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Time for MCEC’s Dan Guericke to Hold Joint Interview with Governor Daugaard?

In the latest sign of his shameless bondage to his party patrons, Pat Powers responds to the grim, unflattering KELO-TV interview of Governor Dennis Daugaard and Secretary of Education Melody Schopp by saying, “Look over there!”

Specifically, Powers attempts to deflect from his Dear Leader’s scandal-plagued administration and says we need to spend more time talking about the executive director of the Mid-Central Educational Cooperative, Dan Guericke.

Dan Guericke (photo from Rural Schools Collaborative)
Dan Guericke (photo from Rural Schools Collaborative)

While Pat’s post tells us nothing new (Pat only digs into the documents his GOP sources hand him, and you can bet those sources aren’t sharing anything on MCEC and GEAR UP), and while Pat has only rarely addressed one of the biggest news stories in the state this fall to offer political cover for his floundering GOP pals, he is correct that we need to look into Dan Guericke’s actions as head of MCEC. We need to know what Guericke said to MCEC business manager Scott Westerhuis on the phone during Westerhuis’s long drive home from Takini the evening of September 16 before Westerhuis got home and, according to the state’s narrative, killed his family, lit his house on fire, and killed himself. We should ask Guericke if—and if so when and why—he canceled Nicole Westerhuis’s cell phone contract and whether he intended to destroy the evidence that may have been recorded in the last voicemail sent to her phone at 2:57 a.m. the morning of her murder. We should make sure Guericke informed DCI about Westerhuis’s safety deposit box and handed the keys to that box to DCI agents. We should maybe even look into Guericke’s bus driver training company (good grief! Does everyone at Mid-Central moonlight?).

And if we need a grim laugh—or a sign that the state knows a hot potato when it sees one—we should note the Blue Ribbon K-12 panel’s conspicuous omission of Dan Guericke’s highly relevant testimony from their final report. (Maybe the state’s plan is not to mention Guericke… or maybe Pat’s post signals that his GOP minders are turning their sights on Guericke as the next fall guy.)

The press has tried to grill Guericke, but MCEC’s director has clammed up behind attorney Scott Swier. I e-mailed Guericke a month ago asking for a couple of missing financial reports and an explanation of $3.3 million in discrepancies between ending and beginning monthly balances. It took over a week and a repeated request for Guericke to pass my questions on to the lawyer and another three weeks for the lawyer to read public records law and send me the financials. I still have received no explanation from anyone at MCEC about the discrepancies (which with the two missing financial reports supplied by Swier now total $3.443 million over four years).

I would extend Rep. Lance Russell’s logic to Mid-Central: if Secretary Schopp should resign over the corruption of the GEAR UP grant, then co-op director Guericke should resign over GEAR UP and whatever other corruption occurred under his watch. Barring that, I would at least extend the logic of transparency: as a public official (and yes, educational cooperatives, as education service agencies, are public entities, creatures of statute funded by taxpayers), Guericke should be at the mic giving the public answers.

And if Guericke is nervous about facing tough questions, we can extend the state’s PR logic and have Governor Daugaard sit right next Guericke for the entire interview. As a matter of fact, let’s apply that condition to every conversation about GEAR UP: whether it’s the Attorney General trying to close the books with stories of a disappearing safe, Brian Wagner explaining why MCEC dropped his contract this week, Rick Melmer explaining why he left MCEC this summer before all heck broke loose, or both Wagner and Melmer explaining what value their six-figure consulting added for the American Indian kids GEAR UP is supposed to serve, let’s have Governor Daugaard right there beside them, grimacing through the entire interview and explaining his role as captain of this listing ship of state.


  1. mike from iowa 2015-11-14 07:59

    If memory serves-don’t make me go looking for this- someone said Westerhuis would not have been fired for losing the federal contract,why cancel Nicole’s cell phone contract?

    Why would the DCI not already have access to the safe deposit box( should have at least inquired about the existence of said box right away) unless the box was not registered in Westerhuis’ name? If it is Westerhuis’ box,why does Guericke have a key for it or know of its existence?

