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Minnehaha Treasurer Candidate Lives in Lincoln, Lies on Petition

The Watertown City Council is more inclined to take petition enforcement into its own hands than the Minnehaha County Auditor’s Office.

As Jonathan Ellis reported last week, Marlin Schlenker is running for Minnehaha County Treasurer. His candidacy is noteworthy for multiple reasons:

  1. Schlenker’s running against his aunt-in-law and boss, incumbent treasurer Pam Nelson.
  2. Schlenker and his wife Sondee filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy last May to get out of $195,765.74, most of that associated with Sondee’s business, consignment shop Resale Living. Hmm… Minnehaha County, do you want a guy who couldn’t keep his own books balanced managing your public treasury?
  3. Schlenker lives in Lincoln County—not by much, just a block south of 57th Street, the in-town county line between Lincoln and Minnehaha.

Now Schlenker’s residency doesn’t create a legal problem with running for office: no law requires the county treasurer to live in the county she or he treasures. But Minnehaha County resident Debra Elofson raised an issue to Minnehaha County Auditor Bob Litz about Schlenker’s nominating petition, on which he says he lives in Minnehaha County:

Marlin Schlenker, petition header, taken out January 22, 2016, filed March 3, 2016.
Marlin Schlenker, petition header, taken out January 22, 2016, filed March 3, 2016.

Schlenker says on his petition that he is a resident of Minnehaha County, even though neither his apartment nor his voter registration are in Minnehaha County.

In her March 29 letter to Auditor Litz, Elofson does not ask for Schlenker to be thrown off the ballot; she merely contends that Schlenker misrepresented himself to the voters and petition signers and asks Auditor Litz “how you may proceed in resolving” that misrepresentation. In an April 4 letter, Auditor Litz responds that his office cannot act on that issue with regard to the petition, because (1) the South Dakota Supreme Court has never ruled on “whether an erroneous designation of a county of current residence in the heading of an otherwise sufficient petition renders the petitions invalid, and (2) substantiating the error requires the auditor to look up from the petition and check a map:

Minnehaha County Auditor Bob Litz, letter, 2016.04.04.
Minnehaha County Auditor Bob Litz, letter, 2016.04.04.

Auditor Litz thus takes the opposite position of the Watertown City Council, which Monday rejected a petition after taking under advisement extrinsic evidence which is not apparent on the face of the petition.

But even if any interested Minnehaha County voter took the petition to court, the argument would be harder to win than, say, the convictions of Annette Bosworth and Chad Haber for false statements on petitions. Technically, Schlenker’s misrepresentation of residence does not occur in his sworn Declaration of Candidacy; it occurs above, in the nominating statement the voters are endorsing. That statement bears no notary stamp, so Schlenker can’t be busted for perjury.

But let’s back up to an election integrity position. Marlin Schlenker made a false statement on a petition to gain access to the ballot. He told voters he lives in Minnehaha County, when in fact he does not live or vote in Minnehaha County. Now sure, the very next line of the petition heading gives his actual address, and any connected petition signer could look that address up and see that it lies in Lincoln County. Interested voters can now also read the Ellis article and see Schlenker explaining that, yes, he lives in Lincoln County but he plans to move back across the border into Minnehaha Sioux Falls within the next six months. But without taking under advisement extrinsic evidence, petition signers must take the petition at face value, and on face, Marlin Schlenker’s petition opens with a false statement, made knowingly by the petitioner.

And when petitioners lie to us, we ought to be skeptical.


  1. 96Tears 2016-04-07 07:41

    Being a county auditor requires you get the details straight. Right? If you get it wrong on your petition which county you live in …

    Nelson should hope Schlenker doesn’t drop out of the race.

  2. Rorschach 2016-04-07 07:52

    If he’s already schlenking around and making schlenky claims what’s Schlenker going to do if he gets into office?

  3. 96Tears 2016-04-07 08:07

    I reckon he’ll keep on schlenkin’.

  4. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-04-07 09:00

    96, Ror, do you guys have any sense of how Schlenker stacks up against his GOP primary opponent Kris Swanson (who most definitely lives in Minnehaha County, a mile north of Crooks)? Who’s more qualified to be treasurer?

  5. Rorschach 2016-04-07 09:12

    Pam Nelson has done a fine job and deserves to be re-elected over either opponent.

  6. leslie 2016-04-07 09:18

    Supreme court case interpreting ARSD. now that’s the way u do it, cory. btw, practicing law w/o a license is illegal.

    wow, was that joyce Hazeltine in the 1933 case, or a relative? kim davis’ son works in the Carolina auditors office, doesn’t he? no standing up to jesus in the usa!! :)


  7. mike from iowa 2016-04-07 09:50

    cory. btw, practicing law w/o a license is illegal.

    Maybe you should chisel this on Jackley’s forehead and then remind him of Bollen’s attempt to represent SD in court.

