Earlier this month, Mayor Allender publicly denied allegations that there was a conflict of interest in hiring his former campaign treasurer, Helen Usera, on an exclusive, no-bid contract for “task force facilitation and research” on the newly formed Home Rule Charter Committee.
But now, home rule opponents, People’s Rule ballot question committee, have pointed out that Helen
Usera wasn’t the only facilitator on that committee, noting that Leah Braun, owner of local consulting firm Nsight Partners, was also listed as a facilitator on the Home Rule Charter Committee website – but according to People’s Rule, they’ve found no record of Braun being offered a contract or compensation for performing the same services as Usera on the Home Rule Charter Committee. (See Documents & Resources – ALB Unlimited Filing & Nsight Partners DBA Filing)
On January 15, 2020, People’s Rule submitted an Open Records Request to the City of Rapid City to provide any contract, agreement or record for compensation for Braun’s role on the Home Rule Charter Committee. (See Documents & Resources – Open Records Request, Leah Braun)
Following that, People’s Rule reached out directly to Braun on January 16th, asking her if she or her company Nsight Partners were offered a contract or compensation, or if she was being subcontracted by Usera Consulting? (See Documents & Resources – Leah Braun Email)
Neither Braun nor the City have responded to People’s Rule’s inquiries on the subject at the time of this article.
Then in an interesting twist in the investigation, on Thursday January 21st, People’s Rule was contacted by a source who reported they were in contact with a City Hall employee, stating that Mayor Allender had hired Braun for a position within the Mayor’s Office starting at more than $50,000, “without any job posting or anything.” Later that same day, People’s Rule was contacted directly by another City Hall insider, who reported that Braun had been hired as the Mayor’s Secretary.
The following day, on January 22nd, People’s Rule spokesperson Jordan Mason reached out to Mayor Allender directly to respond to the report that Braun had been hired “to serve either in a temporary position or as [his] Administrative Assistant, and that [the] position was not advertised for.” Mayor Allender responded the same day, with the following response:
“Leah Braun was hired to replace Kelsey Sakos, who recently left the Mayors Office.”
Mayor Allender went on further to express his issue with People’s Rule’s inquiries and reporting, stating:
“Facts without context, are not facts. You seem to purposely leave out the context of everything you’ve been posting. I would try to set the record straight, but I know that’s not in your best interest.” (See Documents & Resources – J. Mason & S. Allender Emails, Jan. 22)
People’s Rule spokesperson Jordan Mason replied to Mayor Allender offering him an opportunity to provide further information, or context.
To date, Mayor Allender has not responded to that request for further clarification or context.
The City of Rapid City as of the time of this article, January 25, 2020, has not officially announced the hiring of Leah Braun in her new role as the Executive Coordinator for the Mayor, nor has her contract or compensation become public record yet. According to documents obtained by People’s Rule, Kelsey Sakos, the former Executive Coordinator for Mayor Allender was receiving $2,523.28 bi-weekly, for an estimated total of $60,558.72 annually. (See Documents & Resources – City of Rapid City Employee Salaries, Jan. 1, 2020)
The Rapid City Home Rule charter has still yet to be released to the public, and there is no information on whether the committee is still meeting, in light of the hiring of facilitator Leah Braun for the Mayor’s Office and the Mayor’s former campaign treasurer who also served as a facilitator on the committee, Helen Usera, with her new position in Abilene, Texas.