Entries Tagged 'Sioux Falls' ↓

Former City Attorney Fiddle-Faddle back fiddling with city business

I’m not sure how David Pfeifle got his foot back in the door, but this appointment should be worrisome (Item #20);

David Pfeifle

Sioux Falls Regional Emergency
Medical Services Authority
(REMSA)

Appointed for a term from
October 2020 to October 2025
(to replace Ross Wheeler).

David Pfeifle
• Earned law degree from the University of South Dakota.
• Executive director of the South Dakota Public Assurance Alliance.
• Twenty-six years of practicing law in South Dakota including representing several medical community clients.
• Former city attorney for Pierre and Sioux Falls and state’s attorney for Stanley County. Prior legal advisor to REMSA.

First the obvious, this is an enormous conflict of interest due to his position as the director of the city’s insurance provider. But as we know, the city isn’t real big on ethical behavior these days.

What also worries me is his roll of advising the board on legal matters, especially if there is something they want to be hauled away in a ghost ambulance (probably the main reason he is being appointed).

But what is most troubling about this appointment is his reputation as the former city attorney where he assisted in trying to cover-up the event center siding settlement, that wasn’t really a settlement.

While it has bothered me that Fiddle was appointed to be the director of the Public Assurance Alliance, we certainly don’t need him back fiddling with city business, especially on such an important board.

Still wondering who cooked up this mess.

Congratulations to Mayor TenHaken on his high approval rating!

Believe it or not, I do want to commend him on his approval rating.

It’s not easy achieving that high of a rating, but . . .

I wanted to point out that this was put together by a private firm, and I question the use of the language ‘Rock Star’. I talked to someone who works for a private public relations firm (not the one Paul used) and he told me it was likely the questions were written by Paul and his PAC since he paid for the survey. In other words, if you ask the right questions you get the right answers. It is also obvious that this poll was put together to help raise money for Paul in whatever he plans on running for in the future. It had to look rosy. Lastly, when you have someone else run the city (COS Erica Beck) and do very little in your duty as mayor, it’s not hard to get a good approval rating. Most people in this city that vote in city elections tend to be conservative in nature (and older) and one of the reasons he got elected. They don’t like change, and TenHaken has really proven that he has not only NOT changed much, he hasn’t done much. While he touts 5G as one of his greatest achievements, it really isn’t that big of a deal, except for those investing in it (and I question if he is investing in it).

In normal circumstances, no matter who the mayor is, they will tend to get a good rating. I did however chuckle about the fact that 15% of the VOTERS that were polled didn’t know who our mayor was. The consultant I talked to said that number is low and expected more voters didn’t know who he is. I would totally understand if you were a non-registered voter, but I find it baffling that 15% of voters in Sioux Falls don’t know who leads the city. I have often argued if you stopped 10 people on the street DT and verified with them they are SF registered voters that maybe 1 of them could name all 8 city councilors. And I would be surprised if the rest of them could name 1 or 2. What I have found following city politics for over 20 years, not many people pay attention to who or what our city leaders are doing. Besides my blog and the Argus Leader, our other media in town follows very little city politics and if they do it is usually something positive our mayor or city council is doing. It’s sad really. I’m the kind of person that likes to hear the good with the bad and make my own decision on whether our local elected officials are doing a good job. This trend by the news (nationwide) of hiding bad things from us only builds mistrust or ignorance.

Paul really has the local media to thank for his popularity, because it’s NOT based on the fact that people are informed and our city government is open and transparent, it’s based on the fact that most city voters are oblivious to what goes on at city hall.

UPDATE II: Sioux Falls Board of Ethics Meeting, Oct 6, 2020

UPDATE II: So one interesting thing I learned from the video was that the 170+ page document that was presented to the council during Nutzert’s hearing was actually given to the City Clerk several days before the hearing. Brekke questioned why they received the document that night right before the meeting instead of in advance. BOE Chair Jack Marsh defended that position and said they prepared the packets for the council immediately several days before the hearing and gave them to City Clerk Greco to give to the Council, and it was within Greco’s jurisdiction NOT the BOE’s to give them to the council. Which is true.

