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Council Reprimand Brings Heated Discussion

March 12, 2012, 5:19 PM by Brady Mallory

Council Reprimand Brings Heated Discussion

For the first time since being reprimanded by the South Dakota Open Meetings Commission, the Sioux Falls City Council met publicly Monday afternoon.

Council members shared their opinions and the discussion was heated.  One council member calls the reprimand embarrassing.  Another says despite the reprimand, the council didn't do anything wrong.

The discussion escalated pretty quickly after Council Member Vernon Brown read a statement saying the council broke the law and needs to apologize to the people of Sioux Falls.  He also says former City Clerk Debra Owen did nothing illegal. 

Sioux Falls City Attorney David Pfeifle responded for the first time since the reprimand and says he gave the council the best legal advice he could at the time.  He says it was based on a 1999 decision by the Attorney General, which said a board like this cannot name a city employee.  The city employee he's talking about is Owen, who was fired back in October.

Pfeifle also says an ethics complaint has been filed against Brown for talking about the closed-door meeting publicly.  Pfeifle also says Brown set himself up for defamation lawsuit when he called out Pfeifle, Human Resources Director Bill O'Toole and Assistant City Attorney Gail Eiesland, saying they should be fired.  Brown did that in a KELOLAND News interview last week.

Brown says the bad legal advice Pfeifle gave the council has tarnished the council's reputation. 

Not all council members agreed.  Member Jim Entenman says the council did nothing wrong and they took action based on the advice Pfeifle gave them.

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