Sioux Falls, SD
A word was omitted in a prior version of this story.
A Sioux Falls city council member says a revision could affect local government transparency, but Mayor Mike Huether disagrees.
City Council Chair Sue Aguilar said it took a year to get contract approvals back in the hands of city council members. Now, a decision by a citizen board could let voters decide in April to give the mayor more power over employees and contract decisions. Aguilar believes giving one person more power could eliminate government transparency and checks and balances from Sioux Falls citizens.
"They are our board of directors. It's their tax dollars that are funding the initiatives and the programs the city is, through the process, planning or putting into place," Aguilar said.
At the January 9 City Council meeting, some of these citizens sounded off.
"I do not think that the rules or the charter need to be changed the way a certain individual wants it to be changed. That's you mayor that wants the charter changed so you can control the city as a dictator," I.L. Wiedermann said.
He was not alone.
"I want to know what's being bid on in this town and I want to know how my money is being spent. The only way I found out is when I come in front of you guys," Tim Stanga said.
The mayor passed the gavel to Aguilar and fired back defending board members.
"What this council's tried to do, what this mayor's tried to do is make it more open to regular joes and I think we've been incredibly successful with that," Mayor Mike Huether said.
But some citizens might not consider some of the board members just regular joes. The city's website shows two of those members contributed to the mayor's campaign. In fact, Dennis Aanenson is his first contributor listed at $500; Bob Thimjon's contributions totaled $750. Huether said this does not mean the board is stacked in his favor.
"Guess what, I have done more on trying to get people to be involved with committees in this town than has ever been done before. I'm marketing the heck out of them. I'm taking the appointments as seriously as I can and we're picking people that are going to do things for this town. If you think anyone is going to buy me, or buy my influence, you're dead wrong," Huether said.
Aguilar points out the city council approved the charter commissioners and believes they are acting in the best interest of the city.
"The mayor has told me, and he'll probably say it today that he is not directing this group. However, he appointed them and the buck stops there," Aguilar said.
Huether said transparency is also his main goal.
"We've done some things to make the contract review process more open, more transparent, more available to not only the council, but to the people of Sioux Falls. That'll be there whether voters pass this recommendation or not," Huether said.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: