Entries Tagged 'Ethics' ↓

Sioux Falls City Councilor Erickson thinks it is a ‘Mystery’ that Councilor Neitzert is costing taxpayer’s up to $7,500 to defend him against an ethics complaint, a second time

I often chuckle when Erickson accuses Stehly of being the crazy one on the council. Kettle meet black. Tonight at the city council regular meeting when councilor Starr pulled the consent agenda item about the potential $7,500 legal fee for Neitzert’s ethics complaint for outside counsel defense Erickson accused Starr of releasing confidential information.

I about died laughing.

Starr encouraged her to read the Argus Leader. It is all there in black and white.

Once again, I was laughing.

Christine seems to think that since the public already knows there was an ethics complaint against Neitzert that was thrown out on a technicality that the public doesn’t know the 2nd time around it is also against him. Who did she think the 2nd complaint was against with the proper legal reference this time around? Bugs Bunny?

While none of us have seen it in writing it is against him, isn’t the writing on the freaking wall?! Duh!

But I guess we are all conspiracy theorists. Nope. We are realists.

The Unethical, Sioux Falls Ethics board Chair receiving honors for Ethics & Integrity

So am I the only one finding this SD Hall of Fame Honor a little ironic after his performance at the SF Ethics Board Hearing on Thursday in which there was TWO very evident open meetings violations. I guess Jack thinks it’s OK to be ethical, but those rules don’t apply to him.

Jack Marsh
Sioux Falls, SD | Business

A Champion of Ethics and Human Rights in South Dakota.

Jack Marsh has been a champion for ethics and human rights in South Dakota for decades. 26 years ago, he first moved to the state and took the role of editor of the Argus Leader for Gannett companies. In this role, his commitment to journalism, and ethics, were evident. His long-time mentor, Al Neuharth, often stated “The First Amendment guarantees a free press. We in the media must make sure it is a fair one.” Through his work, he has held a constant commitment to mentoring individuals both inside and outside the world of journalism. Coupled with his life-long commitment to diversity and the elimination of prejudice, Jack Marsh is a hero of the people.

I have had a handful of interactions over the years with Mr. Marsh, all have been uncomfortable and confrontational. Mostly because he is an arrogant ‘P’. It doesn’t surprise me one bit that he thinks he is acting with the highest level of integrity and ethics.

The other odd part about their dismissal on Thursday is that they know this will reappear later (but see, it will be after the election, so it won’t matter).

I suspect the second round of complaints won’t only include Neitzert, but also Mayor TenHaken for his participation in the conference and also his participation in the Bloomberg Institute;

Participation in the program is fully funded—including tuition, accommodation, meals, and airfare. Please note that public officials, including any employee of a government entity, should consult applicable rules and regulations to ensure that their attendance (including the acceptance of related costs) complies with such rules and regulations.

The Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative is made possible by a gift from Bloomberg Philanthropies as part of their Government Innovation portfolio, which focuses on building problem-solving capacity within local governments and spreading innovations that work.

As you can see, our Unethical, Ethics Board is going to be very busy over the next couple of months, better stock up on masks.

What Good is an Ethics Board?

Our Sioux Falls Board of Ethics once again found a way on April 30, 2020 to NOT do their job and they decided to do it in a private, secret (questionably legal) Executive Session. Our City Attorney’s office has decided, any time there is a decision to be made by a board requiring a discussion with a city attorney; it will be done in private. On top of that, the decision was decided in the secret meeting and then makes it look legal, by voting on it unanimously after the secret session ends.

The Board of Ethics seems to have a problem. The Board of Ethics is not created to decide law. The members are to be stellar members of Sioux Falls community who are charged with helping find the right solution to sticky questions. The body was setup years ago to deal with ethical issues employees and elected officials are faced with.

In theory, the board has two functions:

  1. Be presented with questions written and presented by people who need help thinking through the process of what is ethical and right for the completion of their job.
  2. A jury of our citizen peers who will assist with the resolution of possible ethical lapses by city employees and elected officials. These lapses could include conflicts of interest or gifts. These lapses may not have sunk to legal questions but could be perceived issues of corruption needing to be investigated and then turned over to the City Council as a quasi-judicial hearing matter.

The complaint 20-A was filed March 4th, 2020 and had to be heard by the Board of Ethics within 60 days or by May 4th. This confidential complaint was held off as long as legally possible and then was dealt with (for the first time known) in a completely private manner in violation of South Dakota Open Meetings laws. Not only was it held in a completely secret manner, it also found a way to violate the Open Meeting laws by having the normal jurisdiction discussion and vote in secret without public or interested party testimony.

So why was this board meeting held? Councilor Greg Neitzert proudly took a trip to Texas in October of 2019. Why should we care? Well there is a story to go with it that should make every voter and citizen of Sioux Falls question not only what is fitness for office but our system of ethical review.

