Warming up for Attorney General Marty Jackley’s press conference in Platte today at 1 p.m. Central, Angela Kennecke goes to town on the state’s GEAR UP grant application and finds numerous causes for concern. Consulting with grant expert Michael Wyland, Kenncke identifies conflicts of interest that may justify the state Department of Education’s cancellation of Mid-Central Educational Cooperative’s contract to run GEAR UP:
Stacy Phelps was the GEAR UP grant project coordinator. At the same time, he was acting as the Chief Executive Officer of the American Indian Institute of Innovation, the very same group that got the money to run the GEAR UP programs in the schools. And Phelps’s wife, Alice, was on AIII’s payroll for $90,000 a year, according to the foundation’s IRS returns. One of the reasons, the state cancelled its contract with Mid Central was due to conflict of interest and failure to disclose related parties [Angela Kennecke, “SD GEAR UP Grant Application,” KELO-TV, 2015.11.02].
But Kennecke also finds the Department of Education may have broken its obligations to the feds by contracting out duties that its application said would be handled by the state:
It starts with who’s actually responsible for what. According to the application, the State Department of Education is the lead partner and fiscal agent for the program. In the application, the Department of Ed committed to hiring 13 full-time employees to work on the grant activities and to hire the independent evaluator of the program among, other things. But the state tells KELOLAND News all of that was contracted out with Mid Central [Kennecke, 2015.11.02].
Wyland also believes the evaluation of the GEAR UP program in South Dakota was underfunded. $85,000 a year was set aside for the evaluation. Wyland says it should have been $150,000 a year or more to do an effective evaluation [Kennecke, 2015.11.02].
We’ll see this afternoon whether Attorney General Jackley connects any of these problems with the deaths of the Westerhuis family and the fiery destruction of their home south of Platte or whether his news conference will focus strictly on the evidence and conclusions at the scene of that crime.