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Council Candidates On Open Meeting Violation

March 12, 2012, 5:56 PM by Don Jorgensen

Council Candidates On Open Meeting Violation
SIOUX FALLS, SD -

There could be some fireworks at Monday night's city council meeting over open government.  The council was reprimanded last week for violating open meeting laws and the issue is expected to come up Monday.

Those who want to be on the city council are also sounding off about the violation.

The South Dakota Open Meetings Commission reprimanded the city council over how it handled the firing of City Clerk Debra Owen.

The city council went behind closed doors to discuss a personnel matter.  When the group came out of executive session they voted for three council members to take the action discussed in that meeting to fire Owen. 

Kermit Staggers, who once served on the council and is running for the at-large position, is glad the city was reprimanded.  But he thinks it gives the city a black eye.

"This is the second time now that we've had the City of Sioux Falls receiving a reprimand," Staggers said. "Back in November of 2010, the board of ethics received a reprimand and now the city council receiving a reprimand.  So, the City of Sioux Falls should really take this open meetings law very, very seriously."

Cory Buttemeier is also running for the at-large position. 

"My only thing is, if I'm elected, I want to make sure that we not only have open government, but a transparent government where the public sees everything, because we are hired by them.  It's not the other way around," Buttemeier said.

Some council members say the city attorney and his assistant should be fired.

"When it comes to firing people in city government, I don't know all the details, like some of the council members do.  I guess, I don't think that would be appropriate because I don't have enough information if that's necessary to do at all," Staggers said.

"I would fire a whole bunch of them if you violate the rules.  And if you know you willingly violated rules, you shouldn't have your job anymore.  These people are public servants, especially attorneys.  And they know what the law is and they should know better.  And if they can't do it, they should be let go," Buttemeier said.

De Knudson, who also once served on the council and is running for the at-large position, wasn't available for comment.

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