12/07/2020 A Voice From the Gallery

The December 7, 2020,  Alcester City Council meeting was called to order at 6:00 p.m. by Mayor Haeder with Councilman David Larsen, Councilman Marcus Ireland, and Councilwoman Linda Talbott in person, Councilwoman Melissa Kay (et al.) via telephone (no reason given why Councilwoman could not attend in person) and City Attorney Sam Nelson, absent Councilwoman Darla Reppe.  Questionable quorum.

The Pledge of Allegiance was recited after which the mayor called for agenda approval.  Councilman Larsen moved with Councilwoman Kay telephonically seconding the motion to approve the agenda as written (0:02:38.7), discussion by Councilman Marcus regarding Executive Session to discuss an employee and, “will the Executive Session cover that?” (0:02:56.00) Mayor Haeder answer,  “U-h-m, y-e-e-s” (0:03:14:33)  For those of you interested in statement analysis, take special note of the U-h-m and the marked hesitation in Mayor Haeder’s answer.  Agenda was unanimously approved by 3 in person ayes and 1 telephonic aye.

Approval of the minutes of the November 2nd and November 16th council meetings as reported by the Finance Office. Unanimously approved without discussion.

Agenda Item #5 – Public Input – I responded with regard to the vote to place, at the taxpayer’s cost signs of slow children. 

Since there was still time before the 6:15 p.m. P&Z Commission meeting (the Alcester city council is also the Planning and Zoning Committee) and before the schedule Audit Review Presentation by Dwight Berglin the group moved down the agenda to Agenda Item #8 – Street Updates – signs have been put into place.  A request from the Street Department since the utility truck has been repaired ($1K cost) to a drive-able condition, the apportioned money ($15K) set aside in the budget for purchase of another truck be applied to the purchase of a crew cab truck capable of pulling a trailer.  So instead applying that money to actual street repair or rebuild, Mayor Haeder asks, “When does Lonnie want an answer?”  TBD?

6:16 p.m. has arrived with Agenda Item #6 – Planning & Zoning Committee meeting.  Now folks proper procedure for the city council/planning and zoning committee to go back and forth is to have the mayor announce the Planning & Zoning Committee is now in session at 6:15 p.m. so that all parties attending KNOW it is the Planning & Zoning Committee and not the Alcester City Council .  Patrick Andrews from SECOG (South Eastern Council of Governments was present to explain procedures and document for the change in zoning issues relating to the old school property. 

          So folks the city council acting as the Planning & Zoning Committee will absorb the information of zoning, rezoning, public input, and etc. of the old school property and make the decision to recommend the rezoning to itself as the Alcester City Council give the okie-dorkie to enact Ordinance 2020-18 which allows the zoning nomenclature Planned Development District replace the former classification as Residential District and to amend the Official Zoning Map of the City of Alcester.  The Alcester Planning & Zoning Committee moves to recommend the nomenclature and map changes to the Alcester City Council and with a unanimous yes vote and no discussion the Alcester Planning &Zoning Committee recommends the zoning change.

          Now it is here where the Alcester Planning & Zoning Committee should adjourn, state the time of adjournment for the P&Z Committee and re-open as the Alcester City Council so everyone present KNOWS it is now the Alcester City Council up-at-bat.  Nope that boat left the pier, Mayor Haeder and City Attorney Sam missed the boat and were left standing on the pier along with most of the gallery. (0:21:50:47)

Agenda Item #7 – 2019 Audit Report – Presented by Dwight Berglin via telephone.  It is difficult to hear because of the telephonic audio level.  The gist of the report seemed to be violations on the city and finance office parts.  Internal controls still are absent, there was at one point a negative balance arising out of not spending within the budget.  Mr. Berglin made reference to a 2012 case in Dickson, Illinois where Finance Officer Rita Crundwell stole $30M dollars of city moneys over a 6 year period.  Mr. Berglin’s concerns involved lack of clarification of duties, lack of routine internal audits, negative balances, bank record reconciliation, over-spending the second penny sales tax moneys (the 2nd penny sales tax was originally limited to a specific type of purchases ie. capital assets such as property, plant and equipment)   Councilwoman Melissa Kay moved to approve the audit, with the second coming from Councilman David Larsen, unanimous approval with no discussion.

Agenda Item #9 – Wastewater- Finance Officer Patricia Jurrens gave the report noting one grant application was denied, toxicology on our water was clean and the situation with pumps is indeterminate.

Agenda Item #10 – Police Department – Alcester Finance Officer Patricia Jurrens reported in the stead of Chief Christie who was absent.  Most of the subject matter was equipment and the availability of CARES money to help with the expense.

Agenda Item #11– Pleasant Hill Cemetery/Landfill report- Parker Dooley not present so once again Finance Officer Patricia Jurrens made the report.

Agenda Item #12 – Golf Course/Library – Councilman David Larsen gave a report on the Golf Course and the Library.  The gist of the Library portion report was related to the employment of a new librarian.  Not so much as the hiring but of the benefits to a part-time employee as it relates to South Dakota Retirement program.  I want to be very clear the candidate and subsequent new hire for librarian has involvement in the discussion only by being the subject.

