A proposed ordinance forcing Rapid City Council members to abstain from voting on matters they had discussed with other council members outside official meetings was revised and then sent back to the city attorney’s office Monday night.
The proposed ordinance, drafted by developer Bill Freytag along with former city council member Ron Weifenbach and some direction by City Attorney Joel Landeen, would force council members to be "disqualified from participating in the hearing" if any ex-parte communication, meaning any oral or written communication outside the official record, was conducted on a matter before it was brought before the council.
Freytag later backed away from that stipulation, instead opting to use the proposed ordinance that Landeen had drafted without that clause.
"I'm going to go with Landeen's words," Freytag told the council.
In a discussion, Alderman Jerry Wright and Alderwoman Lisa Modrick expressed concern that state law already deals with the matter, making the ordinance redundant. Wright disagreed with designating the council as "quasi-judicial."
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Alderwoman Amanda Scott and Alderman John Roberts said they were happy to see a spotlight being brought on the issue, with Roberts saying the council was judicial because "we have the ability to affect a person's livelihood."
The council decided to send the ordinance back to Landeen’s office to check it against state law, with the ordinance set for discussion at the upcoming Legal and Finance meeting next Wednesday.
In other action, Rapid City resident Joshua Nicolaisen appealed a city snow-removal charge. Nicolaisen, a former veteran who is unemployed, explained that six days before the storm on Dec. 25 and 26, he had spinal surgery. His girlfriend came to his property to try to shovel the sidewalk but, because of ice buildup from the snowplows, broke the shovel.
Alderman John Roberts called on the council members to chip in to pay the $85 Cricket Lawn service fee, offering $20 from his wallet, before former city council member Gary Brown instructed Nicolaisen to mail him the bill so he could pay the balance. The $42 administrative fee had already been waived.
The next city council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 21, because Feb. 20 is Presidents Day.