Press "Enter" to skip to content

Mickelson Proposing Expansion of Tepid Benda-Bollen Law to Check Local Corruption

Rep. Mark Mickelson (R-13/Sioux Falls) is feeling the GEAR UP heat. He must perceive enough rile-up among voters about corruption to move him to propose anti-corruption legislation. Having led the Legislature’s tepid response to the GOED/EB-5 scandal last year with the Benda-Bollen law, Rep. Mickelson wants to extend that tepid response to local governments and boards:

Mickelson sponsored a bill last year that made it illegal for state employees to oversee contracts in which they have a direct financial interest. It also required public disclosure by employees who might have a perceived conflict.

But the bill only applied to state officials. Mickelson said that in the wake of what happened in Platte, the same requirements should apply to local governments and government boards [Jonathan Ellis, “GEAR UP Scandal Spurs Anti-Corruption Bill,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2016.01.09].

The Benda-Bollen law is tepid because it still only slaps corrupt malfeasants with misdemeanor penalties, and it allows the Governor to waive the prohibitions on self-dealing. You don’t beat corruption by empowering corrupt leaders to excuse corruption. You beat corruption by improving oversight and transparency, making sure every contract is fairly bid and published, and then rigorously and publicly documenting the performance of every contractor.

Rep. Mickelson’s response is also a distraction: the problem here is not that local entities like Mid-Central Educational Cooperative are corrupt. Rep. Mickelson wants to shift attention away from Pierre, which owns the GEAR UP problem. Former Secretary of Education Rick Melmer shunted the GEAR UP money to a little educational cooperative back where he grew up in Charles Mix County. Rick Melmer then proceeded to make a tub of money moonlighting for that cooperative. Current Secretary of Education Melody Schopp knew Mid-Central was running GEAR UP incompetently but let them keep mishandling millions in federal GEAR UP dollars for three years before shifting the program to the Board of Regents (you remember, the folks who ran EB-5 in fire-and-forget mode and thus let the EB-5 corruption blossom at NSU). Like EB-5, GEAR UP’s corruption began in Pierre, in state government; legislators fighting corruption need to take on state government.

Rep. Mickelson’s proposal won’t hurt, but it won’t get at the root of the problem. If Rep. Mickelson is serious about tackling corruption, he’ll support Initiated Measure 22, the Anti-Corruption Act, with which we voters can create an independent ethics commission to really romp-and-stomp on corruption in state government. Rep. Peggy Gibson proposed an ethics commission during the 2015 Session, but Rep. Mickelson voted against it, saying that going that far to fight corruption is “an unnecessary step.”


  1. John 2016-01-12 08:03

    Well, Hello McFly! and Representative Mickelson!! Instead of “biffing” us with your second coat of wax – just support the Anti Corruption Act Initiated Measure 22 and an ethics commission.

  2. leslie 2016-01-12 20:10

    Really good comments cory. And john, good info. Daugaad’s SOS address today at least touched the people of Platte. We have a LONG way to go. I don’t trust his intention here or medicaid exp./IHS condition, nor his Deep Borehole and Regents charades.

  3. leslie 2016-01-13 22:20

    Remember USICS is breathing down the state’s NECK (ROUNDS- DEFUND THEM!! :) and Special Counsel Is Researching The sheit Out Of Dd’s Defense so They All Are Taking Steps Now To Sanitize.

  4. Bobby Kolbe 2016-01-14 13:33

    We any one looks into a mirror they see only one side of themselves
    When those of us who stand a bit behind and off to one side WE see both side of the person looking in the mirror.
    That person looking at themselves sees what is there and can justify (rationalize ) what they see. The rest of us see both sides of that individual and don’t Justify what we see. Unle$$ there i$ $ome
    con$ideration that come$ to tho$e who choo$e to ju$tify a mi$ repre$entation.
    But then what do I know.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.