Entries Tagged 'Ethics' ↓

Sioux Falls City Councilor Greg Neitzert’s ‘findings of fact’ hearing

It will be at 6 PM on Monday (Sep 28)

Mayor TenHaken implementing an Executive Order that benefits bureaucrats over citizens

In Paul’s latest fiddling with his extreme hatred for transparency, he changed an executive order which basically shortens up the time the public knows about an ordinance change, YET requires the council to give more advance notice to city directors about their intentions.

Once again Paul is nosing around in the legislative branch and telling them how they will legislate. While I’m okay with giving the city directors more time to mull over changes, we should also be extending the time citizens know about an issue.

I also think that this should be a decision made by the city council, NOT by executive order.

The city council doesn’t work for city directors and the mayor, they work for the citizens, this is why we elect them. But it has been evident, almost since the Home Rule Charter was founded that the city council does the bidding of the mayor and directors and has never turned down an opportunity to put more rules, more fees and more taxes on the citizens. I implore anyone who can show me when the city council has deregulated/eliminated ordinances or cut taxes and fees since this form of government was implemented in the 90’s. If you can, I’ll buy you a beer (or two).

This is the problem with the form of government we have now in Sioux Falls. It is setup so the directors form policy while the RS6 approves those policies that benefit the banksters and developers in town, while more regulations and taxes get levied on the rest of us.

This ‘little change’ is just another way of hiding city business from the citizens. And what it really is about is a deep hatred for sunshine and openness in our local government, and like covid, it will be hard to cure this deep sickness at city hall.

Sioux Falls (ethically challenged) City Councilor Neitzert panhandling for legal fees

No wonder the city council won’t pass stiffer panhandling ordinances in Sioux Falls, they are doing it themselves;

Although I have finally cleared my name, I really haven’t “won”. My family has been put through a lengthy emotional ordeal, and we have an enormous legal bill, which we are personally liable for. My attorneys were amazing and I will be forever grateful for their representation, and they deserve to be paid.

It always feels weird asking for money…however – Legal fees related to an elected official’s public service are qualified campaign expenses. Therefore, I can pay some of this bill through my campaign account. To the extent I do not have campaign funds available, we will be paying this bill personally. If you donate to my campaign account, Greg Neitzert for City Council, it will be used primarily for this expense, and in the off chance there is any excess to support good, positive, and principled candidates in the next city election cycle for City Councilors and Mayor. If you would like to support me, this is a great way to do it. I truly appreciate those who have supported me and encouraged me through this process and over the last 4 years. Your messages of support have meant the world to me.

I could certainly go on for a long time about the hypocrisy and irony of asking for money for legal fees after receiving a paid for partisan political trip, but you are smart, humorous folks, you get it. But this statement is rich;

I will only say that as currently constituted the ethics process is ripe for weaponization and abuse to influence elections and to hurt good people, and it must be reformed. All elected officials and future candidates are at risk in the absence of reform.

Greg continues to believe this was a political attack but the facts of the hearing don’t support it. I watched the entire circus, here is what was presented;

• Greg could never prove that the ethics complaint ‘harmed’ his reelection. Not only did he win, he beat his opponent handily.

• When asked during the hearing what collusion was taking place, and to present evidence there was a connection between his opponent and John Cunningham, all he could do is stare at his shoes. Sure, Pat forwarded a public email to John, and Pat and Janet endorsed his opponent (which the Board of Ethics said was protected free speech under the 1st Amendment). Oh and they had the envelope of a Thank You card from Pat to John, but zero evidence that John was working with his opponent, in fact John denied it, and he should, because it NEVER happened and zero evidence was presented. Just steam rising from a turd.

• While mountains of evidence was presented during the hearing that this was a partisan Republican event, Greg played dumb dumb and called it a ‘policy event’. Sure, Republican policies. Greg, you do understand what partisan means? Don’t you? Playing doofus doesn’t change the fact that it was clearly a partisan event. What does that have to do with this ‘weaponization’ you keep talking about? Nothing. Distractions.

• The only reason your ‘5 best friends’ dismissed this is because they knew the Mayor was next. I hate to say it Greg, but you should choose your friends better. They only bailed out your sorry butt because they didn’t want to bail water on the TenTantic.

No matter what you think of Greg as a councilor, the facts were clear, he went to a partisan event, paid for by partisans, and tried to kill the messenger with this made up story about collusion, even though it was well within Pat and Janet’s rights to endorse his opponent and well within John’s right to file an ethics complaint. And why did John file the complaint!? Because Greg was clearly guilty.