  8. Darin Larson 2016-04-07 10:06

    When you don’t have the authority to act on behalf of the State of South Dakota in court, it is fraudulent to do so. His response to the lawsuit would probably be considered to be made under oath and I don’t know how he doesn’t violate his oath under the false pretenses that he filed his pleadings.

    With his fraudulent conduct impersonating state authority in another state which was probably part of his cover-up, coupled with the crimes he is charged in SD, if they can prove a conspiracy with Benda, it would seem to be a RICO violation under federal law at the very least.

  9. Darin Larson 2016-04-07 10:07

    Sorry, I posted in the wrong thread. I was talking about the Bollen thread.

  10. PlanningStudent 2016-04-07 10:26

    You don’t have to live in a county to be an elected official for that county. By county official i mean everyone except county commissioner, commissioners do have a residency requirement. So, sheriff, auditor, treasurer, corner, register of deeds, states attorney… You can second guess me on this but I’m next to positive unless the law has change recently that I’m right.

    So when you say CAH: “But let’s back up to an election integrity position. Marlin Schlenker made a false statement on a petition to gain access to the ballot.”

    He didn’t lie in order to gain ballot access because his county had nothing to do with ballot access.

  11. PlanningStudent 2016-04-07 10:42

    My proof is the pudding, I mean petition. Where it states; “…and if I am a legislative or COUNTY COMMISSION candidate I reside in the district from which I am a candidate.”

    By omission that line clearly shows residency is not a requirement for any offices that uses this same petition other than legislative or county commission

  12. Stumcfar 2016-04-07 13:08

    So someone who is down on their luck in a business or made bad decisions is made fun of by you and should not receive help, but you argue continually for welfare and help for individuals that have made bad decisions. I see a little hypocrisy in your beliefs.

  13. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-04-07 13:17

    Planning, legally, you’re correct: I don’t need to say I’m from Minnehaha County to run for a Minnehaha County position (consider: if I don’t like serving the Legislature, I could run for Minnehaha County treasurer and still live in Aberdeen).

    But practically, Schlenker told a lie on the document he used to gain access to the ballot. Why would he write “Minnehaha” on that line? He knows full well he doesn’t live in Minnehaha (he’s registered to vote in Lincoln), so he didn’t just make a mistake. The only other reason to write “Minnehaha” on that line is to say to the voters signing the petition, “See? I’m from your county. Help me, a fellow Minnehahan, get on your ballot.” That’s what I mean about lying to get access to the ballot: lying to persuade signers to sign.

  14. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-04-07 13:22

    No, Stu, you don’t see hypocrisy. You see a word game to play barroom brawl with.

    Guy goes bankrupt. Guy wants to be in charge of the county’s money. Putting those two facts together and asking whether that’s a good combo is perfectly valid and casts no aspersions on any social assistance program.

    Notice that, contrary to what Stu alleges, I did not make fun of Schlenker for going bankrupt—rather, I asked a serious question. I did not say Schlenker should not have received help in the form of bankruptcy protection for whatever misfortune befell him.

    As seems to happen often, Stu is arguing against some figment of his imagination, not anything that anyone actually said.

  15. Stumcfar 2016-04-07 13:32

    No, you put the guy down for filing bankruptcy. Because of that mistake he is unfit, but you have argued against me in the past that people need help who have made mistakes. You are a second chance guy for bad mistake individuals. I too would not want a person who has filed for bankruptcy in charge of public funds, but I am a Republican and can feel that way, but you sir who hold yourself to such a high degree of dogooderness, should be a bit more compassionate!

  16. Monty 2016-04-07 13:33

    When the Board of Elections and SOS developed the petitions, did they intend a line of demarcation between the “Nominating Petition For Partisan Elections” and “Declaration Of Candidacy” which allows candidates to make false statements on the top of the petition in the Partisan Election section above the line, but false statements below the line in the Declaration section to be cause for rejecting a petition or prosecution for making a false statement on a government document.

    Planning student: Schlenker didn’t have to lie to gain access to the ballot, but he chose to do so anyway. If he had written his true address of Lincoln in the top section of the petition, rather that listing the false
    Minnehaha, this blog conversation wouldn’t exist.

  17. Rorschach 2016-04-07 13:37

    Yes, it’s relevant that Mr. Schlenker claimed on his petition to live in Minnehaha County knowing full well that he lives in Lincoln County. Who doesn’t know what county they live in!? It’s a lie. Not actionable as perjury. Won’t get him kicked off the ballot. But clear evidence of dishonesty.

    Yes it’s relevant that Mr. Schlenker has declared bankruptcy and now he wants to be the Minnehaha County Treasurer. No, Cory didn’t make fun of him.

