. Out hoodwinking governor already has plans to rob the pot only one year after its passage.

• Hartford’s city government was in a state of collapse. Who really cares?

• The Levitt Pavilion is moving forward in Sioux Falls. It will be nice watching outdoor concerts sitting in the grass while battery acid is boiling beneath our asses.

• The Boulevard ordinance changes went into effect. Now stop worrying about rocks and plant a garden.

• The Washington Pavilion got a change of leadership after Darrin Smith takes over as President. So far he has only eliminated one director, but I hear the blood-letting has just begun. Now let’s throw another couple of million at the place to fix the poor construction to begin with. That will never happen with the Events Center . . .

• The Events Center cracks down on outside snacks and guns at events. We are all now safe from cheap fat people shooting us, but not in the parking lot.

• The Pottie Room war starts in Pierre and is guaranteed to return in 2017.

• A state legislator calls transgender people ‘twisted’. Now I’m struggling with what word to use describing our state legislators?

• A city council candidate throws a hissy fit over a post I wrote about his wife’s involvement with the Jesus plows and after threats to my employer I pull the post. He ends up taking last place in the at-large race. How’s Jesus working out for you now?

• Due to health reasons, Kermit Staggers decides not to run for a 4th term on the city council. His endorsement of Stehly puts her over the top.

• One of the youngest candidates in city history runs for city council. I apologize to Briggs for all the shitty things I said about him during the campaign.

• The Argus Leader sues the city for the details in the secret events center siding settlement. The Argus loses the first round but it is headed to the SD Supreme Court.

• On a similar note, the SON neighborhood is also awaiting a judgement in their Walmart suit with the SD Supreme Court.

• While our Sioux Falls City Council approves the DAPL through Sioux Falls, it takes thousands of protesters in ND to actually stop it. Too bad our city council chair doesn’t understand how to vote.

• The Mayor and Q-Tip Smith screwup the DT parking ramp development by flapping their traps to soon, and the council later on in the year returns the favor and defunds the ramp all together for 2017. I still think the fiasco is what got Smith to seek refuge at the Pavilion.

• City officials throw a hissy-fit over Bruce’s camera at a city meeting we were invited to by then city councilor Kenny Anderson. Looking back on it now, I just chuckle.

• Former city councilor Dean Karsky and now commissioner elect has become the official endorser in Sioux Falls.

• Bruce and I do a presentation on voter turnout in Sioux Falls at Democratic Forum and one of the mayor’s buddy developers in Sioux Falls tries to shut us down. When he fails, he walks out. Another casualty to transparency.