03/24/2016 A Voice from the Gallery

A Voice from the Gallery

03/24/2016

             “Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph.”

Haile Selassie

The March 21, 2016, special meeting to accommodate business before the Alcester Board of Equalization convened at 6:00 p.m.   At least that was the official call to order. A quorum of the Alcester City council was ‘in session’ with members present: Lance Johnson, Mark Dykstra, Audri Carlson, Kama Johnson, Mayor Glas and Finance Officer Pat Jurrens seated at the council table. Councilman David Larson was running late and was not present at the time. For those approximate 10 plus minutes prior to officially opening the meeting, Mayor Glas, Mark Dykstra and Lance Johnson discussed city business concerning the tractor or was it fuel (nope, Lance was talking  about fuel before the unopened March 7th meeting with a quorum present) with Audri Carlson and Kama Johnson observing the blatant violation of opening meeting statutes described in SDCL 1-25-1 through SDCL 1-25-10. Mayor Rick Johnson and councilpersons Burke, Larsen, Dykstra, K. Johnson, S. Johannsen and W. Van Gelder received a tutorial two years ago on open meeting violation when the council meeting adjourned and the full council remained in the room discussing city business in violation of South Dakota Open Meeting statute and a complaint was filed.

Recently and on a recurring, regular basis the council has been going into executive session to discuss personnel, almost but not quite every city council meeting. The most recent was on March 21st, 2016, Councilperson Kama Johnson moved to go into Executive session via 1-25-2.1 to discuss personnel with a second coming from Councilperson David Larsen and with a unanimous approval vote the group went into executive session at 6:19 p.m. by Mayor Glas’ time. At 6:43.75 p.m. councilperson Lance Johnson left the session headed downstairs to the restroom(?) and at 6:44.65 p.m. he was walking back through the executive session door. Please note the times, I was using my recorder timer and landmark sounds i.e. door open at 6:43.75, footsteps down the stairs (16 seconds), paper towel dispenser activation at 6:44.49, up the stairs foot steps (16 seconds) and back through the door at 6:44.65 p.m. OMG! Business done-5.8 seconds…Hey that must be a record! The CDC recommends after using the bathroom, one should wash his hands with soap and water for 20 seconds–singing the following lyrics to the tune of Happy Birthday will take 20 seconds per the CDC:

 “Wash hands well each day,

To keep germs away.

Scrub with soap and water,

And be on your way.

Wash hands well each day,

To keep germs away.

Scrub with soap and water,

And be on your way.”

( 20 seconds )

 Or was it just a ploy to see what I was doing??? Let’s consider the process for gents, how many seconds does it take to unzip, ready for launch, give it a shake, recovery and zip up before the gent washes his hands, 5.8 seconds? I think not! Hey, ya know a gal does get bored standing quietly by the door of the finance office and folks, I did not hear any singing of the CDC Happy Hand Washing Song before I heard the paper towel dispenser activate! The council, well most of the council present spent 30 minutes discussing (?) personnel. It appears when the council wants to exclude the public (gallery) they call an executive session to discuss personnel for 30 minutes. How is it the city has so many personnel issues that require executive session and lengthy discussions?

The council was warned about the ambiguity they were perpetuating on the Ward III residents. Alcester Municipal Ordinance revisions approved by the council, effective August 6, 2014, and provided me by the City Finance Officer as a true copy of current city ordinances per my FOIA request dated July 9, 2015, establish the boundaries of Ward III as:

 2.0201 C… Ward Three shall include all of that part of the City east of the line defined by Park Avenue, the boundary between Lots 32 and 36 of the Morningside Addition, the boundary between Lots 1 and 2 of Block I of the Hyden Height Addition, Hyden Drive and Church Street.”

Mayor Glas chooses to blow me off and ignore the facts with Councilman Dykstra presenting as Pinocchio each time he makes a statement in the paper attempting to refute my facts. Councilman Dykstra loves to gossip about employees of the City of Alcester and of the State Bank of Alcester, one has to wonder if he shares executive session chit-chat with the public? H-m-m? Mayor Glas needs to get his act together because with the Ward III boundary issue, he will disenfranchise certain voters, cost the city thousands of dollars and invite a lawsuit. Mayor Glas feels our City Attorney is costing too much money and is not useful during council meetings so he routinely gives City Attorney Haugland the boot and proceeds to violate open meeting and executive session rules as put forth in South Dakota Statute.  Salute Mayor Glas!!

