Let Pat piddle around with the Ashley Madison database—if you want to crunch some real numbers and names of public interest, dig through the minutes of Mid-Central Educational Cooperative, the Platte organization that lost its 4.3-million-dollar contract with the state Department of Education last week, then lost its business manager in what Attorney General Marty Jackley now says was a murder-suicide.
Let’s look at just one friend of the GOP establishment, Dr. Rick Melmer. Then-Governor M. Michael Rounds appointed Melmer Secretary of Education in June 2003. Melmer held that post until 2008, then moved to another plum state job, dean of education at USD.
Ten months before stepping down from his USD job in June 2013, Melmer began collecting a monthly check from MCEC. On August 14, 2012, MCEC cut check #137581 for $1,000 to Rick Melmer for “GEAR UP Committee.” GEAR UP—Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Program—is the federal college prep program that MCEC was running for the state Department of Education. On September 13, 2012, MCEC approved a contract to pay Melmer $1,000 a month for his services as a GEAR UP committee member.
The subsequent MCEC minutes specifically report eight more $1,000 monthly stipend payments to Melmer through June 2013. After that, MCEC financials mention no further monthly checks but do list payments for travel, supplies, and office rental totaling $4,323.86.
|08/14/12||137581||Melmer, Rick||GEAR UP COMMITTEE||$1,000.00|
|10/09/12||140600||Melmer, Rick||GEAR UP STIPEND||$1,000.00|
|11/12/12||140807||Melmer, Rick||GEAR UP STIPEND||$1,000.00|
|12/11/12||141039||Melmer, Rick||GEAR UP STIPEND||$1,000.00|
|02/12/13||141430||Melmer, Rick||GEAR UP GRANT COMMITTEE STIPEND||$1,000.00|
|03/12/13||141643||Melmer, Rick||GEAR UP STIPEND||$1,000.00|
|04/11/13||141811||Melmer, Rick||GEAR UP STIPEND||$1,000.00|
|05/09/13||142076||Melmer, Rick||GEAR UP STIPEND||$1,000.00|
|06/10/13||142328||Melmer, Rick||GEAR UP STIPEND||$1,000.00|
|08/12/13||142747||Melmer, Rick||GEAR UP TRAVEL||$470.48|
|08/12/13||142747||Melmer, Rick||GEAR UP SUPPLIES||$25.00|
|07/26/13||3630||Div of Criminal Investigation||Finger Prints – Melmer||$43.25|
|02/10/14||144012||Voyager Fleet Systems, Inc.||RICK MELMER TRAVEL||$85.20|
|(reported March 6, 2014)||Voyager Fleet Systems, Inc.||MELMER/MOORE GAS CARD||$86.50|
|(reported May 8, 2014)||SD Public Universities and Research Center||RICK MELMER OFFICE AND SUPPLIES||$985.85|
|06/12/14||144611||TIRES PLUS||RICK MELMER TRAVEL; #31||$47.49|
|06/12/14||144618||Voyager Fleet Systems, Inc.||R MELMER GAS||$48.61|
|(reported September 4, 2014)||TIRES PLUS||RICK MELMER TRAVEL #31||$105.48|
|(reported September 4, 2014)||SD Public Universities and Research Center||RICK MELMER OFFICE RENT APRIL-JUNE||$287.50|
|02/12/15||145944||SD Public Universities and Research Center||RICK MELMER OFFICE RENTAL||$287.50|
|02/12/15||145944||SD Public Universities and Research Center||RICK MELMER OFFICE PHONE||$75.00|
|(reported March 5, 2015)||TIRES PLUS||RICK MELMER TRAVEL||$795.41|
|05/13/15||146561||SD Public Universities and Research Center||RICK MELMER OFFICE EXPENSES||$362.50|
|05/13/15||146599||Voyager Fleet Systems, Inc.||RICK MELMER TRAVEL||$50.28|
|06/03/15||146784||Voyager Fleet Systems, Inc.||RICK MELMER TRAVEL||$60.56|
|07/07/15||147026||SD Public Universities and Research Center||RICK MELMER OFFICE RENT||$362.50|
|07/07/15||147062||Voyager Fleet Systems, Inc.||RICK MELMER TRAVEL||$66.80|
|(reported August 13, 2015)||7471||Melmer, Rick||GEAR UP TRAVEL||$77.95|
These figures appear to be hors d’œurves. On June 13, 2013, MCEC approved to approve a contract with Melmer “contingent upon secured funding from additional revenue sources.” The minutes specify $185,000 for Melmer, to be funded by the South Dakota Board of Regents and the Council of Chief State School Officers, which paid Melmer to promote the Common Core standards.
On July 11, 2013, Melmer attended the MCEC meeting to see them finally approve a contract with CCSSO for his work for $110,000. On September 12, 2013, MCEC approved a contract with the Board of Regents for Melmer’s work for $49,500.
On February 13, 2014, MCEC approved a new CCSSO contract for Melmer’s work for $150,000. On March 6, 2014, MCEC approved a supplemental budget that included a contract for “Rick Melmer Services” for $241,000, financed by “State of SD & CCSSO Revenue.” On July 10, 2014, MCEC approved a contract with the Board of Regents for “Rick Melmer Services” for $49,500.
On April 10, 2014, the monthly cash receipts reports begin to reflect a line item titled “Fund 13 – AIII/BW/Melmer.” (“Fund 13″—who writes this stuff?) AIII is the American Indian Institute of Innovation, one of the nonprofits Scott Westerhuis created to handle GEAR UP dollars. BW escapes me. Here are the cash receipts for Fund 13 from all available MCEC meeting documents since the April 2014 minutes:
|FUND 13 – AIII/BW/MELMER|
Rick Melmer resigned from MCEC on July 9, 2015. We’ll see if Fund 13 continues in future MCEC cash receipts reports.
It’s tough to tell what portion of the Fund 13 dollars actually went to Melmer, what portion is simply listing amounts provided in the contracts listed above, and which contracts above are redundant revisions and which represent unique dollars. But according to the MCEC minutes, over the last three years, MCEC helped Melmer get at least $9,000 in monthly stipends and $300,000 in contracts.
And that work and that pay exist for this friend of South Dakota’s conservative Republican establishment entirely because of liberal government funding, at least some of it intended to help low-income Americans get into college.