    Most of all,since federal money is/was involved,why aren’t the feds handling this investigation? It isn’t like no one is un-informed about shoddy investigations done by the State of South Dysfunction.

  2. Dave 2015-11-14 10:11

    Good Lord, I just look at PP’s post and was quickly reminded why I attempt to NOT read Dakota War College. This scandal has likely been going on for years, the ending of the contract and the subsequent tragic murders and fire happened two months ago, and Powers is acting like he’s just been informed of it all. “I was reading the latest article on the GEAR UP grant kerfuffle, and something struck me as odd …,” he writes. Thank you, Captain Obvious. Keep up the good work of keeping your readers bathed in blissful ignorance, Pat.

  3. 96Tears 2015-11-14 10:19

    As mike indicates, some very basic steps I’m pretty sure get taught to veteran police investigators were missed in this scam. The apparent result is a botched investigation and a mismanagement of core evidence.

    Imagine if the Attorney General discovers a drug smuggling ring as the result of a bust. The police within a few hours would immediately pounce on cell phone accounts and seize all banking records of any and all suspects. The day after the fire and shooting deaths of six people, it was clear there was a relationship between the violence and financial mismanagement and theft. An audit had long before identified probably illegal activities, and I don’t know why that wouldn’t send off red flags for the Attorney General. If you were assigned to investigate this, why would you move sooooooo slowly to capture phone accounts and the location of a safety deposit box? Jackley seems flat-footed and ham-fisted throughout this ordeal.

    Did anybody bother to collect cell phone and financial records and computers from Dan Guericke yet? I hate to ask the question, but …

  4. Roger Elgersma 2015-11-14 10:19

    I saw part of that interview to have the Reagan Teflon coating. Daugaard was quietly sitting there acting like Melody was informing him of how good an education secretary she was and he nodded affirmingly that she is wonderful and knows what she is doing. She apparently thought that we would think she had no clue what was happening even though the books suddenly started to balance in March 2014. They totally ignored the basic problem and were just trying to appear like good guys that had no clue of problems.

  5. larry kurtz 2015-11-14 10:23

    South Dakota’s chief executive is or all intents and purposes an autocrat.

    Recall Cory’s observation at Madville Times from March:

    South Dakota’s governor has exclusive control over the Future Fund, a pool of economic development cash funded by a portion of every South Dakota business’s unemployment taxes. Sometimes Governor Dennis Daugaard uses the Future Fund for good (if you think focusing on job skills over Shakespeare is good). Sometimes he uses it for pure corporate welfare. [Daugaard Donors Receive Future Fund Grants; First Amendment Prevents Fix?

  6. 96Tears 2015-11-14 10:37

    Roger, I had the same impression. Teflon gets used too freely with the press in South Dakota. The worst of the worst is the Sanford Leader staff. Is it because they are timid or are they protective of the power clique (because it might upset a couple fat cat advertisers)?

    And what power does Melody Schopp have over Dennis Daugaard?

    A scandal this horrid results in some heads rolling. The buck stops at the Governor’s desk, but how does Schopp elude being asked to resign when she was appointed to be the one person in charge of the department where it is well documented that fiscal hanky panky had gone unmonitored for so long? A competent Chief of Staff would have had this in grasp long ago, and Schopp would be gone. Instead, Daugaard goes before Angela Kennecke in a TV interview with Schopp. What’s that all about?

    You’ve got a great suggestion, Cory. If Daugaard is willing to sit in on the interview of one key player in this scandal, he’d better be available to also hold Dan Guericke’s hand, too.

  7. larry kurtz 2015-11-14 10:42

    The good news is that most self-respecting SDGOPers, except for Charlie Hoffman and Lee Schoenbeck, have abandoned DWC

  8. 96Tears 2015-11-14 10:58

    For more laughs, check out Seth Tupper’s RC Journal article with Daugaard. The Emperor is clueless.

