GOAC Does Nothing on GEAR UP, Pretends to Want Public Input

The Government Operations and Audit Committee appears to have mostly wasted our time on GEAR UP and Mid-Central this week. In the various press about the meeting, I’m not reading any new testimony, explanations, or revelations beyond what I’ve been able to pull from the new documents provided to GOAC prior to this meeting. In a spectacular display of general disrespect for Legislative authority, none of the witnesses GOAC invited appear to have shown up at the committee’s hearing Thursday and Friday in Sioux Falls. Only former Office of Indian Education director and GEAR UP grant coordinator Roger Campbell made brief telephone contact, but he appears not to have deigned to mail a written response to GOAC’s invitation. While GOAC member Senator Stace Nelson (R-19/Fulton) and nicely reimbursed GOAC spectator Rep. Elizabeth May (R-27/Kyle) are vowing to pursue GEAR UP/Mid-Central corruption in the State-Tribal Relations Committee, GOAC Chair Senator Deb Peters (R-9/Hartford) and others shrug off disrespect for GOAC as priority of criminal cases and want to (Dana Ferguson’s words) “let the debate die.”

In one howler from the meeting, GOAC says it wants public input on possible new laws to fight corruption:

South Dakota lawmakers looking into how more than $1 million went missing from a Platte educational cooperative’s bank account decided Friday they should seek ideas from the public for possible new laws.

The Government Operations and Audit Committee listed five potential measures on the agenda Friday at http://bit.ly/2yLGLjC. Staff for the Legislative Research Council and the Department of Legislative Audit could add more in the coming weeks.

Committee members chose Monday, Dec. 18, to take testimony at the Capitol [Bob Mercer, “Lawmakers Want Public’s Help to Thwart Future Scandals,” Watertown Public Opinion, 2017.10.07].

Seek ideas from the public—that’s rich! The public gave the Legislature a complete Anti-Corruption Act, Initiated Measure 22, last year in the general election, passed by a majority of South Dakota voters, and two weeks later, Senator Peters and 25 of her Legislative colleagues sued to block that law. And while in GOAC Senator Peters uses ongoing litigation as an excuse for GOAC not to press for answers or action, she and her Republican friends didn’t wait for the courts to settle their lawsuit: they plowed ahead when the 2017 Session started and voted to repeal IM 22. And now with the public trying to put a new version of the Anti-Corruption Act on the ballot in 2018, South Dakota Republicans are trying to sow distrust of initiatives and portraying the public’s efforts to put laws to a vote as dangerous “mad scientist” ideas.

The public has been offering ideas to fight corruption all along. The Republican leadership on GOAC and in the Legislature just doesn’t want to listen or act on the real corruption they have facilitated during forty years of one-party rule.


13 Responses to GOAC Does Nothing on GEAR UP, Pretends to Want Public Input

  1. Stace Nelson

    @CAH as with the EB5 corruption, members of the GOAC intentionally took a dive. When Senators Sutton, Tapio and myself called for witnesses to be legally summoned, other members objected and instructed GOAC staff to only “invite” witnesses to testify with the explicit understanding that they were to be told they did not have to attend.

    Legislative committees have the authority to require witnesses to appear, provide records, AND testify under oath. There has been a concerted effort to undermine, obstruct, and intimidate legitimate investigative efforts into the GEAR UP corruption.

    The immediate goal of this corruption of the proper investigative process is to protect the administration and the many politically connected persons involved. The collateral damage is a further precedence weakening of the people’s branch of government. Legislators intentionally emasculating their own legislative authority to conduct constitutionally required oversight of the executive branch, subverts and betrays the legislature’s duty to act as a check and balance. It promotes further corruption and malfeasance.

  2. Roger Elgersma

    Stace is right again. To add a few more ideas
    No subsidiaries – this leads to multiple sets of books which makes oversight difficult since they can move money from one account to another. It also allows Schopp to say GEARUP is innocent when the subsidiary made a mistake when the subsidiary was actually under and had the same leaders as GEARUP.
    Minimal consultants – if you bid on a job you must be qualified to do that job, getting a big government contract and then spending a million dollars to find out how to do that job is incompetence.
    Auditors should audit – looking at a problem for eight years and not fixing the problem and then your son runs for legislature as reward for coverup going so well is ridiculous.
    Peters is a CPA – a CPA’s job is to tell you what happened. She is not doing this at all.
    Actively investigate with the intention of finding the truth – should be a no brainer anywhere else.

