The whole point of free speech is not to make ideas exempt from criticism but to expose them to it.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Smoking Gun...

On May 2, 2009 Sam Kooiker sent an email to Rapid City Public Works Director Robert Ellis regarding irregularities at the Landfill, see below.

On Monday, May 4 at 9:17 Mr. Ellis replied to Sam that the employees in question were loyal and scolded Kooiker for "throwing around in the public domain without any evidence of wrong-doing." Hanks is included in email. See below.

At 12:48 that same day, Mr. Ellis fired off another email saying that he wanted to make it clear (before his exhaustive 1 day investigation) "I needed to be very clear there is not any evidence that we have found to substantiate this at this time. Someone making an incorrect assumption or jumping to conclusions on this matter could very seriously damage the reputation of the City and our staff members. See Below. It also says, "I felt I needed to state that because if some outside party were to read the e-mail, they may assume there is an inside job simply because a citizen made the accusation. Hanks is included in email.

Finally, on May 6, after an exhaustive one-day investigation, the public works director informs Kooiker and others (including the mayor) that his investigation has revealed no wrong-doing at the Landfill.

What does all this mean? Well, it means that after receiving the May 6 email, Alderman Kooiker and Alderman Weifenbach went to the mayor and insisted on a real investigation, which we now know has resulted in Fish Garbage Service facing a civil lawsuit, significant security changes at the landfill, an employee who has been dismissed, and an on-going criminial investigation of the entire matter with the investigation going back seven years (statute of limitations), indicating that the situation at the landfill had been going on for many years and costing the citizens of Rapid City many dollars.

When Alderman Weifenbach asked about the problem years prior, he did not have an email evidence trail. And, so when he was told there was nothing going on at the landfill, he had no evidence other than his word that he brought it up. Enter Alderman Sam Kooiker who hears from a different source and makes the email inquiry.

This, of course, makes the public works director and the mayor look very bad, since this has been going on under their noses for years. And, they chose to do a half fast investigation by asking the (now fired) employee if he was a crook, and took his word for it when he said "nope."

Note in the May 6 email from Ellis that he urges people with questions to contact him "directly." That email trail of evidence of his and the mayor's negligence is extremely inconvenient and looks really really bad.

So, what to do about these pesky emails? Let's censure Kooiker, which will divert attention from the real problem, smear the guy who has blown this up, and maybe nobody will know how utterly incompetent we've been.

Problem with the plan? Kooiker's pesky attorney kept demanding those thousand pages of emails described in the resolution to censure him. Why did it take so long to actually provide them? The reasons are clear, when you read the emails above.


Bob Newland said...

Looks like the blood's in the water, now. Is that a shark's fin I see? Oh, Jesus.

Anonymous said...

I hope every citizen of Rapid City reads this blog post. Are these the type of questions that the city council and mayor wanted to stop Sam from asking? No wonder there is all of this talk or recall, voting out the council members who censured Sam and recalling the Mayor.

We need Sam asking questions, ergo, we need new council members and a new mayor. I'm all for a recall election.

Bill Fleming said...

So how did this matter come to be investigated then, Mike? Do you have any notes on that?

Anonymous said...

Judas priest Mike. Don't you see the real pattern here, or is it willful blindness. Kooiker failed to keep all other commissioners AND the MAYOR in the loop. Kooiker failed to use the supervisory chain of communication. While Kooiker passed worthy information he did it in to wrong manner to the wrong folks, without any indication that passing the information to the correct folks in the proper manner would result in a futile inquiry. Aside from the long established mantra that initial spot reports are frequently wrong (that applies to both spot reports furnished to Kooiker and Ellis), and that longer term follow-up is (was) warranted. The alderman, through perhaps his well-intentioned pursuit of fiscal prudence, unwittingly created a hostile work environment where folks can become more concerned with CYA than with doing the right thing in the right way. One "learns" these things through managing large organizations, with large budgets, that have life-or-death mission concerning national security - or through similar circumstances.

Anonymous said...

At the hearing, one of the Alderman said he told the mayor, over two years ago, to look into the landfill matter. I guess it takes someone like Sam Kooiker to uncover corruption.

