Sioux Falls, SD
The Sioux Falls Board of Ethics gave its blessing today to a large donation from Mayor Mike Huether to the new indoor community tennis center.
Huether has pledged $700,000 for the $3.8 million facility that will house a half-dozen indoor courts. The ethics board wanted to find out whether any strings were attached to Huether's donation.
Huether says he wants his donation to jump-start construction of the indoor tennis center, plus help disadvantaged people play tennis who might not otherwise have access to the game. Huether also wants the money going toward a winter tennis tournament. But he first wanted to check with the board of ethics to see that his donation does not amount to a conflict of interest.
Mayor Mike Huether says he will not use his $700,000 donation as leverage to influence any city decisions about the future of the Community Indoor Tennis Center. Instead, Huether says he will excuse himself from any discussions about the center.
"I back away from that decision-making, I'd back away from that potential vote and I have no problem doing that," Huether said.
Huether says there are plenty of checks-and-balances built into city government to ensure a hands-off approach from the mayor's office. Those in charge of raising funds for the tennis center welcome Huether's donation.
"Quite honestly,it brought a tear to my eye because there's been a lot of effort amongst our group to raise money," Community Indoor Tennis Center President Bill Townsend said.
Because of the donation, Huether's name will appear on the tennis facility. But Huether says that will not lead to any financial benefits to him.
"There is no talk about receiving any other compensation, monetary, or not," Huether said.
The ethics board vice-chair says Huether's donation could lead to some political fallout. But as for any conflict of interest:
"We find no ethical problem with the Huether family donation," Ethics Board Vice-Chair Carol Knudtson said.
And the rest of the board agreed, unanimously.
Construction of the indoor tennis center is expected to begin next week. That means tennis players would be able to hit the courts in the fall.