During its conference call today, the Government Operations and Audit Committee will discuss a sixteen-page draft of its annual report. Discussion of the GEAR UP/Mid-Central scandal, which dominated GOAC’s time this year, is buried at the bottom. The draft report recites the Department of Legislative Audit’s eight findings of misconduct by Mid-Central and says zip about any possible errors by the Department of Education.
The Committee had numerous questions about the reports over the course of the interim period. In addition, the Committee questioned various employees and former employees of the SDDOE, past MCEC Governing Board Chairs, past GEAR UP Advisory Board members, the independent public accounting firm’s partner in-charge of the MCEC audits prior to FY15, and the Attorney General. The Attorney General provided an update on the pending criminal charges filed against three former MCEC employees. At this time, the courts have not set trial dates. Based upon the Committee’s review of the DLA reports and answers provided from additional Committee questions, the Committee drafted legislation for consideration during the 2018 Session [draft 2017 report, GOAC, 2017.10.30, p. 16].
Farther up in the report, GOAC writes a reminder of its leadership’s conveniently limited interpretation of its subpoena power:
Legal Counsel from Legislative Research Council (LRC) described the Committee’s investigative authority as granted to the Committee by the Legislature. LRC referred the Committee to South Dakota Codified Laws 2-6-2, 2-6-4, and 2-7-6. LRC explained the Committee can summons any department, institution, board, or agency of the State for the purpose of enacting, amending, or repealing legislation. The investigatory authority of the Committee is limited to the determination of public policy. LRC cautioned the Committee, in the process of exercising their authority, that investigations relate to public policy and not criminal or civil matters. A question was raised about the authority of the Committee to summons local government board members and individuals from private entities. LRC believed the Committee could invite these individuals to testify, however, a summons to appear would most likely be challenged in court. The Attorney General agreed with LRC’s legal opinion on this question and believed the statutes have limitations beyond departments, institutions, boards, or agencies of the State [draft 2017 report, GOAC, 2017.10.30, p. 5].
Note that GOAC’s draft does not explicitly say it lacks the power to subpoena private entities contracted by the state, a power Senator Stace Nelson and I have argued GOAC does indeed have. GOAC only asserts that they would likely taken to court if they tried to demand answers from anyone other than state employees. And heck, in making no fuss over Secretary Schopp’s refusal to answer more questions about GEAR UP, GOAC has surrendered the Legislature’s authority to the Executive branch, so why bother subpoenaing anyone?
GOAC clearly wants to bury GEAR UP and get back to the kumbayah of the Pierre/GOP establishment.