    “I think that’s laughable to say that these events arose out of a consequence of one party having a larger representation in the political arena than the other,” Daugaard said. “I don’t know how one could lead from one to the other.”

  9. moses 2015-11-14 11:10


  10. leslie 2015-11-14 11:14

    whats not laughable in tupper’s article is failing to challenge daugaard’s 180 degree dissing of EB5 or any need for such funding in SD, LAST WEEK; while now daugaard is laughing off any connection to those murders, with his failures of 2-3 years or more of his administration’s oversight of MCEC knowing financial accounting fraud abounded.

    watch daugaard next week blame obama for USCIS’s aggressive notice of intent to terminate EB5 in SD.

  11. 90 Schilling 2015-11-14 11:15

    To say anything is laughable in regard to the scandals plaguing our state shows a man in need of urgent care.

    DD inherited a mess. I’m guessing he earned part of that inheritance.
    He’s damned sure done his part in the last five years to keep this sloppy corrupt ship treading water.

  12. mike from iowa 2015-11-14 11:29

    96 Tears-before I read the article,one must ask if Rapid City employs proofreaders or spell checkers for their headlines? That is funny to me.

    In regards to Daugaard and wingnuts being completely clueless-it doesn’t seem humanly possible unless they are willfully ignorant of what is going on. They have to know and choose to look the other way.

  13. 96Tears 2015-11-14 11:33

    Agreed, mike. Maybe they look at this not as the ship is sinking but that the horizon is moving up.

    And 90, I also wonder how tough Seth pursued Daugaard on the obvious. But the statement about one-party control is priceless! It’s as funny as the official SDGOP political talking points last year to keep Republicans out of trouble while the EB-5 volcano was blowing.

  14. mike from iowa 2015-11-14 11:38

    Daugaard told the AP that the state Department of Education and its top official appropriately handled the termination of a state contract with a Platte-based company that handled GEAR UP, a college-readiness program paid for by a federal grant.

    Hell yeah,Daugaard!! That is the one truth you uttered……but….. it is true only as far as you went. This shoulda-coulda-woulda happened years earlier if anyone was actually paying attention.

  15. mike from iowa 2015-11-14 11:45

    96-the horizon is moving up would certainly fit their narrative that they can’t see anything wrong.

  16. Jana 2015-11-14 15:38

    Sadly, I can see why the Gov, his son-in-law, PP and the rest are so sure that there is no corruption going on. They are only playing by the rules that they have made for themselves.

    Crony contracts, political patronage, obstructing transparency, an AG with an oath to politics that trumps justice, convenient scapegoats that are either dead or disposable, and profiting off of politics for profit system might seem corrupt to rational people, but to the GOP this is the business model.

    The GOP has become so comfortable with this incredible lack of ethics, a void of checks and balances that even Lee Schoenbeck’s ethics session will be a lesson on how not to be suspect or caught.


  17. 96Tears 2015-11-14 15:55

    Jana – I’ve thought for a while on the KELO and Seth Tupper interviews about what they say about Daugaard’s ethics and intelligence. I think you’re right about Daugaard et al. They can’t see their own corruption.

    DD is surrounded by people who tell him everyday how wonderful and courageous he is to be governor. He looks at his son-in-law chief of staff and thinks he must be a genius to keep things running. Nepotism at the top of state government isn’t a big deal. Mike Rounds did it. He looks at his daughter with her patronage job at Lawrence & Shill and thinks there’s nothing unkosher about that and the no bid contract L&S gets year after year.

    He looks at the SDGOP with a lock on politics and figures it’s because people agree with his personal view of the world. Those charges of deep corruption are just the opinions of people with bad attitudes.

    DD loves Jesus and thinks everything he sees on Fox News is right and we are all in a white Christian state inside a white Christian nation.

    That drives a man to proclaim something so stupid as he did to Seth Tupper.

    DD isn’t unethical because he doesn’t know differently. But he is the dumbest Governor I’ve ever witnessed.

