RAPID CITY, S.D. – The Rapid City Council member facing a code of conduct hearing and possible expulsion from the council appeared with her attorney Thursday in hopes of getting out her side of the story.
Lisa Modrick didn’t speak at yesterday’s presser, as her attorney responded to allegations of wrongdoings involving a meeting between her and the Regional Airport board president.
Modrick alleges the board president, Darren Harr, threatened her in a heated meeting between the two. Modrick works at WestJet, an airport tennant, whose relationship with the airport board has been stormy at best.
Harr, says he recorded the conversation with Modrick without her knowledge and turned the recording over to Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender. Allender has contended his review of the tape doesn’t indicate any abusive content.
Modrick’s attorney, Steven Beardsley, accuses the mayor of handling this situation poorly and is upset about what he calls the “baseless claims being made and fostered by the City Administration” against Ms. Modrick.
“But now, if Mr. Harr is suggesting Lisa reported something incorrect, the mayor has already prejudged it, indicated it is fabrication and is telling the world it is a fabrication instead of checking the actual words she reported to him and compared it to the words of the incident,” Beardsley said Thursday.
He accuses the mayor of attempting to unseat Modrick’s City Council position by promoting and escalating a claim that should have been handled, in house, pursuant to South Dakota law and a reasonable approach.
“It’s our position that, if, handled appropriately, according to the city employee handbook, none of this would have gone to the public. None of this should have gone to the press and then on to the public. Because from that, we’ve had, this recording on this particular day and this recording on this particular day. There have been discussions in the press regarding whether or not there was any form of harassment or threat by Mr. Haar. I can explain to you what the law is, and give my opinion regarding whether or not there are threats made. I think people have prejudged that because they haven’t heard the other side.”
Furthermore, Beardsley alleges that Haar’s own attorney suggested a meeting take place between the two of them with the Mayor before he went to the media and things escalated.
Beardsley believes there’s a bigger agenda taking place.
“To me, reflecting on all of the things that are coming out, there’s a bigger agenda here. It’s this; I don’t think the Mayor and the city administration are happy with the relationship between the airport and WestJet, Ms. Modrick’s employer.”
Beadsley says Modrick qualifies as a city employee, which means she is governed by the city employee handbook. He says that means the city is legally bound to follow that handbook for a grievance procedure, which he says was not followed.
But the city says that argument simply isn’t correct. City Attorney Joel Landeen says he doesn’t believe the language in the handbook places council members within the non-union guide. Landeen says even if Modrick did qualify as a city employee under the handbook, that a harassment complaint would not be handled under that grievance procedure.
Beardsley is hoping he is able to call witnesses at Modrick’s upcoming hearing – scheduled for March 10. Landeen has said both sides will get a chance to present their case, but they are not a court and will not be cross examining witnesses.