The Flyer, the City Employee, and South Dakota State Law.

I’m hearing that Redfield residents were treated to a flyer in their mailboxes recently which cajoled them to support the construction of a new school in their community. And while you have the normal divisions that come up in those types of elections, apparently the source of the this recent mailing has some people up in arms.

I’m told this is the flyer that went out (this is from facebook, but I’m trying to get my hands on a hard copy)

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And here’s what was sent to me as being printed on the backside as a return address and mailing panel (I redacted the recipient’s address) …

redfield_school_notice

Take note of the return address printed on the back of the flyer. And yes, you can confirm at the City of Redfield’s web site, that is the actual address of the City’s office of Parks and Recreation.

If you go to it, one thing you might notice about the city web site is that it notes the name of the City’s director of Parks & Rec as Heidi Appel. Why is this important? Because if you go to the web site of the group “Citizens for the Future of Education” a group promoting the construction of a new school in Redfield, it also appears to have the involvement of a Heidi Appel of Redfield.

So… why do we care? Well, if you take a look at South Dakota Codified Law 12-27-20:

12-27-20.   Expenditure of public funds to influence election outcome prohibited. The state, an agency of the state, and the governing body of a county, municipality, or other political subdivision of the state may not expend or permit the expenditure of public funds for the purpose of influencing the nomination or election of any candidate, or for the petitioning of a ballot question on the ballot or the adoption or defeat of any ballot question.

This section may not be construed to limit the freedom of speech of any officer or employee of the state or such political subdivisions in his or her personal capacity. This section does not prohibit the state, its agencies, or the governing body of any political subdivision of the state from presenting factual information solely for the purpose of educating the voters on a ballot question.

Read that here.

Uh oh.

I’m told that this whole thing hasn’t escaped the notice of the Redfield City Council, who had not taken a position on the school proposal, despite information on this election being said to have gone out through their return address.  As I’m told, the council decided to stay neutral, but had been asked to publicly support it.

The word on the street that councilmen in Redfield are going to be looking for answers. I’m told that at least one council member openly noted to a constituent that they did not authorize this mailing. There’s a City Council meeting scheduled for 7pm on Tuesday night, where the topic is certain to come up. The words “strong discussion” were related to me as what they expect to be had on the issue.

Now, it all may be an innocent misunderstanding for one of a few reasons. However, being in the business of doing mailing pieces, generally nothing gets printed without a person signing off on a proof, because no one wants to eat the cost of a screw up.

Oversight, innocent mistake, or something else. At the very least, the explanation should be interesting.

5 Replies to “The Flyer, the City Employee, and South Dakota State Law.”

  1. anon

    The following was published on facebook this morning:

    “Clarification: Recently a mailing went out to the public containing information for the new school. The return address on the mailing was the address of the Park and Recreation Department. This mailing was published, paid for, and sent by a staff member of the Park and Recreation Department. No Park and Recreation or City of Redfield funds were spent in the creation or the mailing of the document. This was only a printing error. If you have any questions, please contact Heidi Appel at 460-2444. Thank you and sorry for any confusion.”

    Interesting that the typical campaign disclosure (another state law)was omitted, which would have cleared up some of the confusion. However, the Park and Rec Dept is an administrative dept. of ONE person, the director. Only other employees are seasonal coaches, lifeguards, instructors, etc.

  2. PlanningStudent

    I’m guessing, the City employee just used the Redfield Park n’ Rec. postal code to mail to everyone in town but paid for the mailing herself. She probably forgot the return address of the Park n’ Rec. office would be used.

    Next, it is illegal for a City to advocate for an issue on an City election..? This would be a City advocating in a School election. Or not, this mailing seems to be more informative.. It doesn’t say ‘vote for’ it says ‘vote.’ Government entities can lobby in their own self interest, an AG opinion about the Municipal League addressed that.

    If I’m write on my first point, the advocacy stuff doesn’t really matter..

    1. Pat Powers

      Actually, I checked, and that’s a mailing house’s postal code which they use for everything they mail out of Aberdeen.

      That being said, knowing this mail house, they would have sent the client a proof to double check before it went out.