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

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

There Will Be Blood

The Rapid City Journal published this exchange from last night's "censure" hearing regarding Sam Kooiker:

Patti Martinson (on City Council): "Referencing article Feb. 3 in RCJ. Sam said he upset some influential people and thats the cause for the censure hearings. Who are these influential people?"

Talbot Wieczorek (Sam Kooiker's lawyer): "It seems the whole landfill issue has made some people edgy."

Mayor Hanks: (Interrupts) "Please be specific."

Sam Kooiker: "Robert Ellis, Mayor Hanks and Jason Green are the influential people."

Sam infers he has upset the mayor the city attorney and the Public Works director and that is what has led to this censure hearing.

Sam Kooiker specifically named three people in Rapid City Government as the folks who brought about the hearing that would eventually say to him, "You talk too much. Shut up." In combination with his lawyer, he said it's about the landfill.

Lotta money involved in throwin' away folks' crap. East of the Ohio, garbage is owned by Tony Soprano. Same stuff could be happening here.

What else is one to make of the weirdness of a mid-level manager who supposedly instigated a complaint against a city councilman, then fails to even show up at the hearing at which a bunch of suits are gonna tell one of their own, "You talk too much; shut up," and whose "statement" is read by Jason Green, the city attorney, and which says, "You guys can handle this for me."?

The only accusation that was probably proven last night was that Sam Kooiker probably corresponds with city works managers more than the other members of the Council. That doesn't merit "censure" under any written rules. It did, however, help Sam expose what is going to be a very embarrassing episode for a few people.

I think someone or two we've most of us heard of is gonna do the perp walk in a couple months.


Anonymous said...

Great post.

Mayor Hanks has the power to veto this resolution. If you would like for the mayor to comment on whether he will exercise his veto power on this censure, email him at:

Wayne Gilbert said...

A little sleight of hand there Bob..In a few phrases Sam or his lawyer's paraphrase "shut up you talk too much" becomes attributed to the mayor. Although I came around to opposing censure in the past few days, and am a little disappointed in the outcome, I am very skeptical of the new claim that Sam was the hero of the landfill scandal--it seems clear to me that an investigation was going on and Sam could not be trusted to be told about it without turning it into a grandstanding opportunity.

Bob Newland said...

While you draw the inference that the mayor becomes attributed with the quote, I don't think that's a necessary inference to draw.

Sam doesn't strike me as a grandstander. I think he has a powerful sense of right and wrong, and I think he has seen a wrong he wants to at least put a stop to.

Thad Wasson said...

Question number 1. Is this the landfill issue of a few months ago with the trucks not weighed properly, or is this the lease/leaseback of several years ago that Sam stopped?

Question number 2. Why would Hanks risk making Sam even more famous by this public charade?

Statement 1. A compliment to Bob Newland for great updates and commentary.

Bob Newland said...

This has to do with the circumstances under which the city cancelled its contract with Fish Sanitation just a few weeks ago.

In football, the ball takes weird bounces. Nothing is final until the other shoe drops. Still waters run deep; you better look before you leap.

In some cases, ham-handedness makes your opposition lokk like hamburger. Sometimes it ends up ooking like ham-handedness. The results are yet to be seen here.

Anonymous said...

To Wayne Gilbert:

Check out the email exchange between Sam and Robert Ellis. Sam mentioned some questionable practices at the landfill. Just a few days later, Ellis replies that he talked to his employees and that he is "confidant" that everything is on the up and up. You don't think that Ellis lied do you? If not, then he should have investigated for longer than a few days, right?

If you actually read the emails, it becomes quite clear that Sam blew the whistle on this.

Bill Fleming said...

Excuse me, but I think that's the whole point of this censure exercise. Sam can ask anybody any question he pleases, just as you or Michael or I can, Bob.

But that doesn't mean the person we ask is obliged to give us an answer, truthful or otherwise. Yes we are RC citizens and yes, the mayor and the council and the city employees work for us, but that doesn't mean we're their boss on a day to day basis.

Neither is Sam. He's part of an advisory team, not an executive. At least not in his capacity as alderman.

Michael Sanborn said...

You really have to read the emails, Bill. I'll post them soon.

The problem at the landfill has been going on for at least seven years. Some have told me twelve, but seven is the statute of limitations.

Alderman Weifenbach brought the problem to the attention of the public works director (I'm not sure which PW director) several years ago in a face-to-face, with no email to back it up.

He was told to go away, he didn't know what he was talking about.

Kooiker brought it up again when a constituent brought the problem to his attention. He followed up with Ellis, who in turn, scolded Kooiker for casting the employee (now fired employee) in a bad light.

Ellis did an exhaustive investigation and when the now fired employee told him he wasn't a crook, Ellis basically said "Life is good at the Landfill, Sam. Now shut up and go away."

One can glean from Weifenbach's questioning of Kooiker on Tuesday, that no real investigation would have taken place, had not Kooiker provided evidence and the two went to the mayor and insisted on the investigation which has now resulted in Fish Garbage Service losing its license to do business here, a fired city employee, a civil lawsuit to recover lost fees and a criminal investigation that will go back 7 years.

No grandstanding Wayne. The emails make it quite clear. And the costs on this one will not be measured in the thousands.

Prior to Tuesday night, when pressed on the matter, nobody heard Kooiker say much about the landfill.

He did say in his response when they set the hearing for censure, that it was through his use of email and his vigorous insistence on a real investigation, the problem at the landfill would not have been corrected.

He did not mention anything related to it prior to Patti Martinson's question about who are the upset powerful people he referred to in a recent Rapid City Journal article.

Taunia said...

The "perp walk" think someone's going to jail over this?

I don't see the criminal activity here. I haven't seen where it's been determined First Amendment rights were violated and has anyone gone to prison in the last 50 years for this violation any way?

I haven't been paying 100% attention to this topic, but it seems to be only a civil matter, stepped on egos mostly.

Bob Newland said...

Taunia, someone (more than one someone) was stealing money for tipping fees (dumping fees) at the landfill. For maybe twelve years. Someone will probably do some time for that. Some other folks will probably get away.

Bill Fleming said...

Did anyone file a grievance about Sam vis a vis the landfill issue?

Taunia said...

Ahhh....thanks for that explanation, Sir Bob. I was not paying enough attention to the landfill situation and how it was the basis to all of this.

Thanks for flipping the light bulb on.

Wayne Gilbert said...

Anonymous and others--startin' to look like I was wrong again.