The Fight for Transparency
Published February 5, 2021

Over the past month People’s Rule has filed over half-a-dozen different requests to gain more information on the Home Rule Charter Committee, and have been denied the majority of those requests, in spite of Mayor Allender’s promise that they “[wouldn’t] be making any changes here in a backroom of City Hall.” [1]

But sadly, that’s exactly what’s been happening for several months now.

Helen Usera, Home Rule Facilitator & Former Allender Campaign Treasurer

In fact, shortly after receiving a copy of Mayor Allender’s former campaign treasurer’s no-bid contract for “task force meeting facilitation and research” between Helen Usera and the City of Rapid City on January 7th, 2021, Mayor Allender announced seven days later in a Rapid City Journal article that Usera’s contracted had formally ended almost three weeks prior, on December 15, 2020.

That’s when People’s Rule spokesperson Jordan Mason filed an Open Records Request with the City of Rapid City the following day on January 15th to provide “any reports, recommendations, or other documents submitted by Helen Usera as a part of the wrapping up of her contract with the City of Rapid City.” (See Documents & Resources – OHE Appeal City of Rapid City Denial, Feb 2, 2021, page 8)

But after the longest statutory period allowed under law to respond, on January 29th City Attorney Joel Landeen responded by denying 3 out of 5 of the Open Records Requests by People’s Rule spokesperson Mason – including any work product that was publicly paid for by Helen Usera.

City Attorney Joel Landeen

While the City may have expected us to back down, People’s Rule and our spokesperson Mason are doubling down – and we’re taking the issue all the way to the steps of our State’s Capitol in Pierre!

That same day, Mason notified Mayor Allender via Facebook messenger he was filing against the City regarding the denial and gave the Mayor until Tuesday to reconsider the denial. (See Documents & Resources – Mayor Allender FB Messenger Notice, Jan. 29, 2021)

Instead of reconsidering, Mayor Allender blocked Mason from his Facebook account.

True to his word, four days later, on Tuesday February 2nd, Mason filed an official complaint with the South Dakota Office of Hearing Examiners for an administrative hearing to overturn the decision to withhold Usera’s work product. Mason argues that Usera was a City contractor, paid by public monies and therefore any work product delivered to her client, the City of Rapid City, is public information.

Mason and the People’s Rule committee believe they will be successful in overturning the denial to obtain any reports that city contractor Usera may have submitted to the City.

At this time, the Office of Hearing Examiners has not set a date for the hearing to take place.

Please help us continue our fight!