Neitzert wrote in an email sent from the meeting “I wanted to make sure to note and be clear, I was invited by them, as was Mayor TenHaken, to attend.”  He also stated “They booked all of it and paid all costs.  Nothing was booked or coordinated by the city, our Council office, no city funds, resources, or staff time was involved, and there is no travel forms or city reimbursement.  I worked directly with the organization that took care of everything and sent me the hotel and flight reservations.“

In other words, he received a junket trip for “free” and then claimed erroneously “They consider themselves a similar concept to the National League of Cities, and so far it has been, just on a smaller scale.” Neitzert seems to be confused here, the National League of Cities is a truly non-partisan membership organization versus the partisan Republican tax-exempt [501(c)(4)] shadow organization who invited Greg Neitzert and Paul TenHaken to Frisco, Texas to learn how to use their positions to make Sioux Falls city government a political party based entity.

The organization, called Community Leaders of America (527) and their Forum for Community Leaders (FCL) (501(c)(4)) uses their tax-exempt status to train future party leaders. Part of their mission statement clearly spells it out:

The Forum for Community Leaders (FCL) comes alongside Republican local leaders in their constant effort to….

The FCL is a political lobbyist organization privately funding gullible local officials with trips to places in order to win over their allegiances, decisions and votes. In other words only Republicans attend.

To add to the problems with the meeting, the attorney’s office did not have a complete agenda when they “missed” having Public Input on the official agenda. The Chair decided to deal with this infraction by announcing at meeting close there would be Public Input. The problem here? South Dakota law requires complete agendas 24 hours in advance of the meeting start. Do you remember the City Council agenda problem from a few years ago when the Clerk “forgot” to post the agenda as required by Ordinance and they called the special meeting with the regular agenda at the regular time? Here we go again.

How do we answer these questions:

  1. If this organization was non-partisan and the trip was funded by the city with other members attending, would there be less questioning?
  2. Where in the financial reporting documents does it show how the expenses paid for by someone else or a filed paper trail or report given to the Council documenting what was accomplished?
  3. Was the Board of Ethics and the city attorney’s office dragging this out for months to prevent the discussion from being made public during the April campaign?
  4. Why does the city attorney insist on having secret meetings when a similar confidential complaint was handled more correctly a couple of years ago? (In that similar case, the BOE decided it had jurisdiction)
  5. Why does the citizen have to be an expert in law, knowing intimate details of ethics, Charter and ordinance in order to have an ethics question considered?
  6. Why does the Ethics Board always (and we do mean always) throw these cases out on technicalities and not offer a motion to fix the technical issue when they clearly have that option as stated in their rules and procedures?

Watch the video and decide if we really need to waste our time with the Board of Ethics in its current form.

UPDATE:Sioux Falls Ethics board to meet tomorrow, April 30, 2020

UPDATE: The Ethics board threw out a complaint against councilor Neitzert today based on a technicality. The person who filed the complaint had the wrong chapter number listed for what he was accused of violating. He listed the employee chapter instead of the councilor chapter. Basically Neitzert was accused of taking money from an organization to go speak at a conference in Texas with mayor Paul. He admitted to doing it already to the council. The Ethics Board could have fixed the error in a motion and then proceeded with the hearing, but of course they didn’t. More to come.

Funny how Neitzert claims there was nothing wrong with what he did, blames the messenger, yet chose to keep the complaint ‘confidential’ until after the hearing. That’s because he was hoping for an April election, and the hearing would not have happened until after that. So who is playing politics?

Not sure what this is about because it is confidential, but you can guarantee it is about someone who collects a paycheck from the city and has obvious close ties to the city attorney (in other words not someone who puts out fires or mows the parks). The recusal of the city attorney by one of the leading attorneys at Lynn, Jackson, Shultz & Lebrun to replace him tells me that it is someone city attorney Kooistra advises directly. (You can figure out the handful of people who fit that criteria – I will give you a hint, it is less than 12 and more than 1).

While the person(s) being indicted have chosen to keep this confidential, that doesn’t mean after the decision is granted it remains confidential, it is free game for media consumption.

I also find calling this an ‘executive session’ interesting. Is that even legal? While I understand the meeting being closed to the public and media, wouldn’t the person filing the complaint be included to present evidence? I don’t know, this is all really suspicious.

But I can say something for certain, and I don’t even need a magic 8-Ball, whoever it is, they will magically (no pun intended) be found innocent. I also will guarantee you that that decision has already been pre-determined. But don’t take my word on it, just look at the record of this board going all the way back to Mayor Munson . . . patsies.

In a Crisis, Good Government is very important

What are those principles? There are four I always go back to;

• The obvious

• Integrity (and ethics)

• Common Sense

• Transparency

Like tying your shoe, good government is easy. The problem is partisan hacks and people with ‘ideals’ often want to wreck a good thing. Nothing ever comes from new ideas about how people are governed. What do I mean by that? I often tell people that the toaster has never really been re-invented since it’s inception. Why? Because it works. Why mess up a good thing? Philosophers, including my favorite, Plato has laid a road map that works. Anytime we sway from that map, it turns out badly.

So let’s review’

• The obvious. Like a toaster, if something works, and works well, why change it? If history teaches us something that is effective, let’s keep doing it until it is not.