  18. 96Tears 2015-11-14 16:42

    Thanks for posting, Larry. This confirms that Schopp knew of the sloppy records a long time ago and should have acted decisively to end the program’s stewardship much sooner. Incompetent oversight and management at the top.

  19. mike from iowa 2015-11-14 16:49

    Daugaard apparently has never heard of nor understood “checks and balances” unless it pertained to his personal finances. One party total rule just screams for out loud for oversight to prevent the mess wiingnuts have made of state gubmint.

    Still,as dumb as these right wing nut jobs act,it may be too late for simple civics lessons,unless they could be administered while all these present pols are guests at the “Crowbar Hotel” for long periods of time.

    Yes sir Daugaard-this is all on you gutless,conniving,corrupt politicians.

  20. Porter Lansing 2015-11-14 17:50

    SCHOENBECK …. beatable

  21. oldguy7850 2015-11-14 19:50

    CH keep up the great work. You make prefect sense with the questions you are asking. I get so tried of all the stone walling

  22. The King 2015-11-15 06:17
    Schopp: “We know from the recent evaluation, even though there were issues in the collection of the data that we have quantitative data and we have qualitative data and I know in talking directly and being part of those summer activities, we did make impacts with individual students. Now is it at the level we want? We’re going to find that any time you’re working with your 38 lowest achieving schools in the state, we’re going to have struggles.”

    First sentence: Is she speaking English?
    Last sentence: My blood is boiling! Good, quantitative assessment is colorblind. Miss Melody is blaming the poor recording of assessment data on the weak academic performance of the students. Twisted.

  23. Mark Hegge 2015-11-15 13:15

    the problem with this & a lot of articles is that it tries to say Republicans bad, Democrats good. If that were the case Chicago would be near heaven.
    The real problems don’t have a party name. Our government is too big & it is being run by bureaucrats who are not elected. Most activities that happen in government are handled by bureaucrats.
    If you want more democrats elected fine. Maybe they need to change their positions to be in line with the majority of voters. That won’t solve the problem. It will just put a different group in charge.

  24. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-11-15 13:38

    Mark, you’re right: corruption is corruption, regardless of who does it. Corruption should be a non-partisan issue: no one, of any party, should let it continue.

    With regards to MCEC, I want someone, anyone, to replace the folks in charge now and put a stop to robbing the taxpayers. You show me candidates who will do that, and I’ll say, “Good on them!”

    But consider: if you agree that corruption is taking place in South Dakota, and if you agree that the people in charge of South Dakota government are responsible for that corruption, and if you agree that those people need to be replaced, then who’s the first logical choice for replacements? I’d say it would be the people who aren’t in power. And in South Dakota, well, that happens to be Democrats.

    So Mark, can we look past our other disagreements and agree that it’s time to clean house and put new people in charge?

  25. Roger Cornelius 2015-11-15 19:17


    If I were to agree with your comments about corruption being non-partisan and if you agree with Cory’s comments above, I would have to ask, why haven’t any prominent Republicans stepped up to the plate and called out Daugaard and Jackley for EB-5, Gant, and Gear up scandals?

  26. leslie 2015-11-15 20:44

    Mark is sd govt too big are bureacrats in charge was benda joop scott westerhuis stacy phelps and four other employees and melmer mooris schoop and dan the mcec ceo bureacrat all just problem burecrats and the latest guy who is also a school superintendent too? Or is this the sdgop? Worthy of impartial investigation thou right?

  27. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-11-15 22:55

    And King, you’re right: Schopp totally avoided that question. The question is not whether we are working with low-achieving schools. We know that. The question is whether we are seeing any improvements at those low-achieving schools and whether GEAR UP is having any impact that we don’t see at schools not participating in GEAR UP.

    Note that the article Larry posts reminds us that MCEC ran GEAR UP since 2005. How did DOE not notice MCEC’s incompetence until 2012? And how did we not go get solid evaluation data until 2015?

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