- Associated Press - Thursday, April 9, 2015

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - A city-funded campaign to recruit workers to Sioux Falls has ignited debate about the mayor’s authority to spend taxpayer money without consulting the City Council.

Mayor Mike Huether earlier this month unveiled a website and ad campaign aimed at attracting applicants for more than 2,000 unfilled jobs in the city. It involves the website www.SiouxFallsHasJobs.com , as well as billboard and kiosk advertisements that will be placed in major cities around the region, including Minneapolis; Des Moines, Iowa; and Omaha, Nebraska.

The city spent more than $35,000 building the website and buying advertising before City Council members and the public learned about the project, the Argus Leader reported (http://argusne.ws/1GsgBUf ).

Officials kept the campaign from the council until the launch to prevent the plans from being prematurely leaked to the press and the public, according to Community Development Director Darrin Smith.

Councilman Greg Jamison took issue with the way the project was handled and said he plans to introduce a proposal to change the way the city solicits professional services, “so we can prevent things like this from happening again.”

“You talk about transparency in government. You talk about saving money. You talk about building trust in government. What (Huether) has done violates a lot of the principles that I think most of us live by,” he said.

Huether deferred questions to the city attorney’s office. City Attorney David Pfeifle said state law requires all contracts valued at $25,000 or more to go before the City Council. In this case, he said, the city’s Community Development department paid a web developer about $24,000 to build the site. It then entered into two separate contracts worth about $8,000 and $3,500 for the kiosk and billboard advertising.

Councilwoman Christine Erickson said the process should have been more open.

“There’s nothing necessarily wrong with the concept of the project at this point,” she said. “It’s just how we got there.”

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Information from: Argus Leader, http://www.argusleader.com

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