Mayor Turbiville, Deadwood Commissioners Forget Vote and Open Meetings Laws

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].

Open meetings violator and forgetful Deadwood mayor Chuck Turbiville
Open meetings violator and forgetful Deadwood mayor Chuck Turbiville

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.

10 Responses to Mayor Turbiville, Deadwood Commissioners Forget Vote and Open Meetings Laws

  1. Amen, Cory. And I totally forgot he was running for the house, also. Thanks for the reminder!

    Yeah, there was a reason that vote was so close in Deadwood. Deadwood-ians know there is some “stank” in Deadwood. They just didn’t have enough oomph to get Silvernail over the finish line.

  2. mike from iowa

    States Attorney sounds like he is giving out Drumpf mulligans to wingnuts.

  3. And if people think this was an “oops” moment, they are very naive. Turbiville just got caught, this time.

  4. Steve Sibson

    Turbiville is an outstanding politician, which means he is an awful representative of the people. His job is to deceive.

  5. Turbiville said in a candidate forum that “no one cares about open government.” Apparently that includes him. How does this guy keep getting elected?

  6. Cory, lest u get a reputation of tilting against windmills or whatever, not knowing the mayor, often these lil details are the very reasons political parties exist. In Matters of Discretion The Party In Power Is Assured That A Mayor, a Commissioner, a States Attorney, an Alderperson, any Employee, will Not Go Rogue.
    The Charging of A Small Matter, or Not, Based On Who You Are, tho Seemingly Inconsequential can Make All The Difference. Piss Off The Wrong Person , right Or Not, makes A Difference In Later Votes Ect. Kristie’s Traffic Tickets Were A Harbinger Of The Future.

  7. You’re right that an open meeting is called for. But I would be inclined to cut Mayor Tuberville a little slack on this one given the closeness to the steer roping event and the need to give the organizers a quick answer so they could finish planning their event.

    Turbiville isn’t one of those right wing religious nuts. The Black Hills are going to be full of GOP politicians, and SD could do a lot worse than him.

  8. But do we give him slack for forgetting that he and the commission had already voted on the matter the preceding February, then inexplicably reversed themselves at the August meeting? And if they have time to organize a phone call, couldn’t they take just a little more time to announce and convene a special meeting to do things right? The impulse to cut corners cost the city time and money in this open meetings hearing process.

    The fact that a Republican is less of a right-wingnut than some of his neighbors doesn’t buy exceptions to open meetings laws.

  9. When are we going to finally get tired of the “South Dakota way” when it comes to things like this? It is the good ole boys club. A wink here. A nod there. A rub of the elbows one day. A clink of glasses the next. Ror wants to cut Turbiville some slack…why?

    I agree with not wasting tax payer money on things. But, you can’t go around the laws, the rules and regulations to make things easier on yourself. They are there for a reason. They are there so there are not even perceptions that things are being done incorrectly, unprofessionally, or unethically. Mayor Turbiville has chosen to be a leader of Deadwood and also wants to run for the house. He needs to earn the respect of a leader and not bend or break the rules just because he finds them inconvenient.

    A Deadwood citizen approached the Deadwood city council several months ago to try to get an ordinance passed that would mandate campaign flyers, posters, etc display who is paying for them. Sound like good disclosure to me. City council voted it down. Why? Luckily, this citizen would not be deterred, and got enough signatures to put it on the ballot this last week. Deadwood citizens voted to pass it. Sounds like the citizens of Deadwood are tired of…..well, bending of the rules and government that isn’t open and honest about their actions.

    No, we shouldn’t give shenanigans like that a pass.

  10. Along Dana’s line, if government makes one mistake, it doesn’t get a pass to make more mistakes to fix the original mistake.