I asked a couple people in the know this afternoon why Greco did not pass it on to the councilors in advance. In fact, I guess, Greco intended to do so and even wanted to post the docs in advance online in SIRE but he needed (or thought he needed) permission from the outside counsel the city hired to handle the hearing before he could do it . . . wondering why that permission wasn’t granted?

I have asked a couple of city councilors to look into why the information wasn’t presented to the council and the public in advance.

This whole adventure was so sloppy and corrupt, you wonder how our city government can even function at all.

——————————————————

I did not attend today’s meeting because it was at 9 AM on a Tuesday morning, real convenient for the public to show up – NOT. So all I can tell you is what I heard briefly from those who attended;

I guess the Board of Ethics determined that Councilor Brekke assisting constituents with navigating the Charter was well within her rights and duties as a councilor (Duh!)

I guess David Zokaites’ question about supplying evidence was pretty much blown off because Neitzert told the BOE that city employees take trips all the time. Which is interesting, since this complaint was against an ELECTED official and NOT a city employee. That was the main reason the first complaint was dismissed.

I guess we will know more after the video and minutes are released.

Mayor TenHaken’s employee mask proposal

When I heard about the mayor mandating city employees to wear masks a friend said to me, “Looks like he found his stones.” And I replied, “Huh? I thought city employees were already mandated to wear masks?”

And am serious about that second part. I guess I just felt that from the beginning of this pandemic that the City Manager (Mayor Paul) would have naturally mandated mask use from the beginning for city employees. During the middle of our largest spike in months isn’t really the time to go, “By the way, we might be able to put the fire out quicker if we stop pouring gasoline on it.”

I will give credit though to the city employees. For the most part, I have seen them wearing masks (this is why I just figured it was already happening) not to mention, unless you were a cop, fire fighter or parks/public works employee, you were working from home for months which didn’t require a mask.

My last dig is something I have been b’tching about since Paul was inaugurated, DO YOUR JOB AS THE CITY MANAGER, MANAGE THE CITY AND IT’S EMPLOYEES! I’m amazed it took 6 months + into this pandemic for Paul to find the chapter in city charter that lays out his job duties; run the city by managing your directors and employees. Pretty simple.

And while I’m on the soap box, where were you for a week? Conducting city business . . . or conducting 5G business? Inquiring minds would like to know.

Reverberations from the Greg Neitzert Board of Ethics impeachment ruling

Guest Post-Cameraman Bruce

The reverberations from the Greg Neitzert Board of Ethics impeachment ruling is still causing waves in the Board of Ethics schedule. On Tuesday, October 6th, 2020 at 9:00am, of course at a time where few can attend, there are two Ethics requests. Remember, Greg Neitzert was impeached (or indicted) by the Board of Ethics probable cause letter sent to the City Council causing the recent quasi-judicial hearings by the body.

AGENDA LINK

The first ethics agenda item is an advisory request from City Council member Janet Brekke. Brekke is asking for clarity in the accusations leveled at her by the impeached Greg Neitzert. If you remember, Neitzert claimed John Cunningham had compromised her when he asked Brekke (a former city attorney) for clarity on the ethics process since the Board of Ethics and the city attorney refused to explain the process and their decision to him.

Brekke, like all city council members are able to assist their constituents where possible. Come to think of it, if they do not assist their constituents, then what good are they?

During the process, the soon to be impeached Neitzert sent ex parte communications to council members, attorneys and the Board of Ethics members in efforts to sway their actions and besmirch the integrity of Brekke and Cunningham. There should be another ethics complaint against Neitzert for this attempt to improperly attack Brekke. You notice in the packet, a threatening email from Neitzert, sent to Brekke and Pat Starr, promising retribution, as council chair, if they did not recuse themselves from the process.

How stupid is the impeached Sioux Falls City Council Chair Greg Neitzert? He is making some sort of threats of retribution against other members of the panel and letting the members of the Board of Ethics in on his plan? What is ethical or where is integrity in his planned attack?

