This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: The money would go to nearly all full-time city employees.
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken wants to give nearly all full-time city employees $2,000 to keep them from leaving their jobs in a competitive market. But with the mayoral election less than two months away, the candidates running against him say the move is political.
TenHaken says the ordinance is about competing with the private sector. He says about 240 employees are eligible for retirement in the next six years.
“It’s not political at all, I mean I’m not political by nature, and hopefully the last four years people have realized, I hate politics,” TenHaken said. “There’s nothing political, this has been in the works since October.”
He says that last year he believes there was a 9% turnover among city staff. Tuesday night’s first reading of the ordinance comes with the mayoral election approaching on April 12.
Dan Santella: Is this partially an attempt to secure the mayoral votes of city employees?
“Well, if I’m expected to not govern and lead over the next several months because there’s an election, they probably got the wrong guy in the chair,” TenHaken said.
“That’s one heck of a retention bonus,” said David Zokaites, who is running against TenHaken. “If the city could demonstrate that there was a lack of employees, that people were leaving in droves, then a retention makes a whole lot of sense.”
Zokaites says this ordinance is political.
“I don’t see any evidence of city employees leaving like that, and I don’t see great number of vacancies, so to grant such a large retention bonus so close to the election, looks just like dirty politics to me,” Zokaites said.
“If the mayor has waited this long to pay our city employees a wage that they deserve, he can wait until the elections are done,” said Taneeza Islam, who is also running for mayor.
Islam agrees with Zokaites.
“Unfortunately, the timing of this is just wrong,” Islam said. “I’m not saying you can buy city employee votes, ’cause surely you cannot, however, the timing of it is wrong.”
The ordinance which includes the $2,000 for employees is scheduled for its first reading Tuesday night at the Sioux Falls City Council meeting. KELOLAND News will bring you the vote on Tuesday night at 10:00 Central time.