Rapid City city attorney receives 91 complaints about common council member

They say “you can’t fight city hall”, but one group is gearing up to make themselves heard.
Published: Dec. 23, 2020 at 6:39 PM CST
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - In recent weeks, Rapid Citians shared their frustrations and concerns over city government actions regarding the pandemic and mask mandates. One group shared those concerns in the form of 91 separate complaints to the city attorney. After those complaints were shared via the media, the group’s lawyer reached out in hopes of righting a wrong.

They say “you can’t fight city hall”, but one group is gearing up to make themselves heard.

“Ultimately it probably came to a head as far as the mask mandate but as a part of that, it’s a troubling and concerning to my clients enough so that they looking to the possibility of litigation about the city really overstepping through elected officials,” said R. Shawn Tornow, Tornow Law Office.

Complaints were submitted to the Rapid City city attorney regarding common council president Laura Armstrong’s involvement in the Facebook page, Caring Businesses of Rapid City, saying her actions violate city code.

“Code of conduct two says Rapid City officials, like council members, are to refrain at all times from discrimination or the dispensation of special privileges,” said Tornow. “I don’t know how you can have any more clear violation.”

After the group submitted their complaints, a media outlet requested copies. Joel Landeen, the city’s attorney, says those were provided, much like complaints released in the past.

“If we choose not to disclose, or say we cannot comment on that because it’s confidential, then it makes it look like we’re trying to hide something or are not being transparent,” said Landeen. “Their argument is that the complaints should have remained confidential. I would point out that the last two complaints against aldermen Lisa Modrick and Jerry Right. The media became aware of both of those complaints almost simultaneously with them being filed.”

Tornow says the release of the complaints violates city process and the complaints included private information such as age and address. But Landeen says no one was required to share that information as part of the complaint process.

“I don’t think that the city did anything wrong in releasing the complaints,” said Landeen. “You have to put your name on a letter to the editor, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect to have to put your name on a complaint. As far as some of the other information, I can understand why people are concerned but I would point out that the form that contained all this information, those were not on city forms.”

Tornow requested that the city rectify the situation. Landeen says any code of conduct complaints would be addressed at a future city council meeting.

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