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AG won't wade into Sioux Falls events center dispute, for now

SIOUX FALLS (AP) -- South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley has refused to wade into a dispute over whether Sioux Falls Mayor Mike Huether and other city officials broke the law while presenting information about a proposed $115 million events center.

Huether favors building the center. During a talk at a Rotary club luncheon on Monday he told the crowd he was "going to advocate" for the project, on which residents will vote Nov. 8. Critics said his presentation and handout created with public money were one-sided, and at least two people complained to Jackley.

State Rep. Manny Steele, R-Sioux Falls, said he was one of the people who called the attorney general's office.

"The bottom line is, do we follow the law or don't we?" Steele said. "It would appear to me that (Huether) has stepped over the line."

Jackley told the media that for now he will let Sioux Falls' city attorney and ethics board determine whether Huether and others are following state law that prohibits the use of public money for the purpose of influencing the vote on a ballot measure.

"I'm not going to say that the state would not have any jurisdiction," he said. "I've had discussions with the city attorney on the matter, and I think there is a preference, for at least initially, to have it handled at the local level."

City Attorney Dave Pfeifle maintains that Huether did nothing wrong.

"In terms of what's being presented, the PowerPoint (presentation) is just factual. Any opinions expressed are personal, expressed only orally," Pfeifle said.

At Monday's meeting, Anne Hajek, former city councilor and former county commissioner, questioned the legality of Huether's presentation, and City Councilman Greg Jamison described it as one-sided.

Huether said he is fulfilling a campaign promise to lead on the events center issue, and criticism of the presentations is political.

"There are some people out there who will use every tactic available to make this thing fail," he said.