The second agenda item on the BOE agenda is a REQUEST FOR INVESTIGATION (attachment 3) filed by David Zokaities. Zokaities is asking the Board to investigate and release the evidence, with all information, the Board found to make their statement in the Sioux Falls Board of Ethics’ Report on complaint 20-B and recommendations to City Council:

c. The Board finds other incidents of past travel by City officers for which a third party paid expenses. While the Board did not thoroughly investigate or determine the full extent of such practices by City officers or officials, the practice appears to be common. The Board did not determine whether attendance at any prior event(s) was specifically improper.

Zokaities is now asking the Board to do their job, to finish the investigation, they alluded to and expose the violations. If the city officials and staff are making secret trips, we the public must know how they are using their positions to possibly corrupt our government. Are they getting more illegal free trips? Are they getting more illegal free meals? Are they getting boats parked in their driveways or Rolex watches for doing their gifters work? We don’t know since our administration was hired by the people in 2018 by promising transparency. If it was happening before 2018, we also need to know. The Board made the accusation in writing, so let’s see the evidence and then, let the prosecutions begin?

If a librarian can’t accept a meal or honorarium to serve on a national board, the cops could not receive discount gift cards or the Planning Director had to give up his conflicting corporate advisory position in recent BOE hearings, then we must know who is taking 3rd party paid for trips or meetings. If the officials are not taking the trips, then the BOE must clarify what they are talking about.

No evidence related to this statement was released to the public or Council to complete the Council’s impeachment process. There is a gap in public knowledge. If city officials who are elected, appointed or staff are making illegal trips, we the public have a right to know. The impeached Neitzert in his only “report” to the council was an email sent while at the meeting proudly told of the group’s mission on certain issues. Funny thing is, he never let anyone know what he was going to attempt to do on the group’s behalf. Zokaities wants to know as we all do, what Neitzert and the rest of the “offending” city elected, appointed or staff have been doing.

Sioux Falls does not have any other method to find out this information. The Board and Council has been derelict in their duties up to this point to tell who and what they were accusing the get to this answer. Who and where are they traveling using the city credentials they have been secretly using.

The Board of Ethics and the Sioux Falls City Council have, through these recent actions, shown we might as well shut down the public’s right to know and also hold the officials responsible for their actions. Shame on them and shame on us for letting this happen.

Thank you to Janet Brekke and David Zokaities for helping the rest of us clarify the issues raised in the impeachment of Greg Neitzert. The public must show up, if even to just listen and watch. These meetings seem to always be at a time few people can attend. By showing up we let the Board know we care about the corruption possibilities this entire scheduling process and the resulting decisions create.

The Cities of Sioux Falls & Lennox, SD think violating the 1st Amendment is OK

Isn’t it funny in Trumpistan what’s black is white and what’s right is left. In the latest disarray is this;

Asked about recent reports of political flags being flown at street construction sites, local governments say it’s contractors’ constitutional right to do so.

Readers have recently reported the presence of Donald Trump flags at street construction sites in both Sioux Falls and Lennox, and asked if there were any regulations around political displays from contractors doing work paid for by local government.

While there was no sign of the Trump flag previously spotted near the intersection of West 41st Street and South Western Avenue on Monday, representatives of both cities said even if there were, there’s no issue.

BryAnn Becker Knecht, a spokesperson for Sioux Falls, said “It is not the practice of the City of Sioux Falls to intrude upon the constitutional rights of any entity or individual with whom it contracts.”

And Nathan Vander Plaats, the city administrator of Lennox said there was no ordinance prohibiting contractors from displaying a political flag either.

“Anybody is free to speak their mind on political matters,” he said.

While having a Trump flag or sign on their personal contractor vehicles is well within their 1st Amendment rights, planting that flag on public property is a CLEAR violation of the 1st Amendment;

In City Council of Los Angeles v. Taxpayers for Vincent, 466 U.S. 789 (1984), the Supreme Court upheld a city ordinance prohibiting the posting of signs, including for political candidates, on utility poles, cross wires, and other structures on public property.

