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Ellis Finds Curd, Solano, Romkema Violating Pitts Rule on Legislator Conflicts of Interest

If Rep. Mark Mickelson were serious about tackling corruption, he’d look at his seatmates and say, “Hey, fellas, really?” Jonathan Ellis finds three Republican legislators—Senator R. Blake Curd of Sioux Falls, Senator Alan Solano of Rapid City, and Rep. Fred Romkema of Spearfish—who appear to be holding their seats and private-sector jobs with interests in state contracts, in violation of Article 3, Section 12 of the South Dakota Constitution.

Notice that two of these legislators were appointed to their seats by Governor Dennis Daugaard.

Senator Curd owns Sioux Falls Specialty Hospital, which got a contract with the state in 2014, the same year Curd turned his gubernatorial favor into an election victory. Senator Curd says he’s not violating the Constitution; the state Supreme Court would say Senator Curd is wrong:

“I was not involved in the negotiations of this contract,” he said. “I am not sure of the exact time frame of these negotiations, but it was well before I became the CEO and possibly before I was appointed as a state senator. The contract was never enforced to the benefit of the hospital for a variety of reasons.”

He added that the contract was negotiated by the Bureau of Personnel and was never explicitly authorized by the Legislature.

But funding for the contract was included in the general appropriations bill enacted by the Legislature, and the South Dakota Supreme Court has ruled that contracts funded from the general appropriations bill still constitute a conflict [Jonathan Ellis, “Lawmakers Flirt with Prohibition on Conflicts,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2016.01.11].

Attorney General Marty Jackley says he has no business enforcing that prohibition, since Article 3 Section 9 says it’s up to each chamber of the Legislature to decide whether members are qualified to serve or not. AG Jackley’s demurral smells of political convenience: in 2001, when Republican rookie Carol Pitts held a House seat and worked for SDSU Extension, Republican Attorney General Mark Barnett decided her qualification for office was his business, secured a state Supreme Court ruling holding up her state paycheck, charged Pitts with the same conflict when a food service company she worked for got a state contract, and ultimately forced Pitts to resign. Has AG Jackley forgotten precedent, or does he just not want to take on two of the Governor’s favorites and powerful veteran legislator Romkema?

Rep. Mickelson exempted legislators from his tepid Benda-Bollen bill last year on the claim that current law was enough to prevent legislators from engaging in conflicts of interest. Rep. Mickelson was apparently wrong.


  1. leslie 2016-01-12 09:15

    Fascinating case law cory. We do have ethics for state emplyees like El Joopo! Wonder if jackley is a demurral?

  2. mike from iowa 2016-01-12 10:50

    demurral Jackley paints is true artistry in motion.

    But doggone me,anyone know if Curd got fined for allowing his vicious dogs to eat some lady’s arm and attack a police officer?

  3. larry kurtz 2016-01-13 06:55

    Denny took a veiled shot at Fred Romkema and Black Hills Special Services yesterday during the SOTS_R_US speech. Think heads will roll?

  4. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-01-13 09:56

    Which was the shot at Fred, the mention of corruption outside state govt?

  5. larry kurtz 2016-01-13 10:02

    Sounded like that to me, Cory. Black Hills Special Services seems like the next shoe to drop.

  6. larry kurtz 2016-01-13 10:37

    Maybe a probe there would be a way to divert attention from the governor’s relationship with the Children’s Home Society so far escaping the ethics sunlight. Pierre’s mycelium grows under the entire state: unseen and insidious.

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-01-13 11:02

    Hold on: Romkema’s not involved in Black Hills Special Services Cooperative and TIE, is he? He ran Northern Hills Training Center, and it seems like there’s some other publci service board he’s big on, but BHSSC and TIE are separate creatures. Am I missing something?

  8. larry kurtz 2016-01-13 12:11

    i’m still digging for something concrete, cory.

  9. mikeyc, that's me! 2016-01-13 12:26

    Who’s on suicide watch next?

  10. John 2016-01-13 19:58

    Maybe now the deniers of SD government corruption will look in the mirror AND open their eyes. We can hope.

  11. leslie 2016-01-13 22:09

    State auditor directed by guv has discretion to comb for conflicts? Again dd’s watch. That sf Argus Found These Three After A Leak Means Dd Is Taking Focus Off His Lapse AND Swaying Public That IM#– is unneccesary. Last Years EB5 LEAK PLUGGED BY DD!! (ACCORDING TO HIS US IMMIGRATION DEFENSE LAWYER, plausibly:) cost: romenka, ect.

  12. grudznick 2016-01-13 22:17

    Mr. H always ignores this, which Mr. kurtz finds interesting, but the State auditor who is directed by the Governor has a close tie to the law firm representing Mr. Bollen. Why does this blog not want to dig into that pile of turd? Is it because it is Aberdonians involved and there might be more ties, hitting closer to the libbie heart of the matter? Meetings at Parker’s Bistro?

  13. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-01-14 07:01

    Mr. Sattgast? Please, Grudz, more details.

  14. Bobby Kolbe 2016-01-14 13:16

    If it looks bad
    If it sounds bad
    If it smells bad
    Then we need to have individuals
    Absent them selves from acting on any legislation! Or receiving benefits from their legislation.
    Any one of the “Bads” above should disqualify a person from acting on Legislation

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