City still tight-lipped on Sideras
After more than a week of silence, Mayor Mike Huether finally opened up about the investigation into former fire chief Jim Sideras on Wednesday. But even after addressing the media, there are still more questions than answers.
Reporters from across Sioux Falls grilled Mayor Huether for more than 30 minutes after Huether and director of human resources Bill O'Toole said they couldn't say much because it was a "personnel and confidential matter."
So KSFY News reporter Erika Leigh asked Mayor Huether if they couldn't answer questions, what can the media tell the public?
"I'm never gonna tell the media anything on how to do their job I learned that about two days into it," Huether replied.
"And I’ve learned from the media-- one of the things I’ll never forget was we had a situation involving the city clerk. I’ll never forget that," Huether went on.
"And that was when the media gave me an understanding of just how – there is a public right to know, there is – public is different than private – that you learn to work with the media versus against the media even if you disagree at times or whatever it would be."
"I can’t coach the media on how to do their work," Huether said.
Huether recounted the questions he's been getting.
"'So how’re we doing mayor? How’s Fire and Rescue? How’re the City of Sioux Falls employees? How’re the citizens of our great city?'" he started his address with.
Then answered, "we’re mad, we’re sad, we’re confused, we’re hurt, we don’t any of this to be true. And so much more. This is a situation where there will not be a positive outcome no matter what transpires."
But those were about the only real answers Huether would give for the rest of the press conference.
When asked about whether Sideras was fired or retired early --
"It's a personnel matter and it's confidential," he replied.
When asked about how he learned about the warrant being executed on Sideras' home and how Sioux Falls Police Department found out --
"I don't know how Chief Burns was notified but the Chief notified me."
And when asked again about the investigation process ---
"I don't know the process that DCI or Minnehaha County Sheriff's Department or any other law enforcement – I don't know how they would normally do that. All I know is I know how I was notified."
So then, the media pressed about whether the city terminated Sideras' employment or whether he retired early.
"I enacted the plan," Heuther replied.
A reporter from another station pressed on, "what was the plan?"
"I enacted it," he replied.
One allegation in the arrest affidavit says Sideras viewed child pornography during a San Antonia, Texas, during an accreditation ceremony. KSFY News reporter Erika Leigh pressed for information about whether that would've been considered "city time."
"Again, I would encourage you to reach out to the folks doing the investigation," Huether replied.
One piece of information worth noting? Sideras will keep his pension.
"He has vested in his retirement benefit, he has been eligible to retire for quite some time," explained O'Toole. 'I know there's been some speculation out there, but there are not disqualifiers. Once you're vested in a retirement benefit, there aren't any disqualifying factors that you would lose that pension."
And the hunt for a new fire chief is on.
"I would like to share with you that we did engage in interviews on Monday and Tuesday of this week," O'Toole said. "We did have eight applicants for the position and we interviewed all eight."
O'Toole said the city believe its next leader for Sioux Falls Fire Rescue already exists within the department, so it didn't even open up the position to external candidates. Next, they'll decide which of the eight candidates will move forward to meet with the mayor for interviews.
Once the mayor interviews the candidates, he'll select one for presentation, advice and confirmation by the city council. The city said they are moving quickly on this process.