I’m actually surprised anyone would challenge this? Using public property to advertise political candidates (especially the president) is a big NO NO. In fact, someone should remind city employee Knecht that the City of Sioux Falls actually has a city ordinance that forbids political advertising on city property which is inline with the 1st Amendment;

97.001  POSTING ON PUBLIC PROPERTY.   No person shall nail, paste, paint or otherwise affix in any manner any sign, advertisement, picture or design whatever upon any bridge, viaduct, sidewalk, parking, parkway, boulevard, crosswalk, curb or street or upon the railing or approaches of any bridge, viaduct or sidewalk or upon any telephone, electric light or fire alarm pole or post.(1957 Rev. Ords., § 9.810; 1992 Code, § 3-1)

They even show some handy examples. Maybe someone in the Constitutional department in the City Attorney’s office needs to get a hold of Knecht and let her know about the 1st Amendment.

And if anyone has any pictures of these Trump flags being placed on city owned property please send them to me, would love to post these Constitutional violators on the site.

Censored images from Sioux Falls City Councilor Neitzert’s Dismissal meeting

Cameraman Bruce added the images the city would not show on their video during public input.

Sioux Falls had an impeachment of a government official. This is the first time it has ever happened in Sioux Falls and maybe South Dakota. What is impeachment? According to Wikipedia: Impeachment is the process by which a legislative body levels charges against a government official. Impeachment does not in itself remove the official definitively from office; it is similar to an indictment in criminal law, and thus it is essentially the statement of charges against the official. In the Sioux Falls Home Rule Charter, the body charged with determining the impeachable offense is the Board of Ethics. The Board of Ethics found probable cause Greg Neitzert committed a crime against the people he was supposed to be representing and the government he was to protect. Greg Neitzert was impeached. The Board of Ethics found Greg Neitzert had ethical lapses requiring a hearing before the City Council to determine the punishment. Impeachment is a political answer to a political crime with the greatest punishment being removal from office. The Council stopped just short of a punishment because apparently the five who voted “for” him decided to hide their involvement in similar? Is our missing mayor off traveling somewhere, also doing so under similar circumstances? Neitzert’s chutzpah is astounding. That he could take a trip paid for by a lobbyist group and think he was doing Sioux Falls a favor. How many could take a trip paid for by a group trying to overthrow our form of government and think it was alright? Robert Kolbe said it right in his short public input on September 28th, 2020, Neitzert is the orphan. Now Neitzert is panhandling to collect money from his handlers and protectors to cover his errors in judgment. That’s chutzpah. An interesting thing happened during the public input, the controllers of the video exhibits decided to leave out Bruce Danielson’s exhibits from the CityLink broadcast. They are included in this video. Remember one important thing from Neitzert’s ethical lapse; Greg Neitzert likely is the first person in South Dakota to be impeached. What a mark in history. Thanks Greg for the history lesson, you will be forever remembered for this lapse. The Neitzert impeachment of 2020, that’s chutzpah.

Why is Mayor TenHaken traveling during a pandemic?

Paul did a couple of interviews today, from a hotel room. Where did our mayor go? If it was a family emergency, I would totally understand, but I’m not sure Paul would be doing an interview with CNN during a family emergency.

They just dismissed Councilor Neitzert for blatantly violating city ordinance by taking a paid for lobbyist trip. Is Paul on a paid for lobbyist trip? Are the taxpayers paying for it? I don’t know.

As I have mentioned several times in the past, embrace technology and meet with people via phone or internet. You know, like some city employees did for months working from home. What is so important that the Mayor had to get on a plane (or in a car) and meet with people in person? I’m guessing it has little to do with city business.

We will see. Maybe he will tell us some day . . . oh that’s right, our elected officials don’t give us reports anymore from what they learn on trips.

Sidenote; At the end of the interview today on Belfrage about panhandling (in which Erickson and Neitzert never talked about a possible citation to people giving the panhandlers money – which would solve the problem real quick) Neitzert continued to peddle the flat out lie that he was politically attacked over the ethics complaint. He never proved that in the hearing, because it never happened. As I said already, it is pretty cut and dry, you violated the ordinance and 5 best friends gave you a pass.

Sioux Falls City Councilor Selberg votes for alternative non-dismissal of Neitzert

Alternative Dismissal

Tonight at the Findings of Fact special meeting of the Sioux Falls city council, Councilor Brekke offered an alternative resolution (above) of NOT dismissing Neitzert, but also not punishing him. After Councilor Starr seconded the motion, himself, Brekke and Selberg voted for it, which was a reversal of what Selberg voted for at the end of the original hearing.