No doubt about it, Sam Kooiker is RC's next mayor.

Taunia said...

Anon @ 7:11 pm is Hank's/Ellis' spin doctor?

As I mentioned before, I'm probably not completely up to speed on this case, and honestly, I'm growing a little weary because of it.

But Anon's response was weak, almost lame. I'm sure I'll be corrected, in fact I am asking to be, but Anon issaying if Kookier had told the right people, none of this censure business would have happened. So it's his own fault.

If Karen Silkwood would have told the right people she'd be alive today.

I'd my understanding correct? Take aim and fire.

Bob Newland said...

Taunia, I read Anon 7:11's post several times and could not quite grasp what his/her point is. Anon could easily be one of the City Council, saying again what they said during the censure hearing;

"Sam, you're wrong. Can't quite tell you how you're wrong, but you're wrong. Don't do it again."

Bill Fleming said...

If you try to talk to anybody who really knows all the details on this, chances are you'll get the "I can't talk about this because it's an ongoing investigation" response. That said, there are other possible scenarios besides the one presented here, having to do with the nature of investigative police work and Sam's "need to know."

Bob Newland said...

Yes, it could be that, Bill. It also be that the mayor and several council members and a few city management-level employees are stupid, arrogant and ham-handed.

Bill Fleming said...

Couple of things. First, for Taunia, here's the article in the RCJ detailing the nature and particulars of the case:

Next, the question becomes "who knew what when?"

Next, hypothetically for us all... suppose you suspected one of your employees of criminal wrong doing but didn't as yet have sufficient evidence to act on it.

Someone asks you in a public email about the case.

How would you answer?

Finally, why are we able to look at these emails. Aren't they part of the evidence?

I know that by my not jumping on the bandwagon here and demanding the heads of all the people who voted to censure Sam, in addition to the mayor, who didn't vote on the issue, it could look like I'm taking a side against Kooiker.

I'm not. I would characterize my position as neutral. Watching. Listening. Asking questions.

Someday we'll know some of the answers.

To me it seems like that's not today.

Bob Newland said...

In your scenario, I suggest that I might (as the mayor, the city attorney, a public services manager) call Sam and say, "We are investigating the matter. We know a crime has been committed. If you'll give us a few days (weeks) we'll prepare a case, but public pronouncements could compromise the case. We'll keep you posted on our progress. Will you lay low for a while?"

That might have worked better than the threats and intimidation.

Bill Fleming said...

Do you know for sure that they didn't, Bob?

Bill Fleming said...

Again, I'm sorry, but I don't see threats and intimidation in these emails. I see Ellis answering Sam's questions in detail and warning everyone to be careful what they write in emails that become public record.

Bob Newland said...

I know for sure that they put on a charade at which the principal complainant did not appear.

Taunia said...

I haven't formed an opinion about the situation. I'm just questioning responses that have been posted here on both sides. It has no bearing on me or I on it.

Is all of RC buzzing about this or is it many topical for the blogs?

I'm really waiting for someone to pick up the story about the Down's Syndrome woman who played the animated character on "Family Guy" who told Sarah Palin to quit carrying her own Down Syndrome kid around like a shield. Or as the actor said, " like a loaf of French bread wanting sympathy and votes."

Bob Newland said...

I'd say it's a fairly hot topic among Rapid Citians. It's hard to assess the accuracy of that statement.

The Rapid City Journal has devoted extensive space to the topic, but it has also avoided important issues pertinent to the topic.

There's no question in my mind that it has grated on certain sensitive nerves.

Bill Fleming said...

Bob says, "I know for sure that they put on a charade at which the principal complainant did not appear."

Are you talking about Sagan, Bob? That's a different issue than the landfill topic here, isn't it? Or are you lumping the whole thing together?

By the way, was Ellis at the Censure meeting?

Bob Newland said...

Bill, it's all the same topic. And I'm done dancing in a circle with you. What's obvious to everyone else is obvious to you, and you're pissing me off.

Bill Fleming said...

Don't be rude, Bob.

