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City Council Reprimand Sticks, Rule Changes

May 23, 2012, 5:05 PM by Brady Mallory

City Council Reprimand Sticks, Rule Changes

A reprimand for the Sioux Falls City Council is here to stay, but a rule for open meetings is on its way out.

The Open Meetings Commission took another look at the council's decision to fire former City Clerk Debra Owen.

When the City Council was reprimanded in March for being vague about the firing of Owen, a City Council member blamed City Attorney David Pfeifle for 'bad legal advice.'  Pfeifle said he was going on a recommendation from the Open Meetings Commission.

"The 1990 Attorney General opinion was something that was being followed by numerous public bodies around the state for 22 years," Pfeifle said.

According to this opinion, the Council was not to name an employee, or give specifics about this type issue.

The Commission has decided to no longer recommend this opinion.  First Amendment Attorney Jon Arneson said Attorney General opinion should not have been followed in the first place.

"They don't have the value of law.  I don't mean to pejorative, but I don't really care what 90-dash-whatever says or who thinks what about it," Arneson said.

In the future, the City Council will have to name an employee and the action being taken against the employee. Pfeifle says going forward, city leaders intend to be as open as possible.

"I don't think any of the councilors have considered this a mere slap on the wrist.  They take these things very seriously.  This certainly has been taken far more seriously than that," Pfeifle said.

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