In the latest sign of his shameless bondage to his party patrons, Pat Powers responds to the grim, unflattering KELO-TV interview of Governor Dennis Daugaard and Secretary of Education Melody Schopp by saying, “Look over there!”
Specifically, Powers attempts to deflect from his Dear Leader’s scandal-plagued administration and says we need to spend more time talking about the executive director of the Mid-Central Educational Cooperative, Dan Guericke.
While Pat’s post tells us nothing new (Pat only digs into the documents his GOP sources hand him, and you can bet those sources aren’t sharing anything on MCEC and GEAR UP), and while Pat has only rarely addressed one of the biggest news stories in the state this fall to offer political cover for his floundering GOP pals, he is correct that we need to look into Dan Guericke’s actions as head of MCEC. We need to know what Guericke said to MCEC business manager Scott Westerhuis on the phone during Westerhuis’s long drive home from Takini the evening of September 16 before Westerhuis got home and, according to the state’s narrative, killed his family, lit his house on fire, and killed himself. We should ask Guericke if—and if so when and why—he canceled Nicole Westerhuis’s cell phone contract and whether he intended to destroy the evidence that may have been recorded in the last voicemail sent to her phone at 2:57 a.m. the morning of her murder. We should make sure Guericke informed DCI about Westerhuis’s safety deposit box and handed the keys to that box to DCI agents. We should maybe even look into Guericke’s bus driver training company (good grief! Does everyone at Mid-Central moonlight?).
And if we need a grim laugh—or a sign that the state knows a hot potato when it sees one—we should note the Blue Ribbon K-12 panel’s conspicuous omission of Dan Guericke’s highly relevant testimony from their final report. (Maybe the state’s plan is not to mention Guericke… or maybe Pat’s post signals that his GOP minders are turning their sights on Guericke as the next fall guy.)
The press has tried to grill Guericke, but MCEC’s director has clammed up behind attorney Scott Swier. I e-mailed Guericke a month ago asking for a couple of missing financial reports and an explanation of $3.3 million in discrepancies between ending and beginning monthly balances. It took over a week and a repeated request for Guericke to pass my questions on to the lawyer and another three weeks for the lawyer to read public records law and send me the financials. I still have received no explanation from anyone at MCEC about the discrepancies (which with the two missing financial reports supplied by Swier now total $3.443 million over four years).
I would extend Rep. Lance Russell’s logic to Mid-Central: if Secretary Schopp should resign over the corruption of the GEAR UP grant, then co-op director Guericke should resign over GEAR UP and whatever other corruption occurred under his watch. Barring that, I would at least extend the logic of transparency: as a public official (and yes, educational cooperatives, as education service agencies, are public entities, creatures of statute funded by taxpayers), Guericke should be at the mic giving the public answers.
And if Guericke is nervous about facing tough questions, we can extend the state’s PR logic and have Governor Daugaard sit right next Guericke for the entire interview. As a matter of fact, let’s apply that condition to every conversation about GEAR UP: whether it’s the Attorney General trying to close the books with stories of a disappearing safe, Brian Wagner explaining why MCEC dropped his contract this week, Rick Melmer explaining why he left MCEC this summer before all heck broke loose, or both Wagner and Melmer explaining what value their six-figure consulting added for the American Indian kids GEAR UP is supposed to serve, let’s have Governor Daugaard right there beside them, grimacing through the entire interview and explaining his role as captain of this listing ship of state.