Bill Fleming said...

Newland would do well to learn to own his feelings. I'm not pissing him off. I CAN'T piss him off. He's pissing himself off and blaming it on me. Bad form.

Michael Sanborn said...


This topic and the censure topic are one in the same. The censure came about after the landfill thing was exposed.

The source of the landfill investigation (Kooiker and Weifenbach) didn't come out until Ellis had to produce 1000 pages of emails referred to in the resolution to confirm they existed.

The 1000 pages of emails were part of the resolution to censure. When Kooiker's attorney demanded them, they had to produce them, and they had to produce all of them because they knew Kooiker had them.

But, they wouldn't be public record before the city produced them. So, the malarkey about Ellis screaming about emailing being a public forum, what just that, malarkey.

And, yes, Ellis was at the hearing and spoke glowingly about what a swell employee Sagen is. So did Preston. So did former, fired in disgrace, public works director Dirk Jablonski.

The one thing you're correct about Bill is that we don't know the whole story yet.

The Journal teased it in today's paper for Sunday's paper, saying that their Sunday story would reveal that Hanks and Ellis have known about the deal at the landfill for some time (years) and chose to do nothing.

Why would they do that? There are two possible reasons I can come up with:

1. They were in on it.
2. They were negligent.

I don't know which it is. I suspect we'll know more when indictments are made public.

Maybe there are more reasons. Cynic that I am, I can't come up with any.

Michael Sanborn said...

What is clear to me, is that the censure thing was designed to divert attention away from the city's incompetence in investigating the landfill, until a thorough investigation was demanded (by Kooiker and Weifenbach). And, then it appears the state Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) was needed to get to the bottom of it. Our professional investigators (the police department) were not brought in until the Kooiker and Weifenbach demand. Things appeared to have moved swiftly after the police and DCI became involved.

Bob Newland said...

"He's pissing himself off and blaming it on me."

As I recall a couple of days ago you nearly pissed your pants when I made a similar observation about you.

Bill Fleming said...

Yes, there are some parallels, Bob.

A couple of days ago, you presumed to know what I was thinking and wrote "my opinion" for me on a blog.

I reminded you that I will write what I think and don't need you to do it for me. You crossed a line with me by trying to put words in my mouth and I corrected you.

In this case, you have become angry and agitated and are wanting to identify me as the cause of your anger. I'm not. If you're angry, it's because you choose to be.

In both cases, you seem to be having a problem with boundaries. I don't own, or know, or control your mind, and neither do you mine. Your issues with me lately are simply two sides of the same coin.

I request that you don't try give me ownership of your head, Bob. And that you don't try to own mine. If you honor that request, we'll get along a lot better.

Bill Fleming said...

Mike, if Sam was the one who brought the landfill issue to light, good for him. As Frankenfeld says, that would make him a hero.

But it doesn't necessarily follow that the rest of the council and the mayor, and the council before that, and the mayor before that were all either negligent or somehow in on the deal.

That kind of sounds like blaming the victims to me.

Taunia said...

You're both acting like condescending twits.

Take it elsewhere, kids.

You're both contributors here, yet you're both doing exactly what you'd knock others' heads around for.

Go on to the next topic.

Taunia said...

And for crissakes...isn't there ANYTHING else going on in the world?

Bill Fleming said...

Taunia, ummm... yeah. That Cornhole thing in Pierre in June.

Bill Fleming said...

p.s. Taunia, sorry you have to watch Bob and I do our housekeeping. Come back when we're done vacuuming.

Wayne Gilbert said...

As I just posted on the "There Will Be Blood" thread, it's startin' to look like I was wrong again about the landfill issue. It is getting to the point where Mayor Hanks and Mr. Ellis need to publicly respond in a comprehensive way.

Wayne Gilbert said...

After reviewing all of the comments here, I have to say that you guys are starting to make RR's stuff on Blogmore look civilized and enlightening.

Bob Newland said...

I don't think you really mean that, Wayne.

Bill Fleming said...

Yup, Wayne. The long knives are out and the necks red as a rained on Rhode Island roosters.