There’s a lot popping with the Government Operations and Audit Committee’s inquiry into the GEAR UP scandal. Expect multiple posts.
First up, Special Assistant Attorney General Paul Bachand wrote to GOAC today and told them Education Secretary Melody Schopp and her lieutenant Tamara Darnell are declining GOAC’s invitation to testify at GOAC’s August 29 meeting. However, Bachand has advised Schopp and Darnall in composing answers to the 48 questions GOAC posed to them in an August 4 letter. Bachand’s August 22 letter provides those answers in writing.
One nugget in these responses is an explanation of Secretary Schopp’s incredible claim at GOAC’s July 24 hearing that, amidst the millions of dollars stolen from the Mid-Central Educational Cooperative, not one buck came from federal GEAR UP grant funds or state funds. Recall Schopp’s exact words:
But Schopp said Monday the money didn’t come from Gear Up funds her department oversaw.
“That is the biggest takeaway—there was no Gear Up money stolen,” Schopp said. “They were not from Gear Up funds, as has been promoted in the last couple of years.”
She added, “It was not misappropriated from the state” [Bob Mercer, “Schopp Says No Missing Money Came from GEAR UP Program,” Watertown Public Opinion, 2017.07.24].
Question #2 in GOAC’s August 4 letter to Schopp asks, “How did the South Dakota Department of Education… conclude that there was no misappropriation of grant dollars?”
Response #2 submitted today by Schopp via Bachand explains:
This was the conclusion of audits by Eide Bailly and the Department of Legislative Audit. GEAR UP funds were paid to Mid Central on a reimbursement basis, and once funds were reimbursed to Mid Central, the funds became Mid Central’s. Misappropriation of money occurred from Mid Central’s accounts [Schopp/Bachand to GOAC, 2017.08.22].
The state chose tiny, poorly managed, understaffed Mid-Central Educational Cooperative to supervise a multi-million-dollar federal grant. The state handed Mid-Central millions of federal dollars over several years. The state bears no responsibility for any wrongdoing Mid-Central committed with that money.
Hmm… does anyone think that sort of legal insulation could be why former Education Secretary Rick Melmer handed GEAR UP to his home folks in Platte in the first place?
There’s much more in the Bachand letter. I’ll keep reading, as should you….