    If Mr. Schlenker first gets by his primary opponent, he will then have to explain the above things to the satisfaction of all Minnehaha county voters, but he’ll also have to explain why he’s running for election against a relative by marriage who gave him a job that put food on his table when he was down and out. Then he’ll have to overcome doubts that he will be a better treasurer than the existing proven treasurer given all of the question marks I’ve highlighted.

  18. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-04-07 13:37

    Now you’re changing your words, Stu. You said I was making fun. I wasn’t making fun. Now you change your accusation to “put the guy down”. I stated a fact: he filed for bankruptcy. You even agree with the point I’m making, that putting a person who has filed for bankruptcy in charge of millions of public dollars (hey, how big is the Minnehaha County budget?). What you call a lack of compassion goes no further than making the specific point with which you agree. You’re just throwing punches at me personally hoping to enjoy some blood, not offering any intelligent question or comment on the topic at hand.

    Yet I keep giving you second chances to come back to the comment section and say something intelligent. Darned bleeding heart liberals.

  19. mike from iowa 2016-04-07 13:46

    Stumpy,how the hell do you know Mr. Schlenker’s motive? It could just as easily been a Drumpf type decision to bail on debt and start anew. Kenny boy Lay did much the same thing to protect his assets after he ran Enron off a cliff.

  20. PlanningStudent 2016-04-07 14:13

    I’ve looked over hundreds of nominating petitions for approval in my last few jobs. I could see where a honest man would put Minnehaha in the spot that he did. He had to write Minnehaha before and after that spot and it was legitimate. I have seen honest would be candidates who have been elected dozens of times continue to screw up the nominating and declaration sections of their petitions.

    Lastly to show you’re barking up the wrong tree on this point, it says he’s from Lincoln County right in nominating section, twice. You might have missed it if you aren’t from the Sioux Falls area. He spelled it like this 5-7-1-0-8…. Almost everyone I know could tell you that, that zip code indicates the Lincoln county portion of Sioux Falls. 57106 straddles the county line and doesn’t indicate anything but 108 is Lincoln.

  21. Monty 2016-04-07 15:20

    The phrase “close enough for government work” comes to mind.

  22. Stumcfar 2016-04-07 15:39

    Cberger how would you ever be able to handle public office, you can’t even handle and argument on your blog. You put the guy down and don’t tell me the tone of this article wasn’t like everything you write, bash the GOP!

    Mike whenever I bring up welfare you guys automatically start with the phrases old and disabled, like that is the only ones on welfare. The same logic at work here, I am being very leftist by giving this guy the benefit of the doubt. By your logic he is a bad guy and using your logic, I guess all welfare recipients are undeserving people!

    Go ahead and kick me off the blog if that will make you feel better. It is much more fun to have everyone agree with you so you can stick your chest out and act like you have a following. Why have any opposing viewpoints to deal with!

  23. Darin Larson 2016-04-07 15:40

    Planning Student, if you are from Lincoln County you might know that 57108 is Lincoln County. If you are from Minnehaha County, which is the office that the petition pertains to, you very well might not know that 57108 is Lincoln County. For instance, I live in Minnehaha County and had no idea that 57108 was Lincoln County.

    I’m troubled that the petition clearly states that the petitioner is “of ________ County” and he lives in Lincoln County but chose to put Minnehaha there. He either does not have attention to detail or it was an intentional misrepresentation to aid his petition signing drive.

    He filed for bankruptcy within the last year and he wants to be treasurer and not to mention bite the hand that was feeding him? Who does he think he is Donald Trump?

  24. Darin Larson 2016-04-07 15:49

    Stumpy, the fact that you think that it is not relevant that a guy just filed for bankruptcy last year and then wants to be a treasurer this year should not surprise anyone. And then he misrepresents where he lives and that’s probably not relevant to you either.

    Heck, it’s just business as usual for the GOP in SD. Please note: this is what bashing the GOP in SD looks like.

  25. Roger Elgersma 2016-04-07 16:07

    An auditors job is to check things and alert the proper authorities when there is a problem.

  26. mike from iowa 2016-04-07 16:14

    Stumpy says-” No, you put the guy down for filing bankruptcy. Because of that mistake he is unfit, but you have argued against me in the past that people need help who have made mistakes.” Then Stumpy says,”I too would not want a person who has filed for bankruptcy in charge of public funds, but I am a Republican and can feel that way,” HUH?

    I guess Stumpy is arguing with himself???

  27. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-04-07 16:57

    Stu, again, you go for the personal instead of the policy. How tedious.

    Your imagination is so fervid that you can’t even acknowledge that I’m handling the argument perfectly well… and beating you mercilessly. :-D

  28. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-04-07 17:03

    Planning, I appreciate the ZIP code point. But tell me: why does a resident of Lincoln County, who has a Lincoln County voter registration and Lincoln ZIP code, ever write “Minnehaha” for his county of residence? Under what conditions would that action be useful, advisable, or truthful? (And remember, “truthful” is the main tree up which I’m barking.)

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