- Associated Press - Saturday, October 14, 2017

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - The South Dakota Supreme Court’s recent decision to open a once-secret settlement over buckled siding on Sioux Falls’ new events center has opened the door to other secret settlements.

The high court’s ruling made clear that public entities can’t seal the details of disputes with private parties without judicial oversight. But in the past decade in Sioux Falls, three disputes have been settled in that fashion, the Argus Leader reported .

The city released the details of the Premier Center settlement one day after the court ruled in Argus Leader Media’s favor. The city attorney’s office released the other two settlements after a public records request.

The first settlement was seven years ago. An apartment owner was paid $85,000 involved for damage caused after the collapse of a major sewer line.

The second settlement was three years ago. A man injured by a teenage joyrider in a police chase that left his colleague dead settled a claim against the city for $125,000.

“I think it’s fair to say that these agreements that we released fall into the same general category as the siding issue in that they were resolved without going to court and there was a confidential clause,” said Diane Best, assistant city attorney.

The reason for secrecy isn’t disclosed in either settlement.

City Attorney Dave Pfeifle said that most settlements are open, and that those which aren’t are usually closed at the request of the other party in a dispute.

The former apartment owner, Bonnie Murray, said this wasn’t the case with her settlement. She said she had nothing to do with the confidentiality clauses.

“I think they should always release them (taxpayer-funded settlements), don’t you?” Murray asked.

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

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