Parkston man pitted vs. city in openness complaintThe South Dakota Open Meetings Commission decided Thursday to postpone consideration of a Parkston complaint pending the resolution of a lawsuit against the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission. Jim Weiss, Parkston resident and former planning and zoning administrator, filed three counts in a civil lawsuit and a complaint with the Open Meetings Commission against the city regarding open-meeting laws. He claims the city Planning and Zoning Commission broke open-meeting laws on Feb. 11, 2010, and Nov. 9, 2010.
By: Anna Jauhola, The Daily Republic
PARKSTON — The South Dakota Open Meetings Commission decided Thursday to postpone consideration of a Parkston complaint pending the resolution of a lawsuit against the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission.
Jim Weiss, Parkston resident and former planning and zoning administrator, filed three counts in a civil lawsuit and a complaint with the Open Meetings Commission against the city regarding open-meeting laws. He claims the city Planning and Zoning Commission broke open-meeting laws on Feb. 11, 2010, and Nov. 9, 2010.
Attorney Keith Goehring is representing the city due to a conflict of interest on the part of Chris Braley, the city’s attorney. According to Goehring’s official answer to Weiss’ complaint, Weiss was planning and zoning administrator from 2003 to 2009. Shortly after he resigned the position to attend South Dakota State University in Brookings, Weiss submitted a building permit application to move a shed to a lot he owns just off Main Street. Allegedly, this request caused tension between Weiss and the commission, because the commission planned to move a spec home across the street from Weiss’ lot.
In January of this year, Weiss claimed the commission did not give proper public notice for the Feb. 11 and Nov. 9 meetings and improperly went into executive session during the Nov. 9 meeting.
According to the answer, the commission held the Feb. 11 meeting to take action on Weiss’ permit request because the request was tabled at the Jan. 21 meeting.
“The commission voted to deny (Weiss’) request for a building permit, but the commission left the door open for (Weiss) to apply for a conditional use permit,” the answer reads.
Apparently, Weiss visited extensively with some of the commission members about his permit request prior to the Feb. 11 meeting. The city finance officer has documentation that Weiss was properly notified of the meeting, according to the answer. The answer also indicates Weiss e-mailed several of the commission members to complain about their actions and “threaten the commission to vote the way he wants, whenever it meets.”
Weiss did not appear at the Feb. 11 meeting to speak on his own behalf, according to the answer, because he spoke with commission members prior to the meeting.
He also complained the meeting was held on the second Thursday of the month, rather than the first Thursday as stated in the commission bylaws. However, there is flexibility in the bylaws if there is a conflict with the meeting date, according to the answer.
“(Weiss) first started to complain about which Thursday the meeting was held only after his building permit request was denied,” the answer reads.
The answer also states the city did not break open meetings laws at the Feb. 11 meeting, because “newspaper notice of the commission meetings (is not needed) when the more ‘routine’ decisions are made by the commission.”
Weiss attended the Nov. 9 meeting with his attorney, Paul Tschetter, of Sioux Falls, when the commission held an executive session as the Board of Adjustment regarding “legal issues involved, and the ramifications of voting either in favor or against the action (Weiss) was requesting,” the answer read. Goehring wrote that this executive session did not violate open-meetings laws because the commissioners were acting as the Board of Adjustment rather than as the Planning and Zoning Commission.
Weiss refused to comment on the issue when contacted by The Daily Republic.
The case for the Open Meetings Commission has been rescheduled for 1 p.m. Aug. 1 in Sioux Falls. Tentative location is the Sioux Falls Library on Dakota Avenue.