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  • Auditor General Briefs GOAC on Mid-Central/GEAR UP Tuesday; Nelson Demanding Answers from Schoenfish

    Correction/Update 16:11 CDT: Auditor General Marty Gunidon e-mailed me to correct my original report. He will not be presenting his final report on Mid-Central/GEAR UP on Tuesday. He is appearing before the Government Operations and Audit Committee to brief new members of the committee on “the timeline and nature of the work we have conducted regarding the Department of Education, Mid Central Education Cooperative and related parties and the status of where we are with the reports.  I will not be discussing the reports or the findings contained in those reports at Tuesday’s meeting as they are not yet ready for release.”

    I regret the error and have amended the headline to reflect Auditor General Guindon’s statement. I apparently misread Mercer’s statement, “Come this Tuesday, he presents his report to the Legislature’s Government Operations and Audit Committee” to mean Guindon would present his final report rather than a version of the briefing he presented to the Legislative Executive Board this week. Even absent a final report, expect Senator Nelson to seek an opportunity to ask some hard questions.

    I leave the original text of my post below, with new italics to reflect my erroneous statements.

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    Bob Mercer notes that the Department of Legislative Audit will present a much-anticipated Special Review Report on the Mid-Central Educational Cooperative’s mishandling of the GEAR UP grant to the Government Operations and Audit Committee next Tuesday. This week Guindon told the Legislative Executive Board that he has “one interview left” before Tuesday’s report.

    GOAC has a full agenda Tuesday, with the annual state budget audit, brand board, telecommunications assistance for disabled folks, and non-meandered waters all before lunch and the Mid-Central discussion after lunch, followed by Bureau of Human Resources issues. But expect at least one GOAC member, Senator Stace Nelson, to seek extended discussion on Mid-Central. As South Dacola notes, Senator Nelson continues to hammer his Republican District 19 colleague Rep. Kyle Schoenfish, in very direct and personal language, for dodging questions about his accounting firm’s involvement in the GEAR UP scandal:

    There have been significant concerns and questions expressed by voters in our district, by other legislators, and even KELO’s Angela Kennecke in a news story, regarding our district Rep. Kyle Schoenfish’s reported involvement in the auditing of certain entities at the center of this scandal. On Jan. 31, I officially forwarded those questions to Rep. Schoenfish. He responded on Feb. 4 stating the questions were “..fairly easy to address.” Despite that statement, to date he has refused to provide answers to those questions asked by Kennecke and others. Additionally, Rep. Schoenfish failed to show up for two of our district’s five cracker barrels (legislative forums), one in Corsica on Feb. 16, and the other in his hometown of Scotland on March 11. He now claims repeatedly in his articles to our local papers that he has been “attacked” by “dishonest politicians and people” and claims to be a victim of “meritless political attacks.”

    Rep. Schoenfish is being “attacked” by his own record and the ugly appearance that comes from avoiding answering questions that the public has a right to have answered. In regards to his missing or avoiding cracker barrels, if I as a husband, daddy, grandfather, small Sioux Falls business manager, hobby farmer and busted-up old Marine can make time to meet my obligations and drive several hours to attend the voters’ cracker barrels to be answerable to you, I expect a young, single man living at home and working for his father to make time for the responsibilities he knowingly signed on to (and got paid for), or to resign if he is unwilling to do so [Sen. Stace Nelson, “Facing Corruption; Facing the Voters,” Yankton Press & Dakotan, 2017.04.17].

    If Senator Nelson uses Tuesday’s Mid-Central discussion to continue his vengeful assault on Rep. Schoenfish, he may not find back-up on the committee. Six of the seven other Republicans on the committee are reliable GOP mainstreamers who seem inclined to avoid in-caucus attacks on committee time; the seventh, Senator Neal Tapio, is too busy dreaming of federal office to pay attention to Nelson, Schoenfish, or GEAR UP. If Nelson turns to the two Democrats on GOAC, he’ll find Rep. Susan Wismer likely focusing her sharp accountant’s mind on the numbers, not the names, and Senator Billie Sutton balancing his duty to his District 21, where GEAR UP blew up, with his urge to moderation (and possibly the need to finish his McGovern Day speech announcing his run for Governor).

    Senator Nelson’s tough questions are a side reason to tune in to GOAC on Tuesday, April 25. The main reason is to listen to Auditor General Marty Guindon and read his report on what he has found in the dark, twisted accounts of the Mid-Central Educational Cooperative.