Not sure why?

I thought at first maybe he misunderstood the vote (he was attending the meeting via phone), but I am not sure that was the case, because he paused and sighed before voting for it (which tells me he supported it) after it failed in a 3-4 vote, Selberg did vote for the dismissal, Brekke and Starr did not.

If Selberg needed clarity on the amendment he could have asked for it before the vote, he did not, he also could have rescinded it immediately after the vote or even at the end of the meeting, he did not. I’m curious what his change of heart was?

Maybe it was my testimony? LOL. In which I pointed out that throughout the findings it is clear he violated the ordinance. So why the dismissal? Never did get any discussion from the entire council on why they felt a dismissal was appropriate and we likely never will.

But there was also a strange moment in which Councilor Neitzert’s wife testified. I won’t disparage her, I’m sure it’s not easy being in her position, and I sympathize with her, I also wonder how many times she has asked Greg to just accept what he did and move on.

But she made a reference to people on Facebook questioning their family life, finances and even marriage. Whoaaa! I had never heard this.

Listen folks, while Greg did violate the ordinance, this wasn’t a capital offense, I even said in my testimony that he doesn’t deserve punishment, just accept what you did and apologize.

Sometimes politics can get personal, but this action by Greg wasn’t personal, it was just an ethics violation of city law. Pretty black and white.

Either the majority of the council who voted to dismiss this is really corrupt or really freaking stupid.

I’m guessing both.

Sioux Falls City Councilor Neitzert’s dismissal contradictions

On Monday, September 28, Greg will have his final hearing or findings of fact. This ‘dismissal’ by the majority of the council has many contradictions in it. Of course, this should be NO surprise. The city council has a track record of telling the public one thing, then voting the opposite way when they hope no one is watching.

While they do ‘dismiss’ Greg in the resolution, they also point out how he violated ordinance. It’s almost like they are saying ‘Yeah, he’s guilty, but it’s not a big deal.’ They also show NO evidence of political collusion or that the event Greg attended was NOT partisan. This has to be one of the strangest dismissals I have ever seen.

Let’s review the finer points;

The Board of Ethics dismissed Complaint 20A indicating that it did not have jurisdiction to proceed as the Complaint alleged a violation of Sioux Falls City Ordinances relating to the conduct of city officials and employees, not council members.

The Board of Ethics did not advise Cunningham of the process for completing the complaint to bring it within the jurisdiction of the Board of Ethics.

The BOE could have made a motion at that meeting to cite the proper chapter. If they would have, the confidentiality of the matter would have remained. Instead by throwing out that initial complaint because of a simple citing error, this happened;

After Complaint 20A was dismissed, Cunningham turned over his records about Complaint 20A to the media despite his obligation to keep the information confidential.

While he did have an obligation to keep it confidential, it was only a matter of timing. Because once the BOE approved the minutes of the meeting, John still could have went to the media. He just did it earlier then he should have, or let’s say was instructed to. I also must point out that John may have a 1st Amendment right to say whatever he wants to. First, because the matter was thrown out and over with, and John is just a regular citizen and NOT an elected official. After the complaint was thrown, he had NO obligation to confidentiality minutes or no minutes.

In my opinion, it was the BOE who blew Greg’s cover. Like I said, they could have made a motion to correct the citing during the meeting, and moved on with the proceedings. By throwing it out based on a technicality, they created the issue of keeping this confidential. But throughout this whole show trial, they continually tried to attack John’s character with little to know evidence that he was some kind of political operative with an axe to grind. As John explained, he did have an axe to grind, he wants our elected officials to act with integrity and ethics.

By letter dated August 26, 2020, the Board of Ethics responded to the City Council indicating that it stood by its original report and that the Council should review the report and city ordinances.

In other words, they found the complaint had merit and should be reviewed by the council. It wasn’t baseless, frivolous or a political attack. It was a possible violation of city ordinance (BTW, it was, but we will get to that in a moment).

