Conzet Wrote GEAR UP Grant for Melmer DOE Four Years Before Legislative Appointment

Tuesday’s GOAC hearing unearthed another interesting connection to the GEAR UP/Mid-Central scandal. As Bob Mercer reports, Rep. Kristin Conzet (R-32/Rapid City) helped get the whole GEAR UP mess started by writing the original grant proposal:

2005 GEAR UP grant writer Kristin Conzet
2005 GEAR UP grant writer Kristin Conzet

Rep. Kristin Conzet, R-Rapid City, testified she wrote the original GEAR UP grant while she worked for the state Department of Education from 2003 to 2005.

The state department of education operated the program then, she said.

“I had a monthly salary as a state DOE employee,” Conzet said. State government dismissed her in 2005.

“I was done with DOE so I moved onto other contracts,” she said.

GEAR UP ran well then, according to Conzet. She said the in-kind match came from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology during that period.

“I am a grant professional. I certified the whole thing,” Conzet said. She said she worked with Stacy Phelps, who was director of GEAR UP operations [Bob Mercer, “Mid Central Probe Intensifies as Legislators Dig Into Answers,” Pierre Capital Journal, 2017.08.29].

After writing the GEAR UP grant for Rick Melmer’s Department of Education, Conzet went into private consulting and fundraising for non-profits. Then Conzet was appointed to fill a vacancy in the Legislature in 2009 by Governor Marion Michael Rounds, whose insurance and real estate partner Karl Fischer is Conzet’s dad. Yes, everyone in Pierre is connected….

8 Responses to Conzet Wrote GEAR UP Grant for Melmer DOE Four Years Before Legislative Appointment

  1. I attended the GOAC hearing and heard Rep. Conzet speak to the committee about her role. While I believe that she was a contractor to SD DOE and assisted in the preparation of the 2005 SD GEAR UP application, the initial impetus and much of the technical assistance for making the application came from outside the state.

    A large nonprofit organization based in Washington, DC contacted all 50 states, alerting them that states were eligible to apply for GEAR UP funds and that their organization would be happy to assist states interested in applying. South Dakota (and Maine, I believe) accepted the offer. However, by the time the decision to apply was made by SD DOE, the application deadline was less than two weeks away, forcing the state into a rushed process to develop and submit an application.

    At that time, Brinda Kuhn was employed by the large DC-based nonprofit, and I have been told that she assisted in the development of the evaluation design included in SD DOE’s application to the feds. She subsequently (several months later, as I recall), left her DC-based employment and moved to South Dakota. Her Rapid City-based consulting firm specialized in large part in working with state GEAR UP programs in several states (I recall this from her website, since taken down from the web).

    My source for much of this information, by the way, is a former employee of the DC-based nonprofit who spearheaded the marketing effort to interest states in using the nonprofit’s assistance in applying for GEAR UP funds in 2005.

  2. Man, I need to get into this grant writing business in SD. They pay awesome and reward you wonderfully. I just got to switch to the Republican party.

  3. Michael, thanks for that reminder of what you told KELO in January 2016. The reportage makes it sound like Conzet said she wrote the grant, period. Did Conzet indeed make that claim and undermine the involvement of other preparers?

  4. She may have been unaware of the involvement of others, depending on how the preparation of the application materials was coordinated by SD DOE. Alternatively, she may have been the person responsible for reviewing and compiling the various grant application sections for SD DOE, which could be expressed as being the lead consultant preparing the application for SD DOE.

  5. mike from iowa

    Mr Wyland, does this large, non-profit based in DC have a name. I snooped around trying to find it a week or so ago and had no luck.

  6. Yes, the nonprofit has a name but it escaped me when I wrote my earlier post. If you click on the link Cory provided to my interview with Angela Kennecke at KELO-TV, the story of the organization is included there.

  7. While the foxes are in the henhouse, we’ll likely not get the transparency needed to pin down who was really responsible for EB5 and MCEC Republican secrets in SD government.

    Apparently SD GOP procedure is to pass legislation after the fact further preventing deeper investigation (the Janklow statutes re: whistleblower criminal jeopardy).

    We went down Rounds’/Joop’s EB5 rabbit hole only to run head-long into a state government-wide conspiracy of protection for Round’s 2014 US Senate successful election. GOAC hid information from the public before the election. Brendan Johnson passed in the US Atty’s office. FBI played along and USCIS eventually pounced on Gov. Daugaard’s administration, Rounds escaping in the nick of time to DC.

    Terminating EB5 nationally will allow this to drift further away into the darkness.

    MCEC information has been similarly hidden.

    Republicans have a allergy to facts. Here and nationally. State Law Enforcement seems to go along with it.

    Neither Sutton nor Bjorkman have the budgets and experts to take the perps down. Maybe we should elect them so SD can get some answers. Democrats are interested in facts.

  8. Conzet’s relationship to Rounds, Daugaard, the Wells Fargo president, and Gear-Up is SOP for the SD GOP heavy hitters. The “Untouchables”, maybe, eh?

    Jackley is their (SD GOP) chief law enforcement officer as SDAG. Hopefully he’ll beat Noem so we will be rid of her, and then we can fully expose his record in the run up to 2018