• Integrity.  Having a moral compass that says helping yourself really means helping  others in an honest method can only result in trust. Unethical people are not trusted. To that I say ‘duh’.

• Common Sense. Some call this No nonsense, but it really doesn’t matter how you frame it. If a commonly held idea works, run with it. There is no reason to change something based on simply wanting change. If something works, you roll with it. I have been mostly going to the same barber for almost 20 years. Why? Because she cuts my hair the I want her to.

• Transparency. And while I leave this as my last point, it is the most important. Nothing for the common good can happen in darkness. Mark Twain says it best;

“If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything.”

Giving truthful information to the public in a timely manner will never bite you in the ass. You can always say later, ‘I told you so.’

I know I am wishful thinking right now that our elected officials will do the right thing, but they won’t unless they apply simple rules. Now excuse me while I enjoy some peanut butter and toast.

Sioux Falls Ethics Board opinion about city election campaigning and finance

Please find the attached Board of Ethics Advisory Opinion No. 20-1

VIEW DOCUMENT HERE.

Sioux Falls Ethics Board Meeting, March 6, 2020

Be warned, this is a 3 hour meeting, so you may have to watch in segments. Also, we have never had much luck recording audio in this room, so there will be some echoing, etc., bare with us.

So will Mayor TenHaken and Councilor Erickson publicly endorse Jensen now?

(screenshot of Erickson’s FB page. Look, Alex has a name tag already!

So now that the ethics debacle has taken place, will this now give Paul and Christine the green light to publicly endorse (not just give money) Neitzert and Jensen, essentially saying that Julian and Stehly are not fit for office? And if so will Brekke and Starr follow suit and publicly endorse Stehly?

Neitzert said this on FB about the decision;

Yesterday the board of ethics ruled it was not only legal but ethical for Councilors to donate, endorse, and host fundraisers for other Council candidates. Same goes for the Mayor. And thus common sense and free speech won. And those using the board of ethics as a weapon during the campaign season to try to malign good people and attack their political opponents failed miserably.

I know, it reads like a line from a Shakespearean tragedy.

The issue with this kind of endorsement is the reason Brekke asked the question. Why? They are not really endorsing anyone, they are just saying that Theresa and Julian are not fit for office, so she needs to be replaced and Julian shouldn’t be able to serve.

It’s a different situation with Julian because he isn’t the incumbent, but with Stehly, she has a record. All we have from Jensen is a short rubberstamp legislative career chocked full of discrimination and higher tax votes. They are certainly not going to endorse Jensen based on his record, all they are saying is we need a rubber stamping seat warmer to replace Stehly.

This has been my biggest frustration with the race so far. We know Stehly and Neitzert’s record, we also know that Julian has had several public events saying what he stands for, he even helped with Jolene’s campaign. But with Jensen we have heard virtually nothing. NOTHING.

How can you say he would be better than Stehly when we don’t even know what that ‘better’ means? It is pretty clear to me that an endorsement of Jensen isn’t an endorsement at all, it’s just a dig on Stehly, and it’s extremely unethical, and any logical adult can see right thru the charade.

Ethics Board confuses law with ethics

I’m hearing the ethics meeting today lasted 3 hours, and they ruled that there was nothing wrong with the mayor endorsing council candidates or giving them money.

VIDEO COMING

One board member dissented, I believe it was Greg LaFollette.

I guess board member Jack Marsh was being a real stinker.

The essential argument was 1st Amendment rights and the SCOTUS ruling of Citizens United. But the constitutionality of this has nothing to do with if something is ethical. One city councilor (I think Erickson) went as far to accuse Brekke of trying to make the mayor ‘look bad’ and unethical.

The board members felt that we have a very ‘ethical’ city government and were concerned someone would question their ethics.

LOL. Isn’t that why we have this board?

Of course none of this surprises me. The establishment special interest crowd is often saying if it is legal it is ethical.

Sioux Falls Ethics Board Meeting, Friday March 6th

A request for an open advisory opinion from the Board of Ethics was filed by Councilmember Janet Brekke. Councilmember Brekke is seeking guidance from the Ethics Board on appropriate local election related conduct. The request states: “The level of involvement of city elected officials in this current election cycle is unprecedented. I cannot assume these practices are ethical just because they are occurring now or have occurred in the past.  I am requesting a binding advisory opinion to guide my anticipated conduct in this and future elections.”

Brekke raises multiple issues regarding the propriety of local elected officials engaging in campaign financing and endorsement activities designed to influence the outcome of their own local elections. The ethical issues raised involve: 1) the use of public office for private gain for themselves or others, 2) the appearance of impropriety shall be avoided, and 3) refraining from engaging in political activities inappropriate to his or her office.

Councilmember Brekke specifically requested an open hearing so the testimony and deliberations will all be done in public.  Also, in an open hearing, opportunities for public input are part of the hearing process. This will be the first time issues such as these have been brought before the Ethics Board. The hearing is Friday, March 6, 2020 at 2:00 pm at City Hall in the old Council Chambers. Members of the public are welcome to attend and participate in the process by offering public input.