10/16/2018 A Voice From the Gallery

I felt some items from the October 1, 2018, Alcester City Council meeting needed additional attention.  First and foremost is the fact it is the Mayor’s job to set the agenda, not the finance officer’s position to decide any agenda item or fill up the agenda with her own ‘agenda’ items.

I would also like to point out what Mayor Glas deems necessary to conduct a city council meeting; one sheet of paper (which I presume is the agenda), one bottle of water, a pen and of course his name plate (see October 1, 2018 city council video)

Agenda Item #8 – Street Updates I have already shared the news that there will be no chip sealing of Alcester City Streets.   

  • WHY?
  • WAS THE 2018 MONEY BUDGETED FOR STREETS SPENT?
  • WHAT WAS IT SPENT ON?
  • WAS THE APPROXIMATE $37K FUNDS RECEIVED THROUGH THE STREET MAINTENANCE SPECIAL ASSESSMENT SPENT?
  • WHERE WAS THE $37K STREET MAINTENANCE ASSESSMENT SPENT?
  • IF NOT SPENT, WHERE DID THAT $37K GO? GENERAL FUND OR THE STREET FUND?

Notice our city streets especially where recent patching appears.  Many of our streets carry a black stripe about 18 inches in width which abuts the cement gutter and runs, almost the length of the block.  Wonder why?  The next time you take your robot-arm-friendly-trash container to the curb, think about where the wheels of the robotic garbage truck are juxta-positioned in relation to the curb and gutter as it latches onto your trash receptacle, now consider how heavy that Great Robotic garbage truck is (approx. 33,000 lbs empty to 51,000 lbs full (9 ton load)) and finally, consider the weight of vehicles for which the streets were designed all those years ago. Notice the squish effect in those areas of the streets not yet ‘patched’.

Agenda Item #10 – Police Department  As I have already discussed in the 10/01/2018 A Voice From the Gallery, I spoke up and was dinged for being out-of-order.  I invite you to go back to the October 1, 2018, video at (01:09:17) and listen to what Alcester City Attorney Sam said to the council, “…you do not have to answer questions from the gallery…”  and as I reported, a few moments later Alcester City Attorney Sam thought better of his response and requested time to, “…to go back to the On-Call…” and upon permission Alcester City Attorney Sam stated, “… in previous discussions (closed session) he had briefed the council on possibilities with regard to the On-Call Solution with a $2K compensation…”

Now folks let’s go back in time to the salary versus wage discussion the council had concerning the rate of pay and for Alcester Police Chief Jeff Christie where Alcester City Attorney Sam offered his opinion concerning what I would term the safer course of wage payment (CTA) for the Alcester Chief of Police would be a per hour wage over the then current offer and past practice of salary payment.  Again, I do believe all discussions relating to per hour wages versus salary were in closed session.  I believe that portion of the closed session was in violation of South Dakota Opening meetings statute because the council and Alcester City Attorney Sam were discussing changing a department payment schedule NOT discussing a specific employee.

I also believe Alcester City Attorney Sam the portion of the closed session/sessions discussing police payroll payments to which you referred (01:09:17), involving the over-time exemption rule and method of compensating our police officers for the hours they spend on-the-job was a generic discussion type of payroll payment not an individual police officer was another violation of South Dakota open meeting statute.  In addition, I believe Alcester City has the ability to compensate our police officers with overtime pay “at Alcester City’s discretion”.  Folks imagine working as a small town police officer where 60 or 80 hours on duty time is required.  Imagine the $18.00 per hour wages for only the 40 hours the council deigned to pay, now do the math!  Federal 2018 minimum wage is $7.25 per hour and South Dakota 2018 minimum wage is $8.85 per hour.  So at some point in those 80 some hours required of Alcester Police Chief and police officers, our law enforcement could be making less per hour than what Alcester pays a first year pool staff, non-WSI.

