Slagle walks out of meeting, lack of quorum temporarily suspends action by David Lias The Vermillion City Council approved a grant application at a special meeting Monday evening that will establish a teen court system in the Clay County Courthouse.
This action turned out to be anything but routine, however. Alderman Frank Slagle excused himself from the meeting just before discussion of the issue was to begin. His absence left the council one member short of a quorum. The meeting had to be suspended until Mayor Bill Radigan, who had been delayed because of phone calls, arrived at the City Hall meeting chambers at approximately 5:30 p.m., allowing the meeting to resume.
�I�m not sure that I can vote on this issue,� Slagle told Aldermen Grause, Annis, Kozak and Wright shortly before leaving the meeting. �I�m the parent of a juvenile.� Slagle said his vote would constitute a conflict of interest.
Alderman Kozak, who, like Slagle has been part of a conflict of interest question regarding his employment with The University of South Dakota, reminded Slagle that, at the present time, no ruling has yet been made to determine whether a true conflict of interest exists.
Clay County State�s Attorney Tami Bern was at Monday�s meeting, waiting to present the grant proposal to the council, when Slagle forced proceedings to come to a halt.
She was asked by aldermen at the meeting if Slagle�s vote on the teen court grant would be a conflict of interest.
Bern said the council would have to contact City Attorney Martin Weeks for an answer to that question. �I�m in no position to give the council legal advice,� she said.
Weeks and aldermen Yelverton, Burbach and Powell were absent from the meeting.
�I�ll just have to excuse myself and we�ll no longer have a forum,� Slagle said.
Slagle made a motion that the council meeting adjourn. There was no second to his motion and it failed.
�Having heard no second, I have to excuse myself,� Slagle said. He left City Hall, forcing the city aldermen, Finance Officer Mike Carlson and City Manager Jeff Pederson to declare a recess and quietly wait for the mayor or another alderman to show up so that a quorum could again be established.
Mayor Radigan declared the meeting back in order shortly after his arrival at 5:30 p.m.
Bern was then allowed to describe the grant application that will establish a teen court system in the community.
The application for the funds was made by the Vermillion Juvenile Crime Enforcement Coalition. The funding � amounting to approximately $12,500, will come from the Juvenile Accountability Incentives Block Grant (JAIBG).
Bern told the council that an additional $3,000 is needed for the program, but she had no doubt that those funds could be raised from assessments paid by the juveniles that go through the teen court system.
�We have been looking at a teen court concept for about a year,� Bern said.
She added that the juvenile offenders who would face trial in teen court would, for the most part, be first time offenders.
�The violations likely would be things like possession of tobacco, curfew violations, and first offense alcohol possession charges,� she said.
Teen court is a statutory peer accountability program for students between the ages of 10 and 17 who receive complaints or citations from law enforcement agencies and courts. The court may also serve as a review of certain school disciplinary situations.
The magistrate court has indicated a desire to utilize the teen court as an advisory jury on certain Class 2 misdemeanor court trials involving juvenile offenders. The court will primarily be used as a condition for deferred adjudication.
Bern will determine which juveniles will be offered the opportunity to participate in the program. The juvenile and his or her parents or guardian must then choose to participate in the program.
�Participation in the teen court program is premised on the fact that the juvenile admits his or her guilt,� Bern told the council.
The trials in teen court are not for the purpose of determining guilt or innocence. The trials are held to establish the appropriate community service sentences based on the circumstances of the offense.
Bern told the council that Brown and Lawrence counties in South Dakota have already established teen courts. They are proving to be very effective.
�The recidivism rate is very low,� she said.