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Councilor Petersen Rebuts Mayor Kooiker, Says Racism Not Factor in Police Chief Vote

Ah, the Fourth of July, when we all come together as Americans with a shared love of country and dedication to our common cause in building a free and democratic community...

...unless you're in Rapid City, in which case the mayor and city council members continue to throw rocks at each other. Last week, Mayor Sam Kooiker said that racism may have driven council members Charity Doyle and Bill Clayton to turn down his first choice for Rapid City police chief. Now council member Bonny Petersen takes to John Tsitrian's blog to say the mayor is unjustly and divisively playing the race card to distract from his own inability to lead:

The Mayor knows the real reasons the vote was no, he knows it has nothing to do with heritage, yet that is what he suggests. He attacks two council members to divert attention from the real facts—that the selection process was adequate until it got to Mayor Kooiker. Once there, Mayor Sam Kooiker failed to do his due diligence. Let me repeat, Mayor Sam Kooiker and only Sam Kooiker failed to do his due diligence. He chose to ignore information that eight of us could not. He can say whatever he wants and point his finger outward, but the fact remains he made a mistake. The eight no votes were a no to a bad decision; it was not a vote for a preferred candidate....

The negative methods that Mayor Kooiker clings too and has mastered so well are the reasons the majority of the council no longer trust or respect him. Is this the fault of the individual council members? I think history clearly shows there is something about the way Sam Kooiker conducts himself that alienates people that work closely with him. (It is not his causes—many of us support his causes—it is his techniques.) Not playing well with others is fine until it undermines the city—and Sam Kooiker pointing to racism on this vote though predictable is beyond disappointing—it is outrageously irresponsible [Bonny Petersen, quoted by John Tsitrian, "Rapid City (SD) Alderwoman Bonny Petersen Responds To RC Mayor Sam Kooiker's Post Dated 6/27," The Constant Commoner, 2014.07.03].

Alas, Petersen doesn't tell us the real reasons for the council's rejection of Lt. Elias Diaz as police chief. Petersen says she cannot tell us, since council members are legally bound to keep personnel matters confidential. She says the mayor takes advantage of that confidentiality to throw mud at council members that they can't wash off with the confidential truth. But she does contend that playing the race card makes it hard to deal with real racism in Rapid City:

Our city has real race issues without making them up for political gain. We have police out on the streets twenty-four hours a day and the last thing they need is our Mayor claiming governmental racism, when he knows it had nothing to do with the vote. He betrays our community by using race as a political weapon. He undermines the huge efforts made throughout our city every day to alleviate the effects of racism [Petersen, 2014.07.03].

You won't find Mayor Kooiker and Councilor Petersen sitting together at the Independence Day concerts at Main Street Square this afternoon. But before and after the hot-dog-eating contest at 3 p.m. (not during—it's impolite and bad strategy to talk with your mouth full), feel free to discuss with your neighbors the causes and extent of the division between mayor and council and among different groups in Rapid City... as well as what can be done to bring those opposing parties together to sustain a functional community.



  1. larry kurtz 2014.07.04

    Does anyone know of which christian sect Kooiker is a member?

  2. larry kurtz 2014.07.04

    The Petersons are members of UU.

  3. David Newquist 2014.07.04

    The citation of personnel matters as a reason to keep matters from public knowledge is a ploy that makes democracy a farce. It merely hides the obsessive pissing duels that comprise much of what takes place within our petty bureaucracies and among the elected representatives in state and local government. In Aberdeen, there have been police department firings and resignations in circumstances that affect the public—such as in the death of Morgan Lewis—but the public is denied any knowledge of what those who are supposed to serve it are doing. (
    The use of personnel matters as a pretext for withholding information protects the bureaucrats from public knowledge, not the employees involved. When someone who works for the public misperforms, the public has a right to know. There are some personnel issues that should not be public knowledge, but misperformance and wrong-doing and pissing contests are not among them.
    South Dakota needs a massive revision of its legal code if the public is ever to know what is going on within the bodies that are supposed to serve it. But too many people enjoy the pissing duel too much to ever give it up. It is the official state sport.

  4. Rorschach 2014.07.04

    Now that they have a new police chief, how about making it a priority to catch the serial killer who is drowning Native Americans.

