11/10/2017 A Voice From the Gallery

Mayor Glas opened the November 6, 2017, regular meeting of the Alcester City Council at 6:00 p.m. with the following members present:  Mayor Glas, Councilwoman Audri Carlson, Councilwoman Julia Sundstrom-Lyle, Councilwoman Darla Reppe, Councilman David Larsen, Councilman Dan Haeder, Councilman Lance Johnson and City Attorney Chuck Haugland.

First order of business was to approve the agenda.  Yup, normally not such a brain stressor here but I have noticed a trend in Mayor Glas’ /FO Pat’s agenda.  Notably the movement of public input.  Public input has always appeared on the front end of the agenda, usually within the first five items.  Since June 2017 Alcester City agenda has placed Public Input just ahead of Adjournment.

Public Input Placement on Agenda 

11/06/2017 Item 14 12/05/2016 Item 5
10/02/2017 Item 13 11/07/2016 Item 6
09/03/2017 Item 11 10/03/2016 Item 5
08/07/2017 Item 9 09/13/2016 Item 5
07/05/2017 Item 14 08/10/2016 Item 5
06/05/2017 Item 10 07/06/2016 Item 5
05/1/2017 Item 7 06/06/2016 Item 5
04/03/2017 Item 5 05/02/2016 Item 5
03/20/2017 Item 5 04/04/2016 Item 4
03/02/2017 Item 5 03/21/2016 Item 4
02/06/2017 Item 5 03/07/2016 Item 4
01/04/2017 Item 11 02/01/2016 Item 4
01/04/2016 Item 4

By placing the public input at the end of the agenda no resident taxpayer can offer up comment BEFORE a vote on the issue.  Many municipalities will schedule input with specific agenda item such as purchasing a couple hundred thousand dollar street sweeper, not Alcester.  As you can see by the table showing the trend in Public Input placement, Mayor Glas/FO Pat appear to deny/restrict public access and comment before council vote discouraging public involvement in their own government.

Next up on the agenda was the approval of October 2, 2017, minutes.  Yup once again FO Pat dropped the ball.  According to South Dakota statute,

          SDCL 9-18-1. Governing  body to publish proceedings and statement of        expenditures–Rate of payment for publication.  The governing body of every             municipality shall cause to be published in the official newspaper which serves therein, or, if no official legal newspaper is published therein, in any legal newspaper which serves such municipality, with thirty days after each meeting thereof a full account of the proceeds at such meeting, give a detailed statement of all expenditures of money, the names of the person who payment is made, and showing the service rendered therefor.  It shall pay for publishing such     proceedings not to exceed ninety percent of the legal line rates for weekly newspapers and not exceed the legal line rate for daily newspapers, as provided in §17-2-19.

And

          SDCL 9-18-1.1  Time for delivery of copy to official newspaper.  The auditor or           clerk responsible for keeping a record of proceedings required to be published  pursuant to §9-18-1 shall cause a copy to be delivered to the officials newspaper within one week from the time such meeting is held.”

The minutes were not delivered to the publisher (per my confirmation visit with Publisher Shane Hill on November 6, 2017, at 11:30 a.m.) as of November 6, 2017.  Alcester City Finance Officer Pat Jurrens failed to get the minutes of the October 2, 2017, Alcester City Council Meeting published within the time frame set out by South Dakota statute.   Due to her failure to have the council minutes published within the parameters of statute, the Finance Officer has extended the time frame in which to refer any business on which the council voted.  It is up to the Finance Officer to get the job done!  The October 2, 2017, minutes finally appeared in the November 9, 2017, edition of the Alcester Union-Hudsonite.  In answer to what appears to be the FO excuse, Shane Hill should have called her to check on the minutes.  It is NOT the job of Publisher Shane Hill, to remind or to run Finance Officer Jurrens down to get the city council minutes, THAT is her job!

Agenda item #7 was a presentation by Larry Anderson, sexton of Pleasant Hill Cemetery.  Mr. Anderson informed the council of the financial status of the cemetery and asked for direction.  Apparently Pleasant Hill Cemetery is a privately owned cemetery whose expenditures are rapidly out-pacing income. Mr. Anderson explored the possibility of the city taking on the ownership and management of Pleasant Hill Cemetery.  No action was taken.

Agenda item #13 Street Department Lonnie Johnson gave an update on the demo of a street sweeper.  The demo sweeper is not the same model the city is contemplating purchasing but Mr. Johnson voiced his opinion on the model that was demonstrated did not meet his expectations.

Agenda Item 12, Executive session based upon Personnel.  Folks, personnel should only be used to discuss a specific city employee!

          SDCL 1-25-2.1 Discussing the qualifications, competence, performance, character or fitness of any public officer or employee or prospective public officer or employee.  The term employee does not include any independent contractors.