Neitzert’s trip was paid for by Community Leaders of America.

The conference participants were limited to Mayors and Council Members who were registered Republicans.

As you can see, the trip was 1) paid for by a political lobbying group and 2) it was a ‘partisan’ event. These are clear FACTS.

So kids, this is why it was a violation of city ordinance;

City Ordinance 35.053(e) provides that a city council member shall not “directly or indirectly solicit any gift, or accept any gift whether in the form of money, services, loan, travel, entertainment, hospitality, thing or promise, or any other form, under circumstances in which it could reasonably be inferred that the gift was intended to influence, or could reasonably be expected to influence the officer, in the performance of their official duties, or was intended as a reward for any official action…”

That last part is important, it doesn’t matter if Greg decided to implement policy from what he learned at the conference, it matters because he should not have gone and been influenced in the first place. But some of these statements in the findings have you scratching your head a little bit;

Neitzert notified the City Council by email dated October 17, 2019, that he was attending the conference at no expense to the City.

So why did councilor Neitzert decide to send the council this (NON CONFIDENTIAL) email on the 2nd day of the conference? Why didn’t he tell them a day before he left or a day after he returned? And why didn’t he mark the email as confidential? This question was NEVER answered. As someone said to me, ‘Greg was trying to cover his a**’ and by not asking it to be confidential (even though legally cannot ask for it to be because by using his official city email, it becomes a public document) he knew that it would be leaked to the public and media. But like I just said, you can’t leak something that isn’t legally confidential. Notice there is NO mention of this supposed ‘leaked’ email in the findings. Because it was irrelevant.

No Council Members questioned or complained about Neitzert’s attendance at the conference.

Which proves that councilors Starr and Brekke were NOT colluding with Greg’s opponent. They both could have taken that email and filed a complaint themselves. They did not. No collusion.

Neitzert was not expected to implement policies or vote on issues in a manner consistent with the ideologies of the conference’s sponsoring organization or the conference corporate sponsors.

Neitzert was not asked to vote on a particular issue in a particular manner as a “quid pro quo” for attending the conference.

Neitzert’s attendance at the conference was not intended to influence any issue or matter before the Sioux Falls City Council.

I would say that these three findings are blatantly UNTRUE based on the fact that NO evidence was presented of the contrary. Neitzert has yet to tell the public or the city council either orally or written what he learned at this paid for partisan event. The mayor and former deputy chief of staff have also never told the public what they ‘learned’ at this event. We have no idea if Greg or the Mayor has worked on policies or voted for policies that are pushed by this partisan organization. All we have is Greg’s sworn testimony, hardly a legal precedence to lean on.

The Board of Ethics did not prove by clear and convincing evidence that Neitzert violated Ordinance 35.053(e) and the Complaint 20B should accordingly be dismissed.

The BOE didn’t have to ‘prove’ anything, all they said was there was ‘probable cause’ for the city council to look into it and hold a hearing. The irony of this is that I sat directly behind the Chair of the BOE, Mr. Jack Marsh and their appointed attorney throughout the hearing, and I saw Jack repeatedly lean into counsel and whisper remarks with a grin on his face, and rarely a look of concern. It almost seemed he was amused by the proceedings. Trust me, I had some laughable moments, but mostly because of the incompetence in the way the hearing was being conducted by the chair. Further proof this was a Kangaroo Kourt from the beginning. If Mr. Marsh had some jokes to tell us, maybe he could have waited for recess to tell us them by the swing set?

Folks, it’s all there in black and white, it was a paid for partisan trip meant to influence Mr. Neitzert (and the mayor). His legal counsel never proved otherwise, neither did the BOE’s counsel. Greg clearly violated ordinance, and his 5 best friends dismissed it and they were so sloppy and sophomoric about the way they dismissed it, they further proved he violated it in these findings. The are basically saying in the findings that Greg violated X, Y and Z, but it is okay because Greg has never told us what he ‘learned’. It would be like me fighting a speeding ticket in court and the judge dismissing it after he asked me, “Mr. Ehrisman were you speeding?” and my defense is, “I don’t know your honor, I wasn’t looking at the speedometer I was looking at the road in front of me.”