SIOUX FALLS (AP) – The Sioux Falls Board of Ethics decided Wednesday not to investigate the level of city officials’ travel covered by third parties.
The board voted unanimously to deny a request from former mayoral candidate David Zokaites to launch an investigation, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader reported.
Zokaites made the request after a complaint about City Council member Greg Neitzert and Mayor Paul TenHaken’s trip to a conference of Republican municipal and county officials. The host, Community Leaders of America, paid for Neitzert’s travel expenses.
John Cunningham alleged that violated an ordinance prohibiting city officials from accepting gifts. The Ethics Board didn't recommend any sanctions against Neitzert, saying in an August report that third parties commonly pay for city officials' trips.
Zokaites accused the City Council of encouraging bribery. Board of Ethics Chair Jack Marsh pushed back, saying the board found probable cause that an ethical violation may have occurred and recommended the city both increase transparency around travel and revise the ordinance to clarify the city’s rules. Marsh acknowledged that the City Council hasn't done that, however.
Other board members noted not all travel paid for by a third party was necessarily illegal or unethical, as Zokaites claimed, and the City Council had determined by a 5-2 vote that Neitzert didn't commit an ethical violation.
A motion to decline Zokaites’ request passed unanimously during a meeting Wednesday.