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GEAR UP Lawsuit-o-rama: Mid-Central and AIII Tussle, Native Student Launches Class Action

Scott Westerhuis property, April 2016.
Expect the Westerhuis gym and land to be trapped in court for years. (Photo by CAH)

The Mid-Central/GEAR UP scandal is now bursting with lawsuits.

  1. Mid-Central Educational Cooperative is suing the American Indian Institute for Innovation for not fulfilling its contractual obligations and for secretly using Mid-Central like an ATM.
  2. Declaring innocence, AIII is suing the estates of Scott and Nicole Westerhuis, saying those two Mid-Central/AIII employees stole the money.
  3. Mid-Central is also seeking $2 million from Scott Westerhuis’s estate.
  4. Todd County HS alumna Alyssa Black Bear is starting a class action lawsuit against Mid-Central for failure to deliver the benefits of the GEAR UP program to her and her fellow American Indian students.

Plus we have criminal cases against AIII exec Stacy Phelps, former Mid-Central exec Dan Guericke, and former Mid-Central business officer Stephanie Hubers, plus more criminal and civil shoes that could drop on a varied cast of GEAR UP characters.

Remember: our courts wouldn’t be clogged with all this litigation if former Education Secretary Rick Melmer hadn’t farmed GEAR UP out to his friends back home in Charles Mix County over a decade ago. And none of these lawsuits would be happening if current Education Secretary Melody Schopp had acted on the warnings it had of financial misconduct at Mid-Central when she came into office six years ago.

p.s.: No one should be suing over that “mysterious” GEAR UP storage unit in Rapid City. Mid-Central director Bob Krietlow and DCI opened the unit up Wednesday, and as I suspected, they found nothing unusual or criminally implicative, just desks, furniture, and textbooks. Attorney General Marty Jackley says those items have been sent to Black Hills State University, which is now coordinating and hosting the GEAR UP summer program.


  1. M.K. 2016-05-20

    All these law suits are diversions. This will take years if ever; to uncover everything. I believe it to be diversion so that no one at the top gets fingered. The top “paid” heads will walk away from this. MCEC was the recipient; but many were involved at the state level.

  2. Jackie Jessop Rising 2016-05-20

    How does Schopp continue to escape any responsibility? She is not named in the lawsuit by Standing Bear.

  3. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-05-20

    Not yet, Jackie, but she should be. Do you know if Black Bear filed her suit in state or federal court? I’d like to go look up her complaint for myself and post it for everyone’s review.

  4. Roger Cornelius 2016-05-20

    Glad to see this post Cory, the young Ms. Black Bear is to be admired for her courage.
    Hopefully others and the Sioux tribes as well, will join this class action suit.

  5. Baby Moon 2016-05-20

    And the lawyers are all quite happy.

  6. Brian 2016-05-20

    Schopp should be removed from her duties and also part of all litigation. Her negligence is why all this happened. If any school superintendent was negligent for less than any of this they would be release frkm.their position.

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-05-20

    Roger, do you know Ms. Black Bear? Has she been involved in any previous activism?

  8. Roger Cornelius 2016-05-20

    Sorry I don’t know Ms. Black Bear, Cory, wish I did. She appears to have a lot of confidence.

  9. Mark Winegar 2016-05-21

    Stay tuned in to this melodrama as there is bound to be more intrigue ahead.

  10. Steve Sibson 2016-05-23

    “Remember: our courts wouldn’t be clogged with all this litigation if former Education Secretary Rick Melmer hadn’t farmed GEAR UP out to his friends back home in Charles Mix County over a decade ago. And none of these lawsuits would be happening if current Education Secretary Melody Schopp had acted on the warnings it had of financial misconduct at Mid-Central when she came into office six years ago.”

    And none of this would have happened if the federal government would have not sent billions of dollars of our tax dollars on programs that have little benefit, but instead promote greed and coveting.

  11. Roger Cornelius 2016-05-23

    Sibson covets Cory and Dakota Free Press.

  12. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-05-23

    Sibby, bankers are not responsible for bank robberies. Railroad car builders are not responsible for grafitti. Tim Berners-Lee is not responsible for your madness. Stop distracting South Dakotans from the real issues that they can solve, the real corruption in their own backyard, the real crooks picking their pockets.

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