The only collusion that happened was between Greg, the mayor and his fellow rubberstampers. No worries Greg, it’s only a flesh wound.

What did we learn from Sioux Falls City Councilor Neitzert’s Ethics Hearing?

There was certainly a coordinated attack going on Thursday night, but it wasn’t on Greg, it was on Mr. Cunningham, and Councilors Brekke and Starr.

I was able to review some of the 170+ page document that suddenly appeared the night of the hearing (a copy of the document was never given to Mr. Cunningham or his attorney before that night, NOW that’s integrity and ethics folks!). There are some pretty astonishing accusations.

They believe John breached his confidentiality because he told the media after the first complaint was thrown out who and what it was about. But John never talked to the media about the case when he filed his 2nd complaint.

Sure the Argus, my blog and councilor Starr said who it ‘may’ be (because it was pretty damn obvious after the first complaint got thrown out that John would probably refile with the proper ordinance). But John himself never breached the the confidentiality of the second complaint.

This is what has surprised me through this whole thing, Greg knew we would all know it is him after the first one was thrown out, so why hide it from the public? Sure he has that right (which I don’t agree with, because I think complaints against public officials should be public) but how ignorant do you look when 99% of people following the matter already have made the assumption it is Greg. We can argue all day whether what Greg did was unethical or not, but keeping it confidential only prolonged the process and the speculation and actually cost taxpayers well over probably $10K.

There was also some mention in the documents I reviewed that they were going to make an attempt to try to force John to pay the legal fees of the city and Neitzert. I don’t think they can pursue that now since the BOE did determine probable cause to investigate.

But what is most troublesome is the demonization of Starr, Brekke and private citizen John Cunningham, who were all pointing out the obvious, Greg took a trip paid for by a Partisan group. Though Greg denies it’s partisanship, throughout the hearing evidence was presented on the contrary. It was a Republican event. They didn’t invite councilors, commissioners and mayors from the Democratic party. That is what makes it partisan. Greg essentially stood at the podium and lied while pretending to be oblivious of the fact that this WAS a partisan event. To heck with the possible violation itself, he should be punished on the grounds of lying during his hearing. He also attempted to lie about it being a political attack and when asked to present evidence, he stared at his shoes and shuffled paper. I ask the simple question; How is John, Janet and Pat talking about a possible ethics violation a political attack? At no time in the hearing was Greg’s political opponent brought up or evidence that John, Janet and Pat were working with his opponent. And come on folks, we knew Julian was never going to beat Greg. Even if Greg’s supporters felt he did something unethical, like myself and even John said, it wasn’t really a punishable offense, John just simply wanted to set an example so the council would stop doing this and change policy. No political collusion. Sure Pat, Janet and John shared (public) information. But Julian was never included in this threeway, or at least NO evidence was presented. In fact, the only time that I can personally think Julian would have even crossed that path was when one of his supporters helping him with his campaign asked me if it was Greg. And since I saw the email the same time John did I said that it was safe to assume that, or the mayor. I’m not sure if this information was ever passed onto Julian, but if it was, he did nothing about it and in the one and only phone conversation I had with Julian, we never really talked about it.

And here is the other kicker; if Greg’s charges were dismissed because they felt he did nothing wrong, why did his supporters on the council say they need to make policy changes? Why change something that isn’t broken? If Greg didn’t violate a policy, why do you need to fix the policy? Seems a little hypocritical to me? Wait, that’s this council’s middle name.

And the obvious and awful bias the chair of the meeting, Mayor TenHaken, had towards Greg and Greg’s detractors. Paul routinely cut off John, Janet and Pat while letting Greg’s 5 best friends make statements and cut off answers from John before he could finish. His performance that night should be a clear ethics violation.

But one of the other ironic moments was when (I think) councilor Selberg said that he thought this bickering and divisiveness would end after the election (in other words, after Theresa was gone). What they didn’t realize is that they are the ones being divisive and partisan and they are the ones that created all this drama. Remember how Councilor Erractickson used to attack Stehly? Now she has turned those attacks onto Brekke. This is what happens when you have a majority of the council that hates the public’s opinion, hates transparency and were bought and paid for (literally) by the banksters, developers and high rollers in town.

