Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Firings Keep Coming!

The firing of Debra Owen is another chapter in the demolition of the city's leadership team as we knew it.  In a short 17 months, we have seen the firing of the following appointive officials in leadership positions in city government: Schwan, Amundson, Bartunek, Buseman, Hall, Felix, and now Debra Owen.

What makes the firing of Owen different than the other six appointive officials? This appointive official served under the city council and was not under the jurisdiction or authority of the mayor. However, the mayor played a significant role in the discussion and firing of Owen.

I have been told the mayor personally called for the Executive Session to discuss  Owen's performance of a personal matter under her direct supervision. The mayor sat in on and took part in the city council's discussion regarding the supervisory performance of Owen in two closed executive sessions when this appointive official is not under his jurisdiction. City Ordinance Section 2-34 titled City Clerk states:  All personnel, functions and financial responsibilities for operation of the office of the city clerk are assigned to the city council.  Councilors Erpenbach and Aguilar brought the action forward to fire Owen. Add two more councilors to the puppet team of the mayor. 

The mayor has no administrative authority over the staff of the city council. Owen is an appointive official serving at the pleasure of the eight city council members. Her staff in the city clerk's office are civil service employees but are not part of the mayor's administration. They are civil service employees in the city clerk organization which is under the jurisdiction and oversight of the eight elected city council members.

It has been relayed to me that Owen was never allowed to address the mayor and councilors in executive session to address the charges against her. She was told to turn in her keys and leave the building. She received no severance pay.  It appears there is something highly irregular going on with this matter and it deserves the light of day with the public.

What is going on in city government when the media gets kicked out of a public building - escorted out by the Police? The actions today seem to indicate irrational decision-making and abuse of authority. Any media that calls itself a watchdog seems to be asleep at the switch and owes it to the public to wake up and shine a light on this.

Nothing about this latest firing makes sense to me from what I have been told so far. You can agree or disagree with how well the administration got along with the city council's chief of staff. But for the mayor and his administration to play a major role in the firing of an employee they do not supervise, or have authority over is highly irregular.


  1. I don't know if I'd put Erpenbach and Aguilar in the "puppet team" just yet (Karsky, Rolfing, and Entenmen definitely solidified their spots), but you have to wonder why they were the ones behind the motion.

    Some will say, "How much of a role could the mayor have played. He doesn't vote." But really, this mayor has displayed enough in his character to show how this could play out.

    Political favors. Bullying. Blind allegiance. Any and all the tools in his arsenal can easily explain how he was able to get 5 votes behind this action.

    The guy screwed over economically-strapped people with a highly unethical credit card. None of this should come as any surprise to anyone. The only question you have to ask, is what sort of advantage does this now give him? How has this cleared his own self-serving path?

    Mike Huether only cares about Mike Huether.

  2. This whole mess is troubling, especially when one starts to piece together the “rumors” circulating as of now. This much we know for sure. Our mayor, involved for God only knows why, and eight council members met in a secret session. This session to have Owen fired was instigated by councilors Erpenbach and Aguilar. The rest of this very strange story gets murky.

    Of the nine people involved in this “secret” session, only three would I feel comfortable sitting at the same table with. Those three are councilors Jamison, Anderson and Brown. I have not always agreed with their decisions, but I none the less respect their views. I cannot say the same for the other six. Mayor Huether, councilors Erpenbach, Aguilar, Rolfing, Entenman, and Karsky. No coincidence these five rubber-stampers or the mayor have held their elected positions for less than two years.

    Questions and rumors that need to be answered? What involvement does Human Resources play in this dismissal? Perhaps YOU can ferret out that info Jennifer? What involvement does the upcoming Events Center vote play in this dismissal? WHY was the mayor involved?

    I knew very little of Debra Owen before this morning. I had no idea of her involvement in making city government actually transparent. This much I know now. Debra would make a real difference as mayor of this city.

    Polly Amalo

  3. Who is going to run the Mayor's biggest vote of his career, the Big EC boondoggle vote, since he orchestrated the firing of the City Clerk? I saw him walk out of his secret closed door meeting with backboneless city Councilors last night on KELO. Arrogant. Okay, we are all aware what a mistake it was to vote this man into this office. Why are so any people afraid to stand up to this egomaniac?

  4. 1. The mayor only cares about getting the event center built.

    2. Debra would have overseen the special election.

    My guess is there is something underhanded that Debra was unwilling to do which Huether felt would have put his EC vote at risk.

  5. How Nixonian is this Mayor?

    Hopefully he will meet the same fate before he damages this City beyond repair.

  6. The Argus needs to bring Megan Luther back to the city beat in the paper so we get some investigative journalism back. She must have been doing something right if the mayor didn't like her. There's a pattern here isn't there? Women, disagreement, vocal. Small man syndrome.

  7. Does Sioux Falls have a recall option for mayor? I have never regretted a vote more than mine for Mike...disgusted!

  8. He sure fooled enough people during his campaign for the office. I pegged him from the moment I met him!

    Gone are the days of a major executive surrounding him/her-self with those most capable for a given position.

    Here are the days of sycophantism and the self-absorbed need to appoint only those practicing it! I would think it prudent to surround oneself with the diversity of free opinion from each position/director. Doesn't that make for the most well-rounded and better overall decision?

    As for Debra, she did a fantastic job and should be proud of her service to the community. From this citizen a big THANKS! Perhaps mr. mayor was asking for specific wording on the ballot and she advised/disagreed??? One can only speculate until/unless the facts emerge.

    Will they?

  9. Looking forward to learning more of the facts. Thanks for posting this, Jennifer.

  10. I would agree with Anonymous55671. I do not think Erpenbach and Aguilar are Huether's puppets. They strike me as strong, independent women. That being said, I had the upmost respect for the way that Debra Owens handled her job. She seemed to be more knowledgable and level headed than any member of the city council. As tax payers, don't we have a right to know what happened?

  11. Can't wait for the chance to vote this clown out of office.

  12. Mayor Mike just put me in the camp of
    NOT HERE, NOT NOW! I don't trust this
    guy one bit. Another politician saying
    this is a JOBS deal, buying 1100 temporary jobs and 200 permanent jobs for $115,000,000.

  13. Yes, I believe that Mayor Mike's handling of this may be the final nail on the Event Center's coffin. I'm not surprised at his micro-management of this issue - I'm more surprised that he was so public about it. Apparently, his recent positive "public polling" has allowed him to believe that he can do anything he wants.

  14. MMM is unraveling! And if/when Debra Owen goes public, it will be great fun watching MMM and his grand scheme implode before our eyes. Indeed, this has everything to do the with the EC and what the public is NOT being told! Let's hope it comes out soon. Absentee voting starts in less than two weeks.