 

This seems to be a favorite ploy to go into Executive Session, secreting public business from the public.  We cannot have that many fitness of personnel questions, unless it is the capabilities of the Finance Officer because she seems to be the only non-council city employee present in these meetings and there rarely is any action taken in open session after these sessions.

Audri Carlson left the meeting at 7:34 p.m.

Agenda Item #13CIII – Austin Schuller requested Alcester municipal sponsorship to the Police Academy.  Mr. Schuller had an sponsorship agreement drafted up by independent counsel which was apparently presented to Alcester City Attorney Chuck Haugland at the meeting.  Mayor Glas/FO Pat Jurrens agenda engineers seem to expect Mr. Haugland to give an off-the-cuff opinion on something he was reading for the first time.  Mr. Haugland indicated language in the agreement draft could possibly cause a Wage and Hour issue for the city,  he needed to read it more closely than a cursory glance and he needed a get together with the attorney who drafted the document.

Agenda item #13E1 was the audit report by Dwight Bergland.  Mr. Bergland gave his report in which he noted some over-budget items and suggested corrective measures for the city of Alcester to be compliant in internal controls i.e. segregation of duties, specifically the finance office.

Agenda item #14 Public Input

Joe Zweifel wanted to officially recognize Police Officer Dylan Nelson who performed emergent medical intervention on a resident and Police Chief Chris Doty who also performed emergent medical intervention on another resident.

Mike Kezar corrected the Brad Wilson-Work Comp Fund Representative’s data on how long the city of Alcester has participated in the Work Comp Fund.  Mr. Kezar corrected the 15 years noted on the plaque to a term much longer than 15 years.

Wanda Halverson, Assistant Finance Office wanted direction from the council on a dog licensing issue where  a resident told her in response to her questioning the licensure of his dog, ‘I will license my dog, when feral cats are taken care of…”  Councilman Dan Haeder responded Alcester ordinance states dog are to be licensed and cats are not at issue.

Vickie Larsen, ME!  I handed out text of SDCL statutes; SDCL 9-18-1, SDCL 9-18-1.1 and SDCL 1-27-1.16 to each council member and the city attorney.  I informed council members of the publication of minutes violation pointing out times for legal response are limited by publication date of the minutes which were reflected in SDCL 9-18-1 and SDCL 9-18-1.1.

Some time ago, I had asked for a copy of the packet of materials given to the council to be provided to the gallery so anyone interested in following the discussion and FO Pat’s ‘explanation’ could read along.  Once again I was ignored and blown off.  So I included the statute SDCL 1-27-1.16:

          SDCL 1-27-1.16-“Material relating to open meeting agenda item to be available-Exceptions-Violation as misdemeanor.  If a meeting is require to be open to the public pursuant to §1-25-1 and if any printed material relating to an agenda item of the meeting is prepared or distribute by or at least the direction   of the governing body or any of its employees and the printed material is distributed before the meeting to all members of the governing body, the material shall either be posted on the governing body’s website or made available at the official business office of the governing body at least twenty-four     hours prior to the meeting or at the time the material is distributed to the governing body, whichever is later.  If the material is not posted to the governing body’s website, at least one copy of the printed material shall be available in the meeting room for inspection by any person while the governing body is consider the printed material…A violation of this section is a Class 2   misdemeanor…”

Next I brought my request for FOIA to the council’s attention.  On August 7, 2017, I hand-delivered a FOIA for CDBG  (see below*) in the August 7, 2017, regular meeting of the Alcester City Council.

CCI11112017_0001

By the September 6, 2017, I still had not received the CBDG FOIA I requested nor did I receive any written explanation of time delay.  While SDCL 1-27-1 does not appear to have a finite response time, I relied upon an approved sample SD FOIA request in which there is a section that states,

 If access to the records I am requesting will take longer than a ‘reasonable’       amount of time, please contact me with information about when I might expect copies or the ability to inspect the requested records.”

As of the October 2, 2017, regular meeting of the Alcester City Council I still had not received the FOIA information I requested nor had I received any reply with times I might expect my request to be honored.  During the October 2, 2017, I hand-delivered a second request for the CBDG information and on October 14, 2017, I finally received the requested FOIA documents via USPS.