  3. I notice in the press that Senator Peters responds to Senator Nelson’s call for subpoenas that it costs money to hire the lawyers to carry out subpoenas and hear subpoenaed witnesses. By that fiscal rationale, we shouldn’t even have GOAC meetings, not to mention paying legislators some sit and spectate at those meetings.

  4. So Roger, how do we get District 9 voters to hold Peters accountable for not actively investigating with the intention of finding the truth?

  5. Donald Pay

    I would suggest an independent citizen board to provide oversight of government ethics, public records and public notice, campaign finance, investigations into corruption, etc. Given them enforcement powers. The situation will be solved pronto.

    It’s clear that the elected officials are not competent or willing to take on this task. When you have a one party state, you can’t count on the normal checks and balances. As Stace points out, they are not willing to use even the weak powers they have. It’s been this way for decades, and, even with Stace speaking truth to power, it ain’t going to change. Depending of the Legislature to fix the problems of the Legislature is simply not realistic. If SD had a viable two party system you might get closer to doing it, but that and 50 cents won’t buy you much of anything.

    It has to be taken out of the hands of elected officials and put into the hands of the people, and that happens through the initiative and referendum, which the Legislature has been trying to destroy for decades as well.

  6. Stace Nelson

    @CAH I would encourage you to talk with any prosecutor in the state who will assure you that her statement is absolute BS. LRC staff simply issues the summons and subpoenas per statute. Witness then is required to either comply or go to court and ask to quash, if they do not get it quashed, they are required to comply. If they don’t, they are in violation of the law and can be prosecuted.

    Remember back when they had the kangaroo court on the LRC violating bill confidentiality and again refused to swear witnesses that were involved? The AG ruled that the “invitations” sent to myself and others was in fact effectively a summons and that if we didn’t accept their invitation? We could be prosecuted.

  7. Roger Cornelius

    GOAC members are a bunch of cowards, save Stace, trying to escape their responsibility by setting up some kind citizens committee and wanting input.
    We know what happened with Gear-Up, why can’t this bunch find the courage to say it?

  8. Stace Nelson

    @Roger Respectfukky disagree in part. Rep. Wismer tried hard to get accountability on EB5 and hit the same French firing line of surrender claiming GOAC couldn’t summon or subpeona.

    Sen Neal Tapio has weighed in repeatedly as well as Senator Sutton. I am more aggressive as the investigative steps are old hat for me and I am confident in the propriety of their proper employment.

    Folks don’t need to take my word for it. Masons Manual for Legislative Procedure, the gold standard in the USA, and our own statute on summons and subpoenas point out their employment is perfuntory: https://twitter.com/senstacenelson/status/916717458727297024

  9. mike from iowa

    Accountability at the highest levels. Oversight at all levels, especially way on high. Legislators with the intestinal fortitude to seek the truth no matter where the chips may fall.

    How many of the murder/suicides could still be alive if the state took crime seriously?

  10. Mark Winegar

    We gave public input on corruption with IM-22 and they rejected the will of the people.

  11. I recently became a District 9 voter and know how I will vote to hold Ms. Peters accountable. For all the good that will probably do in the most gerrymandered state in the US! Sure hope the SCOTUS will find gerrymandering unconstitutional so we can eventually have fairly apportioned districts and our voices will finally be heard!!

  12. My opinion is that in order to truly fix the problem, you need to know exactly what happened. I don’t know if the state, especially the state republican party wants to know exactly what all happened.

    In order to fix the system you need to change how Pierre is ran, and I don’t know if you can do that. The problem with Pierre is no one really wants to move there, so you have the same people which has created a good ole boy network where everyone knows everyone.

    The problem tho is the voters of South Dakota who will continue to not hold these elected officials accountable.

  13. CLCJM, congrats on the move! Round up some of your new neighbors to vote the same way (and while you’re at it, beat the bushes for a strong Senate candidate to replace Peters!).

    Joe, we’ll keep trying. We have a candidate for governor who’s willing to move there. We can find candidates for AG, SOS, and 105 legislative seats to do the same. Then we just need you, CLCJM, and every other like-minded reader on this blog to spread the word to 100 friends!