03/11/2016 A Voice from the Gallery

 “Your ignorance is their power”

Riley Villiers-Furz,  PAW PRINT,   09/06/13

      The March 7, 2016, council meeting convened at 6.00 p.m. with Mayor Glas and full council present. Approximately 10 minutes into the meeting, after Agenda approval as amended, the minutes of the February 1st and 15th meetings were approved and public input was received, the council went on to the Resolution of Intent to Annex. Councilman David Larsen brought the question that the Union County Commissioners amended Alcester Resolution 2016-01, a Resolution of Annexation:

Alcester City Annexation Motion by Karpen, second by Headid to approve the resolution provided by the city of Alcester with the amendment “including all adjoining roads”. Motion carried. Resolution #UCC 2016-001 A RESOLUTION APPROVING ANNEXATION OF TERRITORY BY THE CITY OF ALCESTER WHEREAS, the City of Alcester desires to annex the following described property, to wit: Lot D-SE 28-95-49 was is 307.5 x 300 ft as occupied west of Iowa Street and north of South Street. WHEREAS,    pursuant to SDCL 9-4-5, such annexation may be subject to review by the Board of     County Commissioners. THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Union County Board of  County Commissioners, that the annexation of the above described territory by the City   of Alcester be and the same is hereby approved. **to include all adjoining roads. Motion    carried.”

(Unapproved minutes of the Union County Commissioners meeting on February 4, 2016, published in the Alcester Union-Hudsonite on February 11, 2016.)

After input from city attorney Chuck Haugland, Mayor Glas called the motion, received the motion from Councilman Lance Johnson who failed to specify the council was considering their initial motion and not the amended motion from the Union County Commissioners, Councilman Mike Burke called second, Mayor Glas failed to call for discussion and the council voted unanimously to approve Councilman Lance Johnson’s motion. It is my opinion, the residents of Alcester may be on the hook for the maintenance of South Street, South Iowa with the twin culverts which need to be replaced. WOW!

At approximately 6:15 p.m. Mayor Glas called for executive session to discuss I believe 1.25.2-3 ( Executive meeting, #3, “Consulting with legal counsel or reviewing communications from legal counsel about proposed or pending litigation or contractual matters…”, it was hard to decipher the mumbling groping for the correct statute. Usually a specific explanation is made, but with Mayor Glas it is the exception unless he is prompted to follow the rule.

Legal update on the status of 202 Broad street which apparently is in foreclosure with a pending bankruptcy which slows the foreclosure process. Mayor Glas told Alcester City Attorney Haugland to handle this issue a.s.a.p. presumably the next day, to which Mr. Haugland told Mayor Glas he was in the middle of tax season and would get to it as soon as he could. Mayor Glas got seven shades of Phizzy, replying, “… the city is paying you as city attorney…” to which Mr. Haugland replied, “I am also under retainer with my tax clients…” Mr. Haugland was dismissed from the meeting. It is to be noted here that Mr. Haugland is giving the city a generous discount for his services but it seems the Mayor wants ‘fire sale’ prices for city attorney and police department.

We have a new police chief, Chris Doty. Congratulations Chris.

It appears the Alcester Industrial Park Board is off and running.   By Golly, they want to get things done! Finance Officer Jurrens asked for permission to plat and plan roads. Mayor Glas called the motion, Councilman Lance Johnson made the motion, Councilman David Larsen provided the second with unanimous approval. Ward I has been waiting patiently for years to have their utilities upgraded to current standards, they have had to watch as East side Anderson Street, Lee Drive got the street upgrades with Beck Drive being developed with utilities, East Clark developed and meanwhile the folks living on the West side are still waiting. So do we have a Flint, Michigan, situation in progress?

SRTS or Safe Routes to School update. In 2013 a grant was awarded for non-infrastructure use. News is the powers that be, failed to read the reimbursement grant and understand that it had an expiration date and the $5K (I believe) was not used so the grant folks figured Alcester did not need the grant. Wh-o-e-e Three month extension?

