Angela Kennecke gets the scoop and adds Kelly Duncan to the list of GOP cronies milking the state for six-figure moonlighting windfalls.
I reported last week that longtime state Board of Education member Duncan got $51,000 in federal College Access grant money from June 2011 through December 2012 via the Department of Education’s money laundry machine Mid-Central Educational Cooperative. KELO-TV’s Kennecke caught up with Duncan for a terse, evasive interview on Monday.
Now Kennecke finds some more evasion. In 2013, Mid-Central stopped writing College Access checks to Duncan and started writing them to Dakota Plains Consulting LLC, which Duncan incorporated in June 2012. Mid-Central wrote Duncan’s consulting firm two $12,500 checks, in March and June 2013.
Kennecke also finds Dakota Plains Consulting pulling down a 2014–2015 contract with the Department of Education (See Contract 2015C-110) to train teachers and administrators in data analysis. This contract was worth $40,000, safely below the $50K threshold that would have required the DOE to put this contract up for bid. The contract indicates Duncan would split this part-time work with then-fellow USD counseling professor Gerta Bardhoshi, who now works for the University of Iowa.
Dakota Plains Consulting has also offered data assessment services to public school districts like West Central, which paid Duncan’s firm $1,055.55 in November 2014, and bookkeeping and accounting services under contract to the South Dakota Counseling Association in FY2015.
$51K, $25K, $40K… that’s $116,000. If Bardhoshi got a 50% cut of the DOE contract, Duncan didn’t quite make six figures to join the Melmer–Moore–Graves club. But $96K is still a nice private capitalization of connections to South Dakota’s public education establishment.
Kennecke asks the obvious question of conflict of interest and hears the standard line from the Department of Education:
The South Dakota Department of Education replied by email that it’s allowed because the board doesn’t approve or oversee Department of Education staff, expenditures or contracts.
The email also says she wasn’t given any favoritism because of her role on the board and that, “Dr. Duncan has significant knowledge, expertise and experience in developing and delivering training and using educational data to inform instruction and school leadership. That qualifies her to do this work, and it also makes her a good board member” [Angela Kennecke, “Board Of Education Member Also Has Contract with Dept. of Ed,” KELO-TV, 2015.11.18].
The organization relationship of the Board of Education and the Department of Education seems fuzzy. Expect attentive legislators to propose clarifying that relationship during the 2016 Session.