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Mid-Central Seeks $2M from Westerhuis Estate, Still Receiving GEAR UP Cash

Just how incompetent was the accounting that Secretary of Education Melody Schopp let continue at Mid-Central Educational Cooperative with no firmer response than “technical support”?

Possibly incompetent to the tune of two million dollars:

A Platte-based educational cooperative thrust into the spotlight after authorities said its business manager killed his wife and kids, set the family home ablaze and killed himself has filed a $2 million claim against the man’s estate.

Mid-Central Educational Cooperative officials filed the claim this month, saying there’s a reasonable probability that Scott Westerhuis may have improperly misappropriated funds from the co-op [“Educational Co-Op Files $2M Claim Against Former Manager,” AP via KSFY-TV, 2016.02.18].

Nice to see Mid-Central took my advice on behalf of the taxpayers.

Hmmm… Westerhuis burned up his expensive house; the big gym/office complex that survived his arson is valued at $900,000… how much more estate did Westerhuis leave against which Mid-Central might file this two-million-dollar claim? Westerhuis didn’t have his name on some land out in the Hills, did he?

Recall that, from June 2011 through March 2014, Mid-Central financial reports show month-to-month discrepancies from ending balance to beginning balance totaling $3.44 million. Is $2 million just the portion Mid-Central thinks it might reclaim from the ashes of Westerhuis’s folly… or will Mid-Central drop another seven-figure shoe on another GEAR UP player?

The state continues to restore its favor with Mid-Central. After handing Mid-Central a $4,200 contract in January to fiddle with some curriculum standards, the Department of Education has apparently added $32,823 to Mid-Central’s contract to run the Indian Education Summit (see the February 11, 2016, minutes).

Mid-Central ended January with more cash in the bank: it climbed from its record low $43K ending balance in December to $131K at the end of January. Mid-Central actually would have been broke had it not been for one important January receipt:

Mid-Central Educational Cooperative, cash receipts, January 2016, reported in minutes, 2016.02.11.
Mid-Central Educational Cooperative, cash receipts, January 2016, reported in minutes, 2016.02.11.

Four months after finally losing the multi-million-dollar GEAR UP contract, Mid-Central reports receiving $158,638 in GEAR UP money. Mid-Central wrote checks to GE Capital for a $355.12 GEAR UP copier lease, to the SDDOE for a $719.20 GEAR UP reimbursement, and to Seaton Publishing Company, owner of the Black Hills Pioneer, $28,044 for GEAR UP planner printing.


  1. rsterling 2016-02-18

    There also should be a claw back of all the conflict of interest money that went to all the Gov’s cronies like Melmer, Graves, etc. etc.

  2. Rorschach 2016-02-18

    Mid Central is finding out what Marty Jackley and Governor Daugaard already know with EB-5. It’s hard to play it off like nothing happened and still try to get the money back.

    How can Melody Schopp still be running the Department of Education? These missing millions $$ are federal money overseen by her department. When are the feds going to lower the boom on this mafia-style one-party government of ours?

  3. 90 Schilling 2016-02-18

    Usually that comes when convicted of crimes, which probably will never happen, sterling.

  4. Roger Cornelius 2016-02-18

    What needs to happen here Is for the South Dakota Sioux Tribes on behalf of Native American students to file a suit or claim against the state, Gear Up, Mid Central and all the cronies that received cash meant for Native students.

  5. leslie 2016-02-19

    were there any kind of valid insurance buy-outs that were on westerhuis’ lives or property? Who is the probate judge? shouldn’t the state be getting ahead of MCEC in the line for westerhuis assets? is any body home at jackley’s office or the states attorney’s office in Platte (if that’s the seat)?

    will jackley delay his fraud/theft/embezzlement investigation conclusion until after the election like the GOP will do to Obama’s SCOTUS appointment(s)? Shouldn’t the residents of Platte be demanding monthly updates? Can dem congressional officers start screaming for an independent investigation this session?

    has USCIS had any luck exposing fraud/theft/embezzlement/accessory activity by joop/sveen/rounds/Regents/GOAC/tidemann/daugaard/GOED?

    is the state really capable of enforcing the law against internal white collar republican criminals?

  6. 96Tears 2016-02-19

    What kind of man was Scott Westerhuis? What were his thoughts when he was cut off from his funding source and responded by torching his high end properties, killed his wife and his children and ended his own life? Rage was involved, but at whom?

    This thought struck me while reading your post, Cory, because I wonder why Scott W thought it was okay to fleece a federal program, okay to keep sloppy records and okay to live high above his means in plain view. I wonder what Scott was thinking since 2013 when he saw that Joop Bollen was doing the same thing fleecing millions, creating a private enterprise out of a state agency, signing a no-bid contract that Bollen himself created, and got away with all of it with the silent consent of Attorney General Martin Jackley.

    What makes Joop Bollen so special that he could fleece millions and Scott Westerhuis couldn’t?

    What kind of Governors can exist where people like Joop Bollen and Scott Westerhuis can fleece money so boldly? Why does the culture of lawlessness and theft exist and flourish unabetted and unnoticed outside state government until someone does something so spectacular like killing himself?

    If indeed Marty Jackley’s pending arrest of Richard Benda inspired Benda’s suicide out of fear and/or embarrassment, what pushed Westerhuis’ button for a far greater rage? Fear and shame of being found out? Or anger at having once felt so entitled to rake hundreds of thousands for himself and political pals from federal programs, and then being cut off after so many months of audits and footdragging?

    I think it says a lot about the culture in the Rounds and Daugaard administrations, and it makes me wonder how many other Westerhuis, Benda and Bollen types are out there fleecing away unchecked.

  7. Francis Schaffer 2016-02-19

    So what happens when the Federal Government files suit against the state of South Dakota? How can Mid Central file a suit against the estate of Scott? Was a crime committed? Where is that evidence? I wonder if anyone has filed FOIA request with the Federal Government over Gear Up?

  8. Joe 2016-02-19

    I’m not a probate lawyer, and I understand that is a very confusing side of the law.

    And I agree that it was probably the right thing to do, to put in this request, but honestly can they expect a dime if their audit says everything was fine?

  9. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-02-19

    Joe, remember, the Eide Bailly audit only said that checks written matched up with records kept on GEAR UP. It did not cover all of MCEC’s finances. It said nothing about the misaligned ending and beginning balances. Westerhuis’s fiscal malfeasance may have gone beyond GEAR UP.

  10. Oldhag 2016-02-19

    “Westerhuis’s fiscal malfeasance may have gone beyond GEAR UP.” Then Why is Dan Guericke getting to retire without first being fired? Why has the board continued to support him? If he had done his job, 2 employees would still be alive and 4 innocent children!

    He is the one who is maleficent! It seems highly likely Guericke used information from that last lengthy conversation he had with Scott while he was driving home to kill his wife and kids and self and burn his house down. How is Guericke not at least complicit?

  11. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-02-19

    Some guys know when to hit the eject button.

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