Sioux Falls City Council upset at open meetings violationSome Sioux Falls City Council members apologized Monday for breaking the state’s open meetings law when they fired a city clerk last year, and one council member called for a reprimand directed at the city attorney.
By: VERONICA ZARAGOVIA, The Associated Press
Some Sioux Falls City Council members apologized Monday for breaking the state’s open meetings law when they fired a city clerk last year, and one council member called for a reprimand directed at the city attorney.
The comments came at a public informational meeting on Monday after the Open Meetings Commission voted to reprimand the City Council last week for violating the open meetings law. The council in September 2011 voted behind closed doors to fire former City Clerk Debra Owen without publicly disclosing the issue of the vote. City employees can’t take action, like a hiring or firing, without explanation.
“I can only say I’m sick about it,” council member Vernon Brown said. “Mostly I’m disappointed in myself. I sincerely apologize to the citizens of Sioux Falls.”
The council has not said why Owen was fired.
Brown also directed his disappointment at City Attorney David Pfeifle.
“I let the city attorney’s legal counsel override ... what I knew what was right on a clear and open vote on Debra Owen’s employment,” Brown said. “My error has tarnished my service and your service forever,” he said.
Brown expressed disappointment over receiving legal counsel that caused the body to commit a crime.
“I am considering an April 2 resolution for a vote of no confidence,” Brown said. “Legally that doesn’t fire (Pfeifle) ... but we have a choice to make: Should we be accountable or should we be arrogant and pretend the Open Meetings Commission doesn’t matter? That it doesn’t know what it’s doing?”
A vote of no confidence would show voters that the council takes the illegal action seriously, he added. No decision was made on Brown’s suggestion on the referendum.
Council member Michelle Erpenbach said the fault isn’t Pfeifle’s. “I’m as disappointed as anyone else, as embarrassed as anyone,” Erpenbach said. “We chose to follow our legal advice just as we ignored it on other times.”
Council member James Entenman said the body should move forward and allow voters to replace the council next election if they’re upset with the members.
“We did nothing wrong. We based our decisions on our beliefs and that’s just the way it is,” Entenman said.