Do we have to take minutes on this trip?

Here's one that I haven't seen in the media yet. This notice went out a couple of days ago to the Rapid City Media and others:
M E M O R A N D U M . . .
TO: City Council Members and News Media
FROM: Jackie Gerry, Administrative Coordinator
RE: City Council Informal Meeting

Six members of the Rapid City Council will attend the National League of Cities Conference in Washington, D.C. from March 9, 2007 to March 14, 2007. No formal action will be taken by members of the City Council while attending the conference.

Questions about this trip should be directed to the Mayor's Office at 394-4110.
Why should anyone care that six members of the Rapid City Council are taking a junket? Aside from taxpayers, it's the number of people going. Six.

Why does "six" matter? It's because it's the same number that constitutes a quorum. Councilmen Johnson, Okrepkie, Hadcock, Chapman, Olson, Lacroix are all going to be in the same place, at the same time. Which means that the provisions of Attorney General's opinion 89-08 may very well come into play.

What does this interpretation of South Dakota State Law provide?

Having concluded that the open meeting requirements attach to (specifically in this case to the Board of Regents, but generally anyone covered under the open meetings law) and attach at any time a quorum is present and business within the jurisdiction of the board is discussed, the basis for closing meetings then becomes important. SDCL 1-25-2 provides:


I stress that it is the intent of the statute that the public's business be conducted in the public. Accordingly, exceptions from the open meeting requirement should be strictly applied and not used as a subterfuge to avoid public scrutiny of agency activities.

Read that here.

I know when my wife was on the school board, and they'd have their annual retreat to plan for the next year, it would be open to the press and public because of this concern. It's seriously debatable whether or not that's even possible with the Rapid City Council jetting off to DC.

Now, I do acknowledge the law has changed a bit in the intervening years, but when a quorum of a board is all traveling to the same location, it begs the question whether or no they're going to be talking shop. Note that the interpretation doesn't require "formal action" as the memo reads. It requires "business within the jurisdiction."

And at a "National League of Cities Conference" I would think that's tough to avoid.


Anonymous said…
This very issue is under review in our court system in regard to a township board. There was legislation offered during the session (HB 1201) which was passed by the House and tabled at the request of Sen. Tom Hansen in the Senate State Affairs Committee, reportedly because it was a pending court case. However, PP, this seems like a trip where you should seek credentials!
Anonymous said…
I believe Schumacher and Kooiker opposed this for this very reason. From the sounds of it, it is creating quorum issues for the Legal & Finance, as well as the Public Works Committees for that week.
Anonymous said…
Why do this many people need to go to this conference from lil' ol' Rapid City? It's not as if any of them have particular expertise in anything, except spending taxpayer dollars. How much will this cost? Sounds to me like a free field trip. Each of them should, at the VERY least, should be assigned to write a report on some aspect of this conference. That wouldn't make it worthwhile but at least it would show they did something besides get a vacation at taxpayer expense.
Anonymous said…
Yeah, let's not send em off to learn more about how to do their jobs well.

Let's raise a stink about it, because they might learn something.

Let's just assume that they're breaking the law. Yeah, good idea.

JEEEBUS, talk about your NANNY STATE. Don't tell me how best to keep my kid safe, but make sure and tell me how educated my political representation is.

JEEBUS. Would someone PUHLEASE tell me why PP would back a way for people to become more educated about their elected positions, but doesn't have a single beef when members of the REPUBLICAN caucus go into secret to make their back room deals on legislation?

PP said…
Anon 10:21,

How are you equating telling politicians there might be legal prohibitions to their all taking a trip (because of the open meeting law) to creating new laws restricting the rights of the citizenry?

Besides, why would anyone need to go to Washington DC to learn a better way to listen to their constituents located in Rapid City?
Anonymous said… links to the National League of Cities schedule of events

PP, in reviewing various workshops listed on the conference schedule shown in the link above, I would say that each and every one of our city officials will have the opportunity to bring back valuable information to benefit our community. Just maybe the conference is a tool for learning that will benefit community and constituents alike.

To anon at 9:01 AM Did Shumacher and Kooiker document that their objection was because 6 going to the conference would be a quorum? If not, just maybe their objections were for other reasons? Sam, to address.
Anonymous said…
I think the question of why we are sending 6 council members is valid. Why not send one or two and let them report on what they learned. Seems like that would be a lot smarter way to spend tax dollars.
Anonymous said…
Ironic that this news breaks on the same day that the Rapid City Airport board is being reprimanded by the State for open meetings violations.
Anonymous said…
This is a very tough issue.
I hope they are a least staying in different hotels and not meeting for suppers or drinks.
If you think boards don't do that, talk to the Brandon Valley School board.
Anonymous said…
I got an idea, why don't we just send a few kids to school and have them come back and report to the rest of the kids what they've learned?


Just saying that this shouldn't be a violation of open meetings laws if they are going to learn. No action will be taken while they are there.


If they came back and had some strange agenda that they forced upon the people of Rapid City, it would be clear they didn't act accordingly.


Why assume guilt? Why assume sinister doings?


There's no way these cats are as sinister as the Republican Caucus.
Anonymous said…
This is a JUNKET, courtesy of the TAXPAYER,,,you are welcome boyz n girlz
Anonymous said…
Waste of money, elect good people!
Anonymous said…
If these clowncil folks are so driven to improve themselves, why dont they attend the Municipal league functions held locally ?

Fact is, they (most) dont attend local functions, not enough EGO factor. In fact the clowncil president, Tom Johnson, rarely misses a cross country junket and I bet he has rarely attended any local opportunities for "enrichment"

Sam Kooiker recently called a fellow clowncilman on the carpet for booking himself a luxury suite for a junket to california.

Come on folks we all know why they do it,,,,,,ITS FREEEEEEEEE,,,,LETS EM FEEL IMPOTANT FER A DAY ER 2

Think I'm wrong?? try taking the travel buget, put it into the salary for being a city clowncilman, TELL THEM TRAVEL ALL YOU WANT, YOU'VE ALREADY BEEN PAID TO TRAVEL,,, and see if they still travel as much,,,,,travel would drop to ZEEROOO

nonnie said…
In this day of video conferencing, there shoud seldom be a need to travel on the back of taxpayers to anything. Plug in the TV, pick a comfortable chair, lean back and enjoy!
Anonymous said…
Are you people all nuts (with exception to you 10:21)?

Get a life instead of whining about what someone else has an opportunity to do.
Anonymous said…
anon 3:10
are you really defending the "right" of 6 elected officials to spend thousands of dollars on a junket? Why do six need to go?
Anonymous said…
Didnt the travel budget jump like 40% this year in Rapid City ?

I'll get a life when you stop taveling on my money anon 3:10
Andy said…
Jim Shaw is the travel kings. On the taxpayer dime! Iowa, Wyoming, you name it and he will go there at your expense.
Anonymous said…
time for a new mayor and a bunch of new council members
Anonymous said…
anon 3:10. It isn't an "opportunity" to needlessly travel on someone else's dime. It's a misuse of taxpayer funds.

Of course they are going to jump on a chance for a free trip. Just hope the voters remember and give them a free trip back to their homes permanently on the next election.

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