Entries Tagged 'Ethics' ↓

Sioux Falls Board of Ethics gets warned they may get very busy (Meeting 9/19/19)

Notice the ‘Note’ handoff to one of the members who showed up late. Kind of looks like the decision was made before the meeting even started.

You hope you can ask a question of Sioux Falls city government and get a straight answer but all you found was a false hope. Just like so many citizens of Sioux Falls, City Councilor Janet Brekke had basic questions of what can I do and what can’t I do in a petition drive.

Triple Check the Charter petition drive is being fought by every resource the city of Sioux Falls has available. Government officials with no political or election experience are cooking the petition process to disenfranchise voters. These individuals with the blessing of the administration are creating new rules no one has ever heard of before to protect their power grabs.

After the confusing August 16, 2019 Board of Ethics hearing, Janet Brekke wanted more information and the members refused to clear up the any of the mess being created by it and the actions of the administration.

The Triple Check the Charter movement is a citizen led effort with a simple goal, redefining the responsibilities of the city council. The administration’s leadership team is scared they might have to be actual leaders and lead. The RS5 coalition on the Council might actually have to work together with all the members to succeed. All of the Sioux Falls city government might actually have to work for the betterment all citizens of Sioux Falls.

A scary thought right?

Like Councilor Stehly asked in August, Brekke wanted simple guidance but the September 19, 2019 meeting of the Board of Ethics once again shows, trying to do the right thing is the last thing our city government wants to see someone do. They might be caught doing something? It’s why we ask.

Board of Ethics, Friday, August 16, 2019

The plot thickens today. Hopefully we will have an update about the petition drive and the city’s current continuing efforts to be less then accommodating. Stay tuned.

I also find it interesting, as pointed out below, that the councilors have a constitutional right to gather signatures, but the city is ruling on this based on ‘ethics’. I ask the question, What is unethical about circulating petitions?

If we want to have a discussion about ethics, why not ask if it is ethical to vote to hire one of your long time family friends to a city council job?

What is citizenship is a question we must all face. If we allow government officials to redefine it at will or tell us what it is, we will all lose. Entrenched officeholders do not want to lose the perceived power they have and will do everything in their power to stop their opponents. Theresa Stehly asked the Sioux Falls Board of Ethics on August 16, 2019 to give her clear guidelines for using her birthright citizenship and voter ID to join the Triple Check the Charter petition drive. The Board of Ethics decided she did not have a clear cut ability to exercise her 1st Amendment rights. Yes you can lead or work with a petition drive but by golly don’t you dare carry a petition because our City Clerk might be a weakling and be intimidated by you. It’s ethical for a mayor to allow his tennis center to receive city money if he “leaves” the room during the vote but don’t you dare have a clear-cut desire to help citizens. Our town has a bit of a warped sense of itself.

Sioux Falls City Councilors told NOT to circulate petitions

In a 3-1 decision (Sue Roust voted to say it was OK to circulate) the Board of Ethics told the RW3 (Brekke, Stehly & Starr) that they didn’t think it was ‘ethical’ to circulate petitions for Triple Check the Charter.

Their reason? They said that since the 3 of them are in a supervisory role with the city clerk, Tom Greco, that it would make it difficult for him to act fairly when checking the petitions if one of them turned in signatures. While that is all fine and dandy, Roust pointed out that it is no different then turning in petition signatures for running for re-election to the council.

I think that they could just sign an affidavit saying that they would not discuss the petition with Tom and vice versa and have the city attorney notarize it. I also think by telling them NOT to circulate petitions, it violates their 1st Amendment rights.

A lot of Hoo-Hah over nothing. The BOE did tell them that they could assist with the petition drive though, just NOT collect signatures.

Sioux Falls City Council RW3 ask the Ethics Board to circulate petitions

What: Sioux Falls Board of Ethics

When: Friday August 16th, 2019 11:00 AM

Where: Old Council Chambers in City Hall. 224 West Ninth Street

Councilors Janet Brekke, Theresa Stehly and Pat Starr will be asking for an advisory opinion on their rights to participate in the ongoing “Triple Check the Charter” petition drive.

The RW3 (Right Way Three) will be bringing evidence that other elected officials have circulated petitions while in office. Mark Mickelson did while serving in the State Legislature, Christine Erickson did (school start date) while serving on the city council and Anne Hajek did while serving on the Minnehaha County Commission.

Sioux Falls Planning Director Eckhoff resigns from Xcel Advisory Board before BOE makes decision

I haven’t watched this video yet, but I guess this unfolds in a very unusual way. I also guess Xcel asked Jeff to ask for the opinion (as I assumed).

Sioux Falls Planning Director serves on Excel ‘Advisory’ Energy Board

Planning Director Eckhoff is asking for an advisory opinion on Thursday, July 25, from the Board of Ethics if it is appropriate for him to continue to serve on the board (he has for over 8 years, and receives a stipend). He says he will forgo the stipend. (Last page of document)

IMO, even if Jeff forgoes the stipend, I don’t think it is appropriate for him to serve on the board, especially as the planning director of the state’s largest city. This is an easy one for the BOE.