  5. Roger Cornelius 2014.07.04

    This isn't the first time that the mayor has faced criticism on a racial issue, there were the filthy words of Bill Clayton and the mayor taking him to task for it, but no action taken. And there was the fight over giving the Human Rights Board subpoena power.
    There are politicians that say we have a race problem, but it isn't that bad, whatever that means. The mayor has consistently maintained that racism is a serious problem in Rapid City and I'm inclined to agree with him.
    The Latino name Diaz was a problem with the all white city fathers and mothers and when it was learned that he had Native Americans it became unacceptable to have a police chief with such a pedigree.
    Not all cries of racism are legitimate, but when the council rejected Lt. Diaz without letting the public know what he did that was so bad, it does give the odor of racism. Surely the mayor was aware of any and all short comings of Lt. Diaz.
    The council has proven that we don't need a panel to screen applicants, they want the chain of command and the next in line to assume the position anyway.
    Naturally the council members opposed to every move the mayor makes will not admit racism and they have a perfect excuse, "we cannot discuss personnel matters".
    Note: The Rapid City Journal has not reported the mayor's response to John Tristan, they must be trying to protect us.

  6. larry kurtz 2014.07.05

    Just spent a few minutes one on one with Stan Adelstein: expect him to make a few remarks about the Council. He's on the mend and still furious with the Gant/Powers problem.

  7. Ritchie Nordstrom 2014.07.05

    Here a couple more facts that I experienced in my due diligence process. First the Council members were not consulted after the experience challenged selection committee provided the Mayor with the final candidates. Mayor Kooiker forgot to inform the Council as he said he would, that we would have a chance to visit with the finalists. We were not afforded that opportunity. The next thing we knew is there was a news conference announcing the Mayor's appointee, Lt. Diaz. I spoke with Lt. Diaz to congratulate him and also Assistant Chief Jegeris during the week following the nomination. After the flurry of comments in the news, I wanted to check on additional information. Alderwoman Petersen is correct that the additional information is confidential as it has to do with personnel issues. Long story short I had to wait a considerable amount of time to get the reasons why I could not see the information as reported. Through the PD staff I was told that the Mayor would let me review the documents after they had been redacted and other staff mentioned in the documents were informed and their names redacted. I chose not to go through all the red tape to review a blackened out document. Bottom line is to listen to what your are being told but to listen to what your not being told. What I was not being told spoke volumes. So how would you vote? Trying to tie race on to this affair is beneath the Offices held and their spokes people. In fact it looks like sour grapes, a distraction and a desperate attempt to save face.

  8. Douglas Wiken 2014.07.06

    Assuming that Kooiker truly believed Diaz was the best qualified, I can see why Kooiker might not understand that there may have been other motivation for the council rejecting Diaz than race. And, the Mayor has to work with the Chief of Police and trust his word. Perhaps that should have been more important a consideration for the council. And, I don't quite understand why Kooiker's selection committee was unqualified.

    Ritchie Nordstrom may be completely correct, but it is dangerous to make decisions on the knowns we don't matter what Rumsfeld said.

  9. Roger Cornelius 2014.07.06

    In Ritchie Nordstrom's first campaign and his first term in office, he was very much the man of the people. It now appears that he has turned in another bureaucratic politician content to explain the city councils actions rather than answer questions.
    The Native American community has not been provided with an adequate answers for Lt. Diaz removal, when answers aren't provided the obvious, racism, seems to be the truth.
    All the city council will tell us is, "it wasn't racial" is not answer at all, it is an excuse. We are supposedly expected to accept a limited comment as truth when no truth has been provided.

  10. Frank Smith 2014.07.10

    I continue to observe that this is a completely broken city council. The mayor brought forward an absolutely qualified candidate. The council's job was to confirm the appointment if the candidate was qualified. The council's job WAS NOT to vet the candidate and NOT to preselect appointments.

    Charity and Peterson orchestrated this entire fiasco. Anyone who has read Charity's highly concealed (and rarely mentioned) book "Political Prostitution" knows that she has issues with minorities and people with disabilities. Serious issues. Yet she gets a pass.

    Peterson loves to slander Diaz telling us all from the dais that there is something in his background that prevented her from supporting his appointment, then she slithers back into her cave, under her rock, by hiding behind the so-called confidentiality clause. Good grief. Let us all not forget that it was Peterson herself who brought this matter up. So much for confidentiality. How exactly does Diaz defend himself from such cowardly and shameful statements like those made by Peterson and Doyle?

    No person that I have ever seen on this city council is less qualified or competent enough to be sitting on that stage than Peterson (save Hadcock, perhaps).

    Having said all that, I am ready to move on. RCJ however (in typical RCJ fashion) is probably just getting clued in to this story. I'm sure the liberal community and RCJ will circle the wagons to protect Charity from her very own writings and her utterly broken belief system. It's sad that she doesn't get a public flogging as did Clayton, and deservedly so. They are both cut from the same cloth.

    The bottom line is that the voters can watch this kangaroo court masquerading as a city council and enjoy the high entertainment value - because that's the only kind of value being delivered to the voters right now. Doyle and Peterson both should resign immediately.

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