A decision by a citizen board could put an issue on the April ballot that would allow the mayor more power over employees and contract decisions. Currently the city council is also involved in those decisions too.
The Charter Revision Commission is a mayor-appointed citizen board who began meeting last month. The group is charged with submitting suggestions to change the city's governing document. But a recent decision that defines and expands the mayor's executive power took the city council by surprise.
“I am horribly disappointed,” Sioux Falls City Council Vice-Chair Michelle Erpenbach said. “Horribly disappointed in what happened. And I am not the only council member saying that at this point.”
The revision would expand the mayor's power over city appointees, staff hiring and discipline, among other areas. Erpenbach said the move more than took councilors by surprise.
“We obviously want a strong mayor, but we want those checks and balances,” Erpenbach said. “And I want the commission to listen to the citizens about checks and balances.”
Erpenbach said parts of the proposal directly contradict work the council has done to make outside contracts with city hall more public. She believes transparency of government would suffer if the revision is added to the city's charter.
“You've got good people on those committees, on these public boards, and you let them do their work and serve the public as best they can,” Sioux Falls Mayor Mike Huether said.
Huether said that's what he's been doing since he appointed the board, and he had no part in the committee's decision.
“The mayor has to understand that when he appoints people, even though it is with advice and consent of the council, when he appoints people, they are working for the mayor,” Erpenbach said. “And they are constantly thinking, ‘how does the mayor want to handle this?’”
The group only began public meetings last month, and is expected to wrap up it's work this month. That means the revision recommendation allowing the mayor's office more power could be proposed by the end of the month. The council says that's too soon.
“This is a huge impact on our daily lives in Sioux Falls,” Erpenbach said. “If we allow one person and only a small administration to have that kind of power.”
If the recommendation does move forward, it would be placed on the ballot for a public vote in the April Election.
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It's not the first 14 words, but what follows later that has some city officials angry Thursday night.