So what did Greg do wrong? First off, not admitting he actually did violate a portion of the ordinance by taking a paid for partisan trip. Greg could have made this go away the second the first complaint was filed by telling the BOE he apologized for the misstep and would work with the council on cleaning up the ordinances on travel policy. I actually believe he would have looked very honorable by doing that.

I also don’t think it deserved punishment. Though now I do think Greg needs to be reprimanded for lying throughout his hearing and making up things up about Janet, Pat and John.

And that’s just it, the violation itself wasn’t the gorilla in the room Thursday night, it was false attacks on Janet, Pat and John and the demonization of a citizen whistle blower for having the courage to file the complaint when he saw something that didn’t look right. Remember, as John mentioned Thursday night, he has a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and worked in the public sector most of his life, if he saw something that didn’t look right, he would be the one to know. The BOE did determine it wasn’t frivolous and changes to policy should be tightened up.

But if there is something we can learn from this is the attacks on private citizens for looking into government corruption needs to end, and ironically that is the real ‘political hit job’ here coming from the very partisans (Republicans) who tried to claim the trip wasn’t partisan. Just another chapter in their sad, pathetic, lying, scheming loser lives. The truth will free you brothers and sisters, I guess they enjoy being chained to the evils of deception, just look at who leads the state and national party.

Sioux Falls City Councilor Neitzert’s ethics complaint dismissed by council 5-2

I knew this was going to happen. Councilors Brekke and Starr voted against it.

To say it was a total 4 1/2 hour sh*t show is an understatement. Greg continued to say it was a political hit job but when questioned about that political hit job to show evidence all he could do is shuffle papers and look down at his feet.

At one point he pretended to not know what ALEC does (you know the shadow right wing group funded by the Koch Brothers who supported this conference). It would be like asking me what the ACLU does and not being able to answer it. It was laughable at best.

I also thought it was funny how Greg was answering the RS5’s questions before they finished asking the questions. Can you say rehearsal?

Even though the complaintant John Cunningham wasn’t provided around a 170 pages of evidence before the hearing he did a fine job of answering questions, and he beat down this was a political hit job. John said it best, “I’m concerned about ethics not politics.”

During my public input I told them right off the bat that I knew they would dismiss so I would go into the huff and puff of the meeting.

• I pointed out the clear conflict of interest and the bias the Mayor had tonight chairing the meeting since he attended the event with Greg. (I did not mention this in testimony, but Greg revealed tonight the former Deputy COS to the mayor TJ Nelson also attended the event with them. Guess who Nelson works for now? Greg’s counsel, Redstone. Hmmmmmmm.)

• I added that it was a partisan event because only Republicans were invited to attend.

• I said Greg didn’t bother to tell the council until he was at the event, I said, “It would be like calling my mom and telling her I was thinking about taking a vacation in Hawaii and when she asked me when, I would respond, I’m here now.” (My mother has a strict policy with me that I tell her in advance before I take long trips).

• Greg has yet to give the council or public a report of what he learned, though he was a chatterbox about it tonight, we still don’t know.

• I also took issue with the term ‘Common Practice’ and that the BOE failed in their duties to point this out but present NO evidence (Even Councilor Soehl brought this up in the final testimony). I said the only other person I can think of in the past 20 years that does this quite frequently is the current mayor.

• I went on to remind them that a city councilor’s email not flagged confidential by the city attorney because of pending litigation is a PUBLIC DOCUMENT and owned by the taxpayers (they tried to claim Starr leaked this document) I also said the same about Brekke pointing out chapters in the charter to citizens. I compared it to John Cunningham asking assistance from a city librarian to find a law book.

• I ended by saying this could have saved everyone a lot of time, capital and heartache if Neitzert would have not made this confidential and just apologized for what he did and reference that the code is vague. That would have proven he has real ethics and integrity, since he said several times during his testimony he ‘did nothing wrong’. Well then why hide behind confidentiality?

Lastly, I just want to say I agreed with Councilor Kiley’s final statement on this tonight, “This whole thing was disgusting.” It sure was. It sure was. It was a classic switcharoo of killing the messenger. And that was disgusting. Greg violated the ordinance and got off. That is disgusting Ricky and you enabled it.

Does Mayor TenHaken’s ‘Conflict’ allow him to chair the ethics hearing?

As you may or may not know, Councilor NitZert, I mean NutZert, I mean Nietzert has his ethics hearing at 6 PM Thursday at Carnegie Hall where he will appear to defend taking money from a third party partisan group for an all expense paid trip to Texas with Mayor TenHaken and a ‘mysterious’ city staffer which is a clear violation of city charter.

While Neitzert’s lawyer (who calls him NitZert) claims there is a conflict by councilors Brekke and Starr because they supposedly shared public documents, owned by taxpayers, to citizens, the real possible conflict is Mayor TenHaken chairing the hearing.

How can an elected official who possibly violated the same ordinance chair a hearing of his peer? This is the MAIN question.

I think the first motion in the hearing would be to remove the mayor as chair of this hearing because of his blatant conflict.

This isn’t really about Greg, it’s about Paul, and the circling of the wagons.

I hope Mr. Cunningham’s attorney points out this conflict at the beginning of the meeting and removes Paul from the proceedings.

I also want to say, I feel truly sorry for Greg, and I’m not being cynical (maybe a little). I had high hopes for the fellar, but he fell victim to the partisan machine and they will eat him alive while he remains a footnote in city government history.

Tomorrow night, Carnegie Town Hall will be transformed into the Globe Theater. I hope to be in the front row in the penny seats.

Sioux Falls City Council Meeting, Sept 1, 2020

It was another lively night at the city council meeting. During public input, once again the Municipal Band was brought up to be saved, and once again you could hear the mayor audibly sighing into his microphone. Hey you brought this on yourself. Probably one of the stupidest things I have ever seen a mayor do.

Bob Kolbe (I think it was him, hard to tell with a mask on). Ripped into the council a bit about ethics and drop boxes for voting. Another citizen also piped up about ballot drop boxes, I think her best line was, “In case you haven’t noticed we are the middle of a Covid Pandemic.” AND “If you are telling us it is unsafe to vote in person, unsafe to vote by mail, and unsafe to vote by drop boxes, it is pretty evident you are trying to suppress our votes .” (paraphrasing).

Sierra also appeared to remind the council that legitimate and legal massage therapists are sick of the prostitution and men harassing them because of the illegitimate therapists. I’ll tell you why it is taking so long for these places to be shut down, because a lot of elite individuals in town frequent these places, and we certainly can’t have their extracurricular activities shut down. I also don’t think Mayor Stoneless understands the gravity of the situation, neither does our Chief of Police who last night was more concerned about building his $52 million dollar training center (which we will bond for instead trying to acquire some Federal Dollars – now that’s leadership folks).

It also appears another apartment building will be pushed through though the neighbors (homeowners) don’t want it since it was originally zoned as office. Of course the accolades for how great developers are were ensued by the RS6.

Greg Nutzert’s ethics challenge was also read into the record, and now the city has to spend another $5,000 for legal representation on the matter and had to hire a law firm. Greg, you can stop this circus before it turns into a 3 ring extravaganza, admit guilt and apologize so we can all move on. I might even buy you a jug of hand sanitizer . . . nevermind . . . you should probably pay for that yourself 😊

Councilor Neitzert could end the ethics circus

As we all know by now, Councilor Greg Neitzert is in the center of an ethics challenge. Let’s recap;

• While Greg was at a partisan political event in Texas he decided to email the entire council about the trip. Mind you, he did this WHILE attending the event, NOT before. He also didn’t ask his colleagues in advance if they thought it was OK to attend an event paid for by the event sponsor. And here is the kicker, he still has NOT given a written or oral report to the entire council of what he learned.

• A citizen, John Cunningham obtained a copy of the email Greg sent. Which, BTW, was not marked confidential and sent to the councilors official email addresses. In other words, public property. Anyone had a right to read or obtain a copy of the email.

• As understand the situation, Mr. Cunningham was so upset about the blatant ethics and code violation, he filed a complaint to the Board of Ethics. Unfortunately, he filed the complaint siting the chapter in ordinance that pertains to city employees and NOT elected officials. Instead of the BOE correcting the chapter mistake at the first hearing by simply making a motion, they threw it out, so John had to refile it with the correct reference.

• Neitzert asked for confidentiality in the matter from the beginning, I assume because he was running for re-election. Since the City attorney had a conflict, they used outside independent counsel. Which has cost the taxpayers around $7,000 and maybe more before this is all done.

• After the correct chapter was referenced, the hearing began behind closed doors. The BOE met three separate dates in private before rendering a letter that basically said that Greg was in violation, but it wasn’t a big deal. Saying it was common practice. This part in the letter continues to confuse me. I’m trying to figure out what other councilor or elected official has done this (not asking permission and taking partisan money). I could find only ONE official that has done this for the past two years on repeated occasions; Mayor TenHaken.

