Home Rule has become a hot topic in Rapid City in the past few weeks, where Home Rule opponents People’s Rule has been investigating the charter committee and its members.
Now, People’s Rule says they’ve caught the Mayor in another lie, after the recent denouncement in the Rapid City Journal by Mayor Allender of his alleged conflict of interest in hiring his former campaign treasurer Helen Usera on a no-bid contract, which amounted to $33,575.
During Mayor Allender’s response, he told the Rapid City Journal that during the formation of the Home Rule Charter Committee, “the city vetted the positions on the task force and made sure no one was affiliated with his 2015 mayoral campaign, city government or was someone he considered a personal friend.” Mayor Allender went on further to state that “[t]he bias was kept away from the task force [and] there was a high degree of integrity.” (See Rapid City Journal article “Mayor Allender denies home rule opponents’ charge of conflict of interest”)
“The bias was kept away from the task force, there was a high degree of integrity in that task force” – Mayor Steve Allender
People’s Rule is calling his statement, “an outright lie,” pointing to several members on the Home Rule Charter committee, that were either former City government officials, political contributors to Mayor Allender, associates who knew Allender on a personal basis, or in some instances, all three.
People’s Rule has claimed that out of the eighteen members and two facilitators on the Home Rule Charter Committee, that over half, at approximately 55%, of those participating in the committee were connected either directly or indirectly to Mayor Allender or City government in some fashion.
One such member that People’s Rule points to is former Rapid City Mayor Ed McLauglin’s Citizen Interest Application for the Home Rule Charter committee, who served as Mayor from 1991 to 1997 and who also served as the former City Council President from 1989 to 1991.
Notably, People’s Rule points out that after being elected in 1989, McLaughlin was one of the foremost advocates for forming a Home Rule “study” committee under Mayor Keith Carlyle, with representation from Pennington County. Furthermore, People’s Rule points out that, McLaughlin on Nov. 21, 1989 even supported paying up to $500 for “secretarial assistance for the  Home Rule Study Committee,” noting the 1989 Home Rule Committee spent significantly less than the $38,052 spent by the committee today. By early 1990, Home Rule was eventually abandoned by both Mayor Keith Carlyle and Ed McLaughlin, after the 1989 Home Rule Committee Chairman, and Pennington County Commissioner at the time, Leo Hamm reported that the committee “voted unanimously that it does not support the home-rule concept,” as was reported in the Rapid City Journal article from March 16, 1990, entitled “Task force renounces home rule.” (See Resources & Documents below – Citizen Interest Applications; Rapid City Journal, Nov. 22, 1989; & Rapid City Journal, Mar. 16, 1990)
Then there’s former City Attorney Jason Green’s Citizen Interest Application for the committee, Green stated that he served as the Assistant City Attorney
from 2001 to 2003 and then as the City Attorney from 2003 to 2011, which he served until he was terminated in that position by former Mayor Sam Kooiker. Additionally, People’s Rule says that Green was a campaign donor to Allender, with donations to the Allender campaign of $500 in 2015 and then $250 again in 2019. (See Resources & Documents below – Citizen Interest Applications; Allender for Mayor Pre-General Campaign Finance Report, May 26, 2015; & Allender for Mayor Campaign Finance Report Addendum, May 29, 2019)
Next is Tamara Pier, who served in the Rapid City Attorney’s Office from the late 1980s under Mayor Keith Carlyle until 2001 when she submitted her resignation under Mayor Jerry Munson. As mentioned by Pier in her Citizen Interest Application, “[w]hen Keith Carlyle was Mayor in 1989, … [Pier] did research on Home Rule for him,” at that time. Pier also served as City Attorney again, after her resignation in 2001, for a short period of time after Jason Green was terminated in his position as the City Attorney, where she acted as the Interim Acting City Attorney until that position was filled by current City Attorney Joel Landeen. People’s Rule also highlights that Pier was a political contributor to Allender for Mayor for $250 in 2019. (See Resources & Documents below – Citizen Interest Applications & Allender for Mayor Post-Election Campaign Finance Report, Aug. 6, 2019)
People’s Rule then claims that several of the other members served on City boards or were directly appointed by Allender to those boards.
