Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Advocating Unofficial Election for One's Own Agenda

I get the feeling that city government does not do its homework before it speaks and at times, officials say different things about the same subject. The location and construction of an event center, a special election, the firing of Sally Felix and Debra Owen - speak, then double speak. Spin the bottle and hope it lands on someone who knows what the h.... is going on down there.

The rumblings regarding the city administration's event center presentation push has been going on since the mayor announced the big push to "educate" the public on his vision.  The mayor stood before the Downtown Rotary Club on Monday and said "I am going to advocate for this. I am." When challenged on his proudly stated advocacy, he said things have changed and then immediately threw the hot potato to the City Attorney.

This train of advocacy at City Hall left the station back in 2010. The mayor had a vision and all the minions were told to get on the train or get off. It was the message of my way or the highway, people.
The advocacy started 18 months ago and continues today through the one sided event center presentations lead by the mayor and his city directors.

I looked at the presentation. There is no pro/con positions stated in the presentation. Even the ballot on the "advisory" special election pontificates/advocates no new taxes. The thing is the city published the presentation materials with taxpayer money. City staff produced the materials on city work time. City staff attend the presentations on city work time. City expenditures are being used to "advocate" the building of an event center.

The attorney general's opinion on this matter answers the questions: 

Can a municipality, county, or school district expend public funds to advocate a position on an election measure?

ANSWER: Upon review of the South Dakota statutes I can find no statutory provisions that may in any manner be construed as explicitly giving adivision of local government the authority to expend public monies for purposes of influencing election results. In fact, any claim that the expenditures are impliedly authorized under statute would be unreasonable.

Can a municipality, county, or school district expend public funds to provide information as to the impact of an election measure on the respective entity?

ANSWER: Assuming that the use of public funds for such purpose is authorized, to avoid any claim of misappropriation the governing board involved must be careful to ensure that the published information constitutes a fair presentation of the relevant facts on both sides of the election issue. Along such lines, it would not be sufficient to merely refrain from exhorting a yes or no vote. Other language or statements prepared and designed to influence public opinion would also be improper. Any determination of the propriety or impropriety of the publication and ultimately the expenditure would turn on a consideration of various factors, including the style and tenor as well as the timing of the publication.

Hmmmmm, you be the judge. I am just relying on the words of the mayor when he said on Monday, that he was advocating for the event center.


  1. This is what happens when you have people with no history and no experience running things. Nobody knows what they are doing and you just get a cluster f.....going on. This mayor will bankrupt the city and then move on, hopefully into oblivion. But who will pick up the pieces from the damage wrought on city staff and city finances.

  2. Isn't the f....word the Mayor's favorite when he dresses down staff? Just another indication on how bad things are down at city hall. Guess Ann Hajek got it right. About time someone starts questioning this guy about things.

  3. The mayor and city council may be very surprised if they continue down this road. Any citizen will have the right to challenge the election results - positive or negative - if the election was done in violation of the law. SDCL 12-27-20 states that the "governing body" may not expend or permit the expenditure of public funds for the purpose of influencing the adoption of a ballot issue. Each member of the city council also becomes personally liable for the actions. The citizens of Sioux Falls - EACH ONE OF THEM - may bring separate action to challenge the election results. The City Council should demand that the city attorney seek an AG opinion on the actions of the mayor or be willing to live with the results.

  4. Huether lied about the prospects for financial gains the EC would make. ($1-2 million profit per yr. beginning immediately on the facility alone?) That would take some very creative book work. He never gave information on the numbers a bad economy would mean for taxpayers. Pure Propaganda. He should be held accountable for misconduct.