The South Dakota Open Meetings Commission ruled unanimously yesterday that Deadwood mayor Chuck Turbiville and commissioners David Ruth, Jr., and Jim Van Den Eykel held an illegal telephonic meeting without public notice.
Black Hills Pioneer managing editor Mark Watson brought the complaint over improper commission action taken last August:
Watson, reading from the Black Hills Pioneer’s Sept. 10, 2015, letter to Lawrence County State’s Attorney John Fitzgerald notifying him of the potential violation, said the Deadwood City Commission voted on Aug. 17 to deny the Days of ’76 committee’s use of rodeo grounds concession stands for an Aug. 28-30 steer roping event. This vote came after the commission had voted to allow the committee use of the concession stands for the same event at a Feb. 17 commission meeting. On the morning of Aug. 18, Turbiville discussed the matter with Days of ’76 Chairman Chris Roberts and Deadwood Public Works Director Ron Green. Later that day, Turbiville telephoned Deadwood Commissioners David Ruth, Jr., and Jim Van Den Eykel. They voted over the phone to allow the Days of ’76 committee to use the concession stands for the Aug. 28-30 steer roping event [Adam Hurlburt, “Open Meetings Commission Unanimously Rules Deadwood Violated Laws,” Black Hills Pioneer, 2016.05.05].
The Open Meetings Commission has no jurisdiction over forgetfulness, but not being able to remember an official action taken just six months ago inspires as much of a lack of confidence as a willingness to conduct meetings and cast votes without public notice.
Lawrence County state’s attorney John Fitzgerald declined to prosecute, saying that since the commission ‘fessed up to the error at its next public meeting and since this violation appears to be an isolated incident, and since the illegal August 18, 2015, decision simply affirmed the original February 17, 2015, decision, “it does not serve the interests of justice to bring further action against the Deadwood City Commission.” City Attorney Quentin Riggins contended in letters on October 16, 2015, and April 6, 2016, that “the public was not harmed in anyway [sic].” Attorney Riggins misses the point: the public is harmed any time it is not informed of and given an opportunity to witness and provide input at an official city commission meeting.
Mayor Turbiville won reëlection last month by one vote over Georgeann Silvernail. Perhaps three Deadwood voters should be allowed to call the Lawrence County auditor and change their votes.
Or perhaps those who gave Turbiville a second chance as mayor will think about sending someone else to the State House in the District 31 Republican primary next month. After all, if the mayor has trouble remembering city actions, we wouldn’t want to overburden him with Legislative duties, too.