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Pfeifle Says It's Time To Move Forward

March 13, 2012, 5:59 PM by Brady Mallory

Pfeifle Says It's Time To Move Forward

The Sioux Falls City Attorney is not backing down even after a being called out for giving what some say was 'bad' legal advice.

The state Open Meetings Commission said the Council was too vague in its motion to fire former city clerk Debra Owen and broke the law.  Recently, City Council member Vernon Brown said City Attorney David Pfeifle should be fired.

City Attorney David Pfeifle said he is not worried about being fired because there would be no need for attorneys if the law was 100-percent clear.

"Frankly, if I were worried about my job, I wouldn't be doing my job properly because I would be looking at my own self interests rather than the public interest," Pfeifle said.

Pfeifle remains confident, saying he gave the best legal advice at the time.  According to him, there are no state Supreme Court decisions spelling out how to deal with personnel issues such as Owen's.

"When you don't have a court case right on point from South Dakota, you then look to, is there an attorney general opinion.  Yes, there was," Pfeifle said.

Pfeifle said the opinion, which dates back to 1990, states not to name an employee or give specifics about the issue.  He also said he even got the go-ahead from the Open Meetings Commission's legal advisor just hours before the September 14 meeting to give those instructions to Council members.

"No crime was committed by your city council.  I can assure the citizens of that.  A reprimand in this instance is only a civil penalty," Pfeifle said.

Council members felt differently and expressed embarrassment during the council meeting on March 12.  Council member Greg Jamison fired back when Pfeifle said he was between a rock and a hard place when it came to being transparent or protecting Owen. 

"If I had a yellow flag, I'd throw it right at you.  The rock and a hard place?  Are you kidding me?" Jamison said.

Pfeifle believes the issue will all blow over.

 "We'll move forward, make the changes we need to make so we're in full compliance.  Citizens of Sioux Falls need to rest assured the City Council and the Mayor, city government are committed to open government and that will continue," Pfeifle said.

Council members are interested in working with legislators to help clarify the state's open meetings laws.

1990 AG Opinion.pdf

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