One such example is Rick Kahler, who listed Mayor Steve Allender as his primary reference on his Citizen Interest Application for the committee, but who was also appointed to the Civic Center Resolution Task Force by Mayor Allender, according to City Memorandum dated February 4, 2016 and signed by Mayor Steve Allender. (See Resources & Documents below – Citizen Interest Applications & City of Rapid City Memorandum, Feb. 4, 2016)
Patrick Wyss, who was appointed as a Rapid City Planning Commission Representative by Mayor Alan Hanks in 2009, where he served until 2012. Wyss was also a political contributor to Allender for Mayor for $500 in 2019. (See Resources & Documents below – Citizen Interest Applications; City of Rapid City Memorandum, Dec. 10, 2009; & Allender for Mayor Post-Election Campaign Finance Report, Aug. 6, 2019)
City Councilman Pat Jones was appointed to the Rapid City Public Library Board of Trustees directly by Mayor Allender according to a City Memorandum dated December 27, 2017 and signed by Mayor Allender at that time. Jones later resigned from the Home Rule Charter Committee in June of 2020, after being elected to the City Council. (See Resources & Documents below – Citizen Interest Applications & City of Rapid City Memorandum, Dec. 27, 2017)
Don Frankenfeld, who was a former South Dakota State Senator from 1977 to 1984, was also a member of the Civic Center Board of Directors from 2015 to 2018 when Mayor Allender pushed for the Civic Center Expansion vote in 2018. (See Resources & Documents below – Citizen Interest Applications)
Additionally, People’s Rule refers to others on the committee that have been documented to be closely associated or have close ties with Mayor Steve Allender through previous interactions throughout his political career and as the former Rapid City Police Chief.
Home Rule Charter Committee member Lynn Kendall, who is not a Rapid City resident but resides in Black Hawk, served on the Vote Yes Rapid City campaign for the Civic Center Expansion with Mayor Allender, and listed Allender for Mayor campaign manager Silvia Christen from Green City, Missouri as her primary reference. In addition, Lynn Kendall was an active employee of the Rapid City Chamber of Commerce from 2008 to 2019, and is seen in the June 6, 2018 photo pictured with Mayor Allender, his campaign manager Silvia Christen and campaign treasurer Helen Usera.
And finally, a connection that People’s Rule says is “loosely connected, but worth noting” is Rapid City attorney and former South Dakota State Legislature Linda Lea Viken, who’s husband U.S. District Judge Jeffrey L. Viken was the presiding judge over the case Yellow Robe v. Allender. In that case,
Steve Allender as former Rapid City Police Chief was accused of violations under Title VII for racial discrimination, creating a hostile work environment and forms of retaliation. The case was ultimately dismissed in 2012 by Judge Viken, because according to Judge Viken, Yellow Robe was a willing participant in the racial epithets, stating “for years [Yellow Robe] was involved in racial antics in the police department.” (See Rapid City Journal article “Judge ends former police officer’s lawsuit”)
“I am an advocate of home rule, and have voiced my advocacy (to little avail) to prior mayors. I am excited that Mayor Allender is giving this issue the attention it deserves.”
-Don Frankenfeld, Citizen Interest Application, Dec. 17, 2019
People’s Rule asserts that not only was Mayor Allender’s Home Rule Committee biased, but claims the Citizen Interest Applications alone show that the City did not vet the committee members for, as Allender claimed, affiliations “with his 2015 mayoral campaign, city government or was someone [Allender] considered a personal friend.”People’s Rule highlights that a number of the committee members were biased and predisposed to favor a recommendation for Home Rule, noting that a number of the committee members had stated in their applications they had previously studied the Home Rule subject, lived under Home Rule, and to quote Home Rule Committee member Don Frankenfeld, stated openly that he is “an advocate of home rule, and [has] voiced [his] advocacy (to little avail) to prior mayors.”
The Home Rule Charter Committee recommendations were submitted to Mayor Allender last December, but such recommendations have not been made public under the order of Mayor Allender, nor has any date been set for a public vote on the matter at this time.