I’ve been hearing Jeff has been doing a great job for the city and works well with constituents and councilors, unfortunately he should have known to resign this position before accepting the city job – it is a major conflict.

Sioux Falls Ethics Board Chair warns Councilor Neitzert about his FB joke

Tonight the city council was invited to a presentation and an after party for the Sioux Steel project. I know for sure that 3 city councilors did not attend the after party (you can guess who they are). Stehly asked an advisory opinion last week about accepting drinks and ‘HEAVY’ apps from the developer. The ethics commission couldn’t rule on the opinion because Stehly didn’t present evidence of the possible TIF request. Chairman Greg LaFollette was absent from the meeting, but in the past he has frowned on this kind of gift giving. Neitzert decided to make a joke about it earlier today and LaFollette warned him that it probably isn’t such a good idea. It will be interesting to see how many of the other 5 attended and chowed down on their ‘Heavy’ Tifilicious Snacks. Awaiting photos.

In other ‘Neitzert’ news, I guess he requested that all of the councilors sign a document of confidence in the new Internal Auditor that he would frame and present to Mrs. Nelson. He pretty much admitted that the document wasn’t an ‘official’ but would help in mending bridges. That bridge could have been solid if they would have hired someone with no conflicts.

Oh, and still no word if Shana will be replaced in the finance department . . .

Sioux Falls Board of Ethics, April 25, 2019

Surprise, surprise Sioux Falls government ethics is in question. The Sioux Falls Board of Ethics was asked what should have been a simple question by City Councilor Theresa Stehly on April 25, 2019.

Can a developer, who is planning a major downtown project where they will be pitching a $24 million tax break, host a food and booze event without an ethics violation being levied against the invited city officials?

Anything can be can be questioned if it has de Minimis or nominal value. Even if there is no minimum or maximum value, if there is no minimum or maximum time period, it can be an ethical conflict. If dots can be shown or perceived or the optics can make it look bad, it is an ethical conflict. These have been the rulings in two previous decisions of the Board of Ethics.

What we learned in this meeting, apparently this does not apply to City Council or department staff if a developer wants to wine and dine the right people.

This was a preemptive advisory request by Stehly, not a post event ethics violation she was asking the Board to rule on.

The Board decided, since there is no “crime” yet, there was nothing they could do to preemptively advise the people in their jurisdiction to not attend the heavy food and alcoholic drink event designed to soften the $24 million TIF request.

The previous ruling requests were preemptive in nature, so was this one. Explain this to the cops and librarians, how South Dakota has only ethics laws affecting them (kind of).

UPDATE: Sioux Falls City Councilor Stehly asks for advisory opinion

UPDATE: The Ethics board determined they could not make a decision because they didn’t have evidence that the City Council would vote on TIFs. Stehly told them there was an Argus Leader article on it, but she didn’t have it with her though Bruce offered to show it on his tablet. Since they are quasi-judicial they have to have the physical evidence.

Bruce pointed out at the end of the meeting during public input that it was unfortunate that they did not offer an opinion because now if there are pictures of city officials and city councilors at the event and later they have to make a decision on TIFs, ethics violations could be filed against them for accepting gifts before the vote. The Ethics Board could get very busy next month.

The meeting will be at 10:30 AM this Thursday at City Hall. Stehly is asking if it is ‘ethical’ to be accepting FREE ‘Food & Drink’ from a developer that will be potentially asking for a TIF from the very people who are being asked to attend this event.

Personally, if I was a city councilor, I would NOT attend the reception portion of the event. It not only looks unethical, it likely is unethical. This will be an interesting Ethics Board meeting to watch and what laws are applicable. In South Dakota where we have very few ethics laws for lawmakers I could easily see a ruling either way.

UPDATE: Sioux Falls Ethics Board said ‘No Dice’

UPDATE: The SiouxFalls Board of Ethics met on March 28, 2019 to hear testimony for an advisory opinion concerning the propriety of a city employee joining a company board and then receiving any honorarium payment for it.

The Board of Ethics decided it was proper in this situation, and others, to be part of an advisory board but a city official in any capacity will not receive any payment, meals or reimbursement of expenses for such service. In simple language, if you are a city of Sioux Falls employee or elected official, you better not be receiving any money or anything of value for your service.

This is the second opinion in two years where a similar decision was made. We have been told there are city officials who are part of corporate, state and national boards and some may be receiving some types of remuneration or payments.

As the ethics board determined in the past when it comes to gift cards to emergency responders, they told a librarian in an ‘advisory opinion’ today she could serve on a board but couldn’t take a contribution from the organization, even if it was charitable. I think Cameraman Bruce filmed the event (I think he was the only media in attendance today, guess he wasn’t scared of being ‘stuck in the middle’). It seemed logical.

The opinion request (Click to enlarge);