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Legal Concerns Over Exec. Session

September 15, 2011, 5:55 PM by Perry Groten

Legal Concerns Over Exec. Session
SIOUX FALLS, SD - A Sioux Falls First Amendment attorney says Wednesday's executive session was badly mishandled from start to finish and may have even violated state law.

Media attorney Jon Arneson says simply citing a "personnel matter" doesn't give Mayor Mike Huether and the city council a free pass not to disclose the specifics of the executive session. He says the public has the right to know exactly why the council and the mayor held their meeting in secret.

Arneson says the government bodies like the city council don't have to automatically go into executive session to discuss all personnel issues. And Arneson says the city overstepped its bounds by being vague about the reason behind Wednesday's closed-door meeting.

"That's absurd; it's an extremely absurd standing the law on its head and we have the tail wagging the dog," Arneson said.

Arneson says the motion to go into executive session should have specifically stated it was about the status of the city clerk in order to limit the scope of the discussions behind closed door.

"If they make a vague motion to go into executive session for quote, 'personnel,' there's nothing that confines that discussion and when they come out, there are no restraints upon them. That is not what the law is designed to do. The law is designed to say we're going to go in and discuss the performance of Debra Owen," Arneson said.

Arneson says ultimately, it's the residents of Sioux Falls who lose out if the state's executive session law is violated.

"They've got a duty to keep us informed if they want to have a reasonably informed electorate; this is not a secret society," Arneson said.

Arneson says the mayor and city council also should have specifically stated what was in the motion they voted on in dismissing Owen when they resumed their special meeting.

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