The City of Yankton’s ban on Yankton County Commissioner Gary Swensen from entering city hall will last one year, according to an official letter from the city to Swensen that went public Tuesday.
Radio station KYNT-AM released a copy of the letter sent to Swenson by city attorney Ross Den Herder. The letter was dated Aug. 12.
"… I have been directed to inform you in writing that consistent with the directive of Mayor Nathan Johnson at the Yankton County Commission budget meeting on Tuesday, August 6, you are not permitted to enter Yankton City HaIl (416 Walnut Street)," Den Herder wrote. "This decision is effective for a period of one year’s time ending August 1, 2020."
The letter cited three reasons for the decision, including recent social media posts that were "perceived as threatening to City staff and its elected officials;" as well as "(p)ast inappropriate behavior and statements" that were allegedly made in city hall; and "(p)ast interactions with City staff and officials that have been reported to the City Manager as having made City staff uncomfortable."
The letter added that, if Swensen wished to contact city officials, it should be done by phone, email or through the mail.
The letter was issued after Johnson appeared before the Yankton County Commission last week regarding the posting by Swensen of a cartoon on social media that was deemed as threatening to lawmakers. Johnson said he reached out to Swensen to discuss the matter and to take the cartoon down but never received a response.
At the meeting, Johnson said Swensen would be barred from city hall, but added few specifics.
Swensen gave a statement apologizing if any particular religion had been offended by the post that had, in large part, spurred the letter — a meme that depicts an elderly woman in a confessional saying, "Forgive me father for I have sinned. I killed a politician." The priest responds, "My daughter, I am here to listen to your sins, not your community service work."
"I apologize to the people with their names on the cartoon, the Catholic Church and all other religious leaders and organizations," Swensen said.
He went on to further claim that he was supposed to be the politician depicted in the cartoon.
"Two times, there have been violent incidents against me in Yankton County," he said. "Both of these individuals (in) the attack and the threats are hog barn CAFO owners and operators who live in Yankton County."
He also criticized local media for its coverage of the event.
Swensen could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.