Since the formation of the Rapid City Home Rule Charter Committee on May 4, 2020, a “volunteer committee” according to Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender, tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars have been spent on the effort with nothing to show for it to date.
“The volunteer committee will study home rule for up to one year.” – Mayor Steve Allender
According to documents obtained by the People’s Rule Ballot Question Committee, since May 4, 2020 the City of Rapid City has spent $38,052 to “study home rule … and then make a recommendation to the mayor and city council” to place the charter on the ballot. To date, no recommendation has been made, nor has the charter, or even it’s draft versions, been made public.
Of the $38,000 spent, almost 90% of those expenses are attributed to Helen Usera’s company, Usera Consulting, LLC, for her role as a “facilitator of the Home Rule Charter Committee,” as the Rapid City Home Rule website stated, for a total of $33,575 in payments from February to December of 2020. However, the People’s Rule obtained records showing that $7,650 of these payments to Usera were made after Usera was hired for a position in Texas. The People’s Rule have raised questions regarding these payments and her ability to fulfill her role as a “facilitator” after she had relocated to Abilene, Texas to take a full-time position as the Director of Business Retention and Expansion for the Abilene Chamber of Commerce.
In addition to the questionable expenses for consulting services, the City has also spent another $4,400 to Evergreen Media, owned by Rick DenHerder, for a seven-page website entitled “Rapid City Home Rule” promoting the Home Rule Charter, which bears the City of Rapid City seal. The People’s Rule has stated they believe it is a misuse of public funds, stating that in effect it is using taxpayer money to further a political agenda and is a form of taxpayer funded electioneering. The People’s Rule launched a competing website in early January, with several interactive features, for a cost of less than $500.
The People’s Rule have stated that they believe any change to the municipal government should be initiated by the citizens themselves through the petition process, quoting the South Dakota motto, “Under God, the people rule,” and that the use of taxpayer money to fulfill a political agenda by Mayor Allender and the City Council is unacceptable and sets a dangerous precedent for future Mayors and Councils.