Executive session was called 1-25-2.1 to discuss personnel which I understand is, “to discuss the qualifications, competence, performance, character of fitness of any public officer or employee or prospective public officer or employee. ” H-m-m I can see why they might not want to explain this one and just refer to it by number.  Given the legal history of two of the council members, I find it curious they are suddenly concerned with fitness of character for prospective public officers. While I have taken no oath, the council has and are bound by that oath, but at least one councilman seems to have violated the precepts of executive session.

In 2000 Alcester Mayor Kim Shefte padlocked the doors to city hall, now it seems we are still being locked out but by executive session and coffee klatch-type conversations.

Photo of Alcester City Offices Padlocked

Alcester citizens locked out of city hall when Mayor Shefte padlocked the doors!

03/04/2016 A Voice from the Gallery

A Voice from the Gallery

03/04/2016

As I start my political journey I am reminded of “America’s” song lyric, “…On the first part of my journey…”, and as I circulated my petition through Ward III visiting with my neighbors, they shared ideas, opinions and histories with me. One shared that her father gathered up his family and with a couple dozen other drought stricken families from the same SD county moved en masse to the Alcester area to start fresh.  As I understand it, those thirty some families put down roots, flourished and grew Alcester’s population and diversity.

But sadly over the years, the municipal government failed to keep up. The bull-headed, tunneled vision, neck encircling mill-stone policy of the mayor presiding over the council in 1989-1994 refused to levy minimum tax hikes to offset inflation ultimately setting Alcester behind the proverbial 8-ball with no money to maintain or make infrastructure improvements leaving Alcester financially vulnerable.

Today, we still suffer from the effects of the shadow of that 8-ball. In the past three years, the city has been sued or threatened with lawsuit several times. The county dispatch lawsuit, the bar lawsuit, a threatened workplace harassment lawsuit and an alleged assault of one of our police officers and payment for officer certification school.

*The county dispatch lawsuit is ongoing with no updates to the community.

*The bar Sullivan lawsuit was settled, costing the city $30K +/-.

*In the workplace harassment issue the mayor did not hand off to the South Dakota DCI for proper investigation setting the city up for nonfeasance charges, the council did not take action because according to ‘scuttlebutt’ (apparently a councilman divulged executive session) the complaining party resigned so the council figured they did not have to take action, leaving the city open for nonfeasance charges and lawsuit. According to Black’s Law Dictionary, “nonfeasance is neglect of duty, the neglect or failure of a person to do some act which he ought to do” creating an actionable liability. In addition at the September 23rd, 2013, special meeting the council went into executive session to discuss personnel issues with Alcester police officer Lisa present around 5:45 p.m. at which time my name was heard in the closed session and I am not personnel, after 15 minutes officer Lisa left the room and executive session continued for approximately another 48 minutes. The council violated executive session which had been called for the sole purpose of discussing personnel not Vickie Larsen. Officer Lisa tendered her resignation in that session and in a later interview with me, she told me the council wanted her to arrest me if I made a fuss.

*In the police officer issue, the council settled $2889.13 by way of the department of Labor. The alleged assault on the officer appears to have pleaded down and as a reward the council voted to seat the alleged attacker on the council.

Councilman Dykstra was seated then and remains a member of the council, freely participating in the deliberate nose thumbing failure of proper process and his obligation to act among other ‘positive qualities’ which I will address. It appears that Councilman Dykstra and a cohort or two intend to ‘teach’ me as Kevin Alfred Strom wrote, ” To learn who rules over you (me), simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize…”. I started out sharing what I witnessed in council sessions using the ‘flashlight’ of opinion letters-to-the-editor in the local paper until the new publisher refused to carry any more of my letters telling me my reporting was not good for the city. H-m-m I wonder if the publisher has a local bank loan—- VP privileges maybe? So what are they afraid of? I was content to use the ‘flashlight’ to enlighten the residents of council meeting behaviors and behind closed door policies but I do believe a 4000 watt Sky Cannon Skytracker searchlight is more appropriate now.

Vickie