• After the city council received the letter they claimed to be confused about what to do with it, Council Erraktison said it was ‘clear as mud’. I will admit, the first time I read it, it was pretty murky, but after a couple of times, it was clear to me that Greg was in violation of city ordinance. They returned it to the BOE for clarification, which didn’t sit well with them and they said to re-read it.

• Days before the BOE thru the letter back at the Council, Nietzert stupidly sent a letter to the BOE asking for it to be thrown out, without the advice of his attorneys. He also went on The Greg Belfrage show and spewed all kinds of things like suggesting that Cunningham (a private citizen) colluded with other councilors to do a political hit job on him before an election. As far as I know, Mr. Cunningham had nothing to do with Greg’s opponent’s campaign, and further more John is a retired municipal employee who has worked for several cities across the country. He simply was concerned about integrity and ethics. That’s it.

So where does it go from here? My understanding is that there will be a pre-hearing to give Neitzert the opportunity to call witnesses and for Mr. Cunningham to do the same. Than a hearing will proceed.

If I was still giving Greg advice, which I have not in several years, I would tell him he could end this circus and make this less expensive and less painful for all involved. If I was Greg I would do this next week;

• Admit guilt and apologize to the citizens, fellow councilors and especially Mr. Cunningham for trying to lay the guilt on them.

• As part of the punishment, I would pay back the partisan group for the trip and resign as council chair.

• And lastly, I would tell the council who the others were that attended the trip with him. We already know the mayor was one of these people, but who was the city staffer that Greg mentions in the Belfrage interview?

• Oh, and give us a report already of what you ‘learned’ at this event.

Ultimately, I think Greg will fight this to the bitter end, which will be a sad episode in our city’s history. And he will lose, big time.

When will the Sioux Falls Board of Ethics reconvene

Remember a few weeks ago when the BOE met? They still have not reconvened to make a final decision (they must vote in public). In fact, they didn’t even make a decision on when to reconvene, which should have been done in public before escaping out the bathroom windows.

I still have no idea what the complaint is and who it is against. Oh yes, I have my guesses, but since everything was behind closed doors and ‘confidential’ the public has no idea what is going on. This is extremely egregious.

It will be interesting to see if and when they reconvene. My guess is that they will wait until after July 14. Why is that date important? That is when the newly installed council gets sworn in and that new body picks it’s leaders (chair and vice chair). Like I said, not sure if these two issues have anything to do with each other, but trust me, I’m not naive either.

UPDATE: Sioux Falls Ethics Board meets Friday to discuss the ethics of some mysterious Mickey Mouse city official

UPDATE: After a brief public input session the BOE met for approximately 4 hours in executive session with the accused being represented by what seemed to be two attorneys who were in the room before the session started. As I understand it the person who filed the complaint and the accused attorneys left the meeting two hours into it and they met for another two hours then recessed. In other words the BOE did not emerge for a public vote which means they are still in discussions about the validity of the complaint. It seems odd to me that 5 people can’t make a simple decision in a matter of 4 hours. Of course we still don’t know who Mr. Mouse is, and we don’t even know what the complaint is. Will we ever know? The BOE of course will have to reschedule a later time to finish deliberations. Who knows when that will be?

Another interesting tidbit is that one of the attorneys representing the accused seems to be the same person representing the Jensen camp in the re-count next week. Of course, this is not surprising since there probably isn’t a lot of attorneys out there willing to wade into the waters of election recounts and ethics complaints.

First, let’s pretend for a minute that Mickey Mouse works for the city, and let’s just say, Mr. Mouse took a trip paid for by a partisan group. Then let’s say that this same Mr. Mouse already had a violation thrown out on a technicality, which cost taxpayers in outside counsel $3,750. Then let’s say the city council met last night to approve another expenditure for Mr. Mouse from the SAME law firm that could not exceed $7,500. But for some reason none of us seem to know who Mr. Mouse is? Could we assume that the first Mr. Mouse is the same Mr. Mouse that is being looked at a 2nd time around? Or could it be his friend Donald Duck? Or maybe it is from another department? Maybe Mr. Pooh. Or Waldo? Or the Grinch? Oh, it’s probably Rat Fink!

Here is my take. If you are a city official, and an ethics complaint is filed against you, and you think your are innocent, why hide behind confidentiality? As Porky Pig would say, ‘That’s all Folks!’