          “If you are a permanent, full-time employee of an SDRS participating employer, you are required to participate and make contributions to the South Dakota Retirement System. Permanent, full-time employees are those working at least 20 hours per week and six months per year.” South Dakota Retirement Law, Chapter 3-12C. The Alcester City Council appears to be manipulating benefits and the twenty (20) hour per week issue.  (1:10:52.00) start of the discussion and fudge-factor.  Listen to the exchange as our city council talks around the rules.  (1:12:38.90) Councilwoman Melissa Kay asks, “do we want to designate 20 hours…so she can take…”  Mayor Haeder says, “…Can we get away with…”(1:13:47.20) 

Agenda Item #15 – Rezoning Public Hearing – 7:16 p.m. This is where the Alcester City Council hears from public on the rezoning proposal and votes upon Ordinance 2020-18.  Mayor fails to call for public input, Councilwoman Melissa Kay asks if there is anyone with public comment on the rezoning Ordinance.  No public input.  Council moves onto motions for approve of this Ordinance.  Ordinance is approved.

Agenda Item #13 – Credit Card charge limits – Council to authorize $1000.00 limits for Finance Officer Jurrens, Police Chief, Water Dept. Head and Street Dept. Head with $500.00 limits for Ass’t Finance Officer, Police Officer and Librarian.  Approved unanimously and without discussion.

Agenda Item #14 – Legal Updates – Punitive and Adverse Action going forward on the 204 Ofstad Property and the 307 Iowa Property.  No need for Executive Session.

Agenda Item #16 – Supplemental Appropriations Ordinance  Motions to approve year end fund transfers, what I call robbing Peter to pay Paul.  Approved unanimously.

Agenda Item #17 – Garbage License – Only one bidder, Loren Fischer contract for 2021 through 2023, and again unanimous vote.  The question was raised, “is the garbage can rental included in the cost?”  FO Pat says, “I don’t know”  Why not you were responsible for setting out the terms and conditions of the garbage bid?”  So FO Pat picked up her phone and did the digits. As we all sat waiting patiently for the meeting to continue FO Pat place a call to Loren Fischer, One ringy-dingy, two ringy dingy (1:44:47.03).  FO Pat announces she will try to message Loren Fischer, and once again a delay in the meeting.  Eventually Mr. Fischer texts back that no the garbage cans are not included.

Now folks there is a lot of to-ing and fro-ing here between Agenda Item #17 and Agenda Item #18.  The captions in the video will help to put time frames on the to-ing and fro-ing.

Agenda Item #18 – Finance Officer Report – Spot check accounts, Updates, Resolution for proposed fees for 2021, CARES related spending, City WEBSITE is still not up-something about hosting and domain name.  These should not create any significant delay, so why?

          Approval of warrants- Since Councilwoman Reppe was absent, and Councilwoman Kay was not present their share of warrant inspection and approval did not happen.  So the task fell to those who were present.  As the three council members present struggled to catch up so they approve the warrants, the meeting was delayed.  H-m-m where have I heard, “delay of council meeting”  Oh yeah something from Council woman Kay.  One has to wonder, just how carefully those sums were added up and confirmed under the gun of time frame.  H-m-m!

          Finally the call for approve of current warrants, Councilwoman Melissa Kay abstained on the vote because she was not present and had not seen the warrants.  So we are left with a non-quorum of three to vote.  Ah I see a problem here, but when Councilman David Larsen asked Alcester City Attorney Sam Nelson if we could get into trouble with the “vote” (1:58:07.73), Mr. Nelson’s response was, ” …probably not…”(1:58:11.13) So Mr. Legal Guy, does the city get a major fee discount on the Probably not Opinion as opposed to those yes or no opinions?

          Going on to the next vote on warrants.  This is the vote for year-end warrants and the question is posed by Mayor Haeder to Councilwoman Melissa Kay (you know the one who abstained ’cause she had not seen the warrants for the present meeting?) will she be able to vote on the warrants only the mayor will see and sign? (1:59:02.90) and NOW you answer yes.  What changed?  Can you see and confirm future warrants?  So now we have three in person votes of aye and one of site vote of aye.  Amazing!

Agenda Item #19 – Executive Session- for personnel  remember (0:03:14:33) the response?  Yeah folks I do not buy into the premise that a city employee was to be discussed.  The Executive Session at 7:58 p.m. and I exited out into the hallway.  As I stood waiting in the silence of the hallway while bookkeeper Patricia Jurrens remained in the room allegedly discussing an employee with which Mayor Haeder allegedly had spoken.  I noted the city camera was still standing in the room un-shuttered, I noted several city councilmember phones and at least one to two laptop computers still sitting in the room.  In addition there is NO proof that Councilwoman Melissa Kay is alone during this executive session and any of her electronic devices are shuttered. 

          As I waited I noted bookkeeper Jurrens who had been unmasked for the entirety of the meeting, violated social distancing as she went to her desk to retrieve documents, to seat herself at the council table and to stand over the top of City Attorney Nelson and Mayor Haeder in front of the phone with which the council was communicating with Councilwoman Kay. 

          At 8:37 p.m. the council was declared out of Executive session.  I moved back to my seat in the council room.  As I moved toward my seat, a discussion of COVID Guidelines was being discussed.  Folks COVID Guidelines was not on the agenda and when I asked if the conversation was a continuation of the Executive session I was told NO, this was not related. I responded since this was not properly on the agenda they could not be discussing this.  Their response?  Councilwoman Linda Talbott said we are just discussing not voting with other council members chiming in the same mantra.  (2:07:47.03)  What happened to proper rules?  You are wrong, if it is not on the approved agenda, Ya’ll cannot talk about it.  Certainly not for some ten minutes or so.

          At 8:47 p.m. a call for adjournment and approved by vote.

Contact City Council

Mayor Dan Haeder                   605-934-2287

Councilman David Larsen        605-934-2434

Councilwoman Melissa Kay     712-557-0689

Councilwoman Darla Reppe    605-934-2602

Councilwoman Linda Talbot    605-934-1849