Now Alcester City Attorney Sam opined during the MUTCD (Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices) conversation something about Federal jurisdiction within a municipality.  I must have missed the change in US sovereignty after I graduated.  As I recall in an over-simplified form the Federal government holds sovereignty as outlined in the United States Constitution and grants sovereignty to the individual states who in turn grant sovereignty in form to its counties and municipalities.  I do believe the tenth amendment addresses this sharing of power and sovereignty protection to states, counties and municipal governments.  Simply put the Federal government relegates power to states, states relegate power to counties and cities.  The kicker being as I understand the power trickle- down theory in which states, counties and cities may amend Federal statute but ONLY to make the law more restrictive not less restrictive.  Analogy- the state of South Dakota says bars must close at 2:00 a.m., Alcester Council says,  “Madam Woolworth says she cannot possibly clear the bar at 2:00 a.m., so we will allow her to close at 2:30 a.m. and we will make an ordinance that affirms a 2:30 a.m. closing in place of the state mandated 2:00 a.m. closing.  Alcester does NOT have the authority to over-ride state statute (SDCL 35-4-81.2) by loosening the restrictive 2:00 a.m. state closing time to a less restrictive 2:30 a.m. closing.

Now onto Agenda Item #12 – Special Projects  

  • Agenda Item #12(E)(I) Wow! It appears I have achieved special projects status.  I asked for FOIA (Freedom of Information or South Dakota Sunshine) to obtain payroll reports of the total hours and line item break-downs of regular hours, over-time hours per and payments made per week over an approximate two year period for Alcester Police Chief Doty and Alcester Police Officer Dylan Nelsen.

In the past I have made FOIA requests for additional information not presented to or  made available to the residents of Alcester or the gallery.  In addition I always wondered when the push back was going to happen, so I was not overly surprised at the tactic Alcester Finance Officer took upon my June 12, 2018, FOIA request for the payroll reports.

I did not receive a denial but I did receive the next best thing a provisional billing from Finance Officer Pat Jurrens of the City of Alcester for, “…$40.00 per hour for Eight (8) hours of research time to pull time cards and check stubs…to produce copies…” for a grand total of $320.00.  I sent a reply that I would just access them without asking for copies.  I received another copy of the provisional billing stating, “…the cost would remain the same…”  Really?  Then I found there are NO TIMECARDS to pull, the employees use their cell phones or as I witnessed a week ago Alcester City Finance Officer Pat Jurrens logs them in on her computer.  In the course of this Pat-a-cake push back scenario, I requested the name of the accounting program and the name of the payroll program(QuickBooks and CheckMark respectively)both have the capability of producing reports detailing in an Excel-type format, the information for which I asked.

So feeling I had paid out enough line, I set the hook and filed a complaint with the South Dakota Office of Hearing Examiners detailing my official request and the City of Alcester reply.  This constitutes the 8 hour special project charge against the Finance Office.  Really?  Now Alcester Finance Officer Pat Jurrens expects $40.00 per hour

JUST TO DO HER JOB?  REALLY?

  • Agenda Item #12(E)(II) – Special Projects-Tree trimming Database/Letters-134 – 12 Hours. Oh my dear sweet, old Aunt Tillie!  Are ya kidding me?  12 hours to write a form letter reciting a tree-overhang violation?  Folks, think about it, obviously FO Pat has not.  Type up one form letter citing the code violation, save form letter to file, copy the list of residents from the water bill data base onto Avery Labels times 2 (one label for the letter and one label for the envelope), fold copies, insert into envelope, seal envelope, stamp and trot on down to the post office and that takes twelve hours.  Oh that is right we have a Property Maintenance Code Enforcement Officer Geoff Fillingsness, just what does he do now for his fee again?  Somehow I do not think he is running around in a golf cart with his young finance office live-in kid-at-your-back protégé eyeballing branch height and Kodaking the weed heights.  Nope I just do not think so, but I have noticed a pole on the street sweeper and I do not think that it is for a flag!

Again Special Project-Twelve hours? FOR DOING HER JOB? I am relieved the city has a janitor, I would hate to see how many hours it would take for the Special Project of changing the toilet paper in the City Offices restrooms!