It’s interesting watching the event center debacle as the Huether Administration continues down the road in lame duck mode, and his successors line up for next years’ election. What I think the unanimous consensus is going to be regarding his final months in office is that in the zeal of his endless and shameless self-promotion, he screwed up. Badly.
The settlement over what were termed ‘defects’ in the siding for the crown jewel in Huether’s building spree, the events center, had been promoted by Huether vaguely as a million-dollar settlement…. but no one could verify it because it was ‘secret,’ so we all had to take his word for it.
After the Sioux Falls Argus Leader successfully sued the City for the disclosure of the agreement, there was an immediate information dump by the city with little to no comment. And with every new disclosure, the heap of dung that Huether had apparently sold the City of Sioux Falls started to smell worse and worse.
Initially, Sioux Falls residents were outraged over the fact that despite alluding to it, or at least failing to correct people’s misperceptions, Huether had left people with the impression that the settlement for the city was a million dollars in cash, yet the truth was that this was a false impression. Maybe not an outright lie, but a misunderstanding that was intentionally not corrected at the highest level.
The truth? Everyone pitched in a little. Which wouldn’t be unusual in a settlement, yet ever the huckster, Huether spent his time trying to make it appear to be an outright win.
Fast-forward in time, and now in the latest revelation, we now find that of the million dollars Mayor Huether was claiming the city of Sioux Falls received in the settlement, nearly half of that was in a contingency fund that they would have received back anyway… making that million dollar settlement closer to a $500,000 one.
But councilors zeroed in on money from a contingency fund, which the primary contractor M.A. Mortenson used to make a portion of its contribution to the settlement. According to the settlement, Mortenson contributed about $515,000 toward the settlement using money from the construction manager contingency fund.
But for Councilor Greg Neitzert, that answer was a semantical one. The contingency money did belong to the city even though Mortenson would have had a right to it should the city ask for a building feature to be corrected, he said.
“We were going to get the $500,000 back if there were no latent defects anyway,” Neitzert said.
Coming after a secret settlement started all of this, the latest newspaper headline on the topic blares “Premier Center settlement: City Hall won’t release forensic report,” where the City Administration is leaning on a report being “a draft” versus being “a final report” as the excuse for not releasing the document to the public. Not releasing a report that many seem to think should be public information. On a technicality?
That seems to be the kind of thing that got the Mayor’s administration in trouble in the first place.
in recent years, Mayor Huether seemed bound and determined to be launching a political career of some nature. Unfortunately for Huether, his autocratic self-promotion has been obvious, and his utter unwillingness to express any ‘mea culpas’ over unforced errors is now on public display for the state’s citizens.
And it all comes right at a time when if he intended to make the jump to statewide office, he would need to do so. But, at this juncture I don’t think Huether would stand a snowball’s chance in hades of being able to run a statewide political campaign. Politically, I think you can get the tongs out, because this weiner is done.
As for legacy? I think it’s an understatement that currently Huether is going out on a bad note. I think the media is going to be digging around to quantify “how bad” the tune is being played for months to come.
Ultimately, legacy is up to history to determine.
But you have to admit, in recent days, it sure looks like his administration is doing its best to end badly.