When I examined the three FOIA documents provided me by Finance Officer Jurrens, I noted the date of final payment on the Dan Avery CBDG was January 31, 2017, but the release of lien or satisfaction of loan was delayed to June 23, 2017.  Under

             SDCL 44-3-8 -“Satisfaction of lien-Execution of discharge or release by holder-Damages for failure to execute and deliver satisfaction-Attorney fees-Additional penalty.  Whenever any mortgage, pledge or other lien of any means, the holder of such lien shall, within thirty days of satisfaction, deliver a sworn satisfaction to the debtor.  However, immediately upon satisfaction of a lien or at any time thereafter, if the owner of the property makes written demand on the lienholder, the lienholder shall, within ten days of receipt, execute and deliver to the debtor a sufficient sworn satisfaction to cancel the lien or any record thereof.  If the lienholder fails to execute and deliver to the owner of the property a sworn satisfaction within ten days of receipt of a proper written demand, the owner of the property is entitled to recover from the person who failed to comply with the provisions of this section all damages that he or she may have sustained thereby, including attorney’s fees and an additional penalty in the sum of one hundred dollars.”  

So folks, I do believe that June 23, 2017, is well past the 30 day time frame in statute.  The excuse made by Alcester Finance Officer was, “I had to wait to make sure the check cleared.”  You who turned the water off on a resident whose check you had a gut-feeling about, and by your own public admission didn’t even present her check to be cashed?  Madam FO you just called her bank asking if funds were present to cover the check.  The bank can release funds availability for a specific account at the hour, minute and second of the day you call.  They cannot tell you, Madam finance officer if the account holder has overdraft protection.  Madam finance officer by your admission in open council meeting, you did not present the check because of charge back fee applied to the city.  IF THE CHECK WAS NOT PRESENTED IT COULD NOT BE NSF.  Kind-of-like Schrödinger’s Cat.  Is the cat dead or is it alive—Is the check good or is it NSF?  As long the check is not presented for payment, it is good!  Mr. Avery PAID in full on January 31, 2017, and ten days after you presented his check providing ya’ll did not sit on the check, you would have KNOWN the check was good.  So by February 11, 2017, well in advance of February 24, 2017, your other excuse for not providing a timely satisfaction of lien requested by the obligor, Alcester Finance Officer Jurrens you should have provided release of lien and debt satisfaction.  NOT some five months late!

Next FOIA topic was the release of the social security number on a CBDG loan paid on November 16, 2016.  The micr (magnetic ink character recognition) codes were all properly redacted on the checks of all three FOIA documents, but on the loan paid on November 16, 2016, under the financing #2012314910009 signed by Mayor Glas the debtor’s social security number was not redacted.  Sloppy!  As I explained when I addressed the council about how easy ID theft  is in a previous meeting, never did I imagine Mayor Glas or the Finance Office would be so derelict in duty as to Give out a social security number!  Folks, the city could be liable for any damages incurred from this dereliction of duty.  I provided copies of the FOIA materials to City Attorney Haugland and to the Union County States Attorney office.

Agenda item #15 HRC Update -Since Mayor Glas had a blank look on his face when this agenda item was called, it fell to Councilman Dan Haeder to explain events involving the HRC.  Councilman Haeder and Mayor Glas were pleased to announce the sale of one lot.  However, this was a good news and bad news situation.   After 2012 when Mayor Glas (not mayor then) was on the HRC and Finance Officer(?) Pat Jurrens pushed to indebt the city of Alcester to the tune of $200k+ by building Beck Drive including curb/gutter, water and sewer to help sell lots.  Yup, some five years later A lot has finally been sold.  OH BUT WAIT, the purchaser of the lot WANTS GAS piped to her property and as DEVELOPER (?) it apparently falls to the city coffers (taxpayers) to install and pay for gas to the buyers property (so who would have guessed we needed a gas line on Beck Drive apparently not the Beck Drive pushers).  Now the city receives $25K+/- for the sale of the lot, less realtor fees of 6%-7% ($1500-$1750), and the up-front cost of laying in gas?  Folks, the city would be required to lay in gas lines for an up-front cost of maybe $10k, $15K, $25K ? Dang, there goes the budget.  The HRC/city is already on the loan hook for initial cost of Beck Drive and NOW they are going to NEED a loan for the gas installation?  WHO GETS TO PAY FOR THAT?

Now the purchaser of the lot wants to be in her home soon.  By the way it is against ordinance for propane tanks in the city limits.  So our council discussed they would over-look Alcester city statute and allow a ‘small propane tank’.  Really who is going to PAY to fill that tank at winter season rates?  Who wants to live next door to a 500 gallon bomb?  Ever see a split-level house blow up then two minutes later watch the roof come back down, cave into the house and flames lick in the blown out windows of the house next door and know there were people in that house.  I have!  I have not forgotten the sound of the explosion, I have not forgotten seeing the roof float down, caving in on the interior or hearing the sound of jack hammers all night that long ago January looking for the gas leak.  It is not the fault of the residents of Alcester those in charge fail to do proper research.  This is not something we can in good conscience allow the city to give a variance, even a temporary variance!

   Adjourned