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GOAC Hears Complaints About Poor Practices at Redfield Facility; IM 22 Needed for Whistleblower Protection

The public kinda-sorta got to hear Paul Register’s complaints about misconduct by management at the South Dakota Developmental Center during a hearing of the Government Operations and Audit Committee in Redfield yesterday. Kinda sorta, because as Register, a former SDDC employee, laid out various problems arising from staff shortages, GOAC chairman Senator Larry Tidemann (R-7/Brookings) moved the discussion into executive session.

The hearing did reveal continued (and perhaps underreported) staff shortages at the Redfield facility:

The facility that cares for and teaches 132 developmentally and intellectually disabled children, teens and adults was understaffed by more than 10 percent as of Monday. There are 39 open spots, 29 of which are direct-care positions with the residents.

That’s different from what Abeln told the American News in April. At that time, she reported there were only six open positions [Katherine Grandstrand, “Lawmakers Hear About Staff Concerns at South Dakota Developmental Center in Redfield,” Aberdeen American News, 2016.06.21].

Susan Wismer, who will be returning to the Legislature next Session, said “something has to change in that entire culture” to allow SDDC employees and other state workers “direct access to legislators without being punished for it.” Wismer and others interested in whistleblower protections should turn to Section 41 of Initiated Measure 22, the Anti-Corruption Act, which would direct the state ethics commission IM 22 creates to “maintain a telephone hotline as well as a website through which persons may anonymously report instances of corruption in state government.”

As with Indian Health Service and the state hospital in Yankton, and important part of improving conditions at the Developmental Center in Redfield is funding pay to recruit enough qualified workers to provide the required services. But another part of the solution is passing serious anti-corruption measures like IM 22.


  1. EX-SDDC 2016-06-21 09:03

    With all the recent issues with SDDC, it is difficult to understand why the resignation of Banghart was not used as a springboard for change.

    The promotion of Abeln and ignoring a restructure of Human Resources is like a slap in face to the good folks employed at SDDC. Redfield deserves better.

  2. Mark Winegar 2016-06-21 09:39

    Corruption runs deep after over 4 decades of one party rule. It’s time for change.

  3. Roger Elgersma 2016-06-21 09:59

    The reason we do not have all education, k-gradschool under one rule is that there are people whose interest in on one area or another and to get the best most qualified people for each large area it is better to keep k-12 under one administration, college and university under another administration and voch-tech under another administration. They can all go to the same legislature and governor to fight for their share of the money. There are few education experts there but they also have limited money so they have to make the decisions on how much money to each. I think that the voc-techs should all be under the same state organization and that one that Obama went to can influence the others to get that good as well. This would allow an easy balancing of which school teaches which subjects without overlap and specializing in local needs at the same time. There might still be some overlap if credits are to be transferred between vo-tech and university. Probably best if not all classes are transferable. They should be taught and accredited for what they are.

  4. Rorschach 2016-06-21 10:48

    Poor practices at the Redfield SDDC. Poor practices at Yankton HSC. Poor practices at SD Dept. of Education. Poor practices at the SD State pen. Poor practices at GOED.

    Is it even news anymore when there are poor practices in SD state government? Does anybody even care?

  5. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-06-21 15:25

    It does make me wonder, Ror: how many things have to run poorly before we figure out something is wrong and demand change?

  6. Lanny V Stricherz 2016-06-21 17:24

    Any challenge to the executive session? How many members present from the GOAC? If all were there, wouldn’t that eliminate the possibility of executive session?

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-06-26 12:26

    Tricky question, Lanny. It was a regular meeting, so I assume at least a quorum was present. Boards can discuss personnel matters in executive session… but do the exceptions to open meetings apply to Legislative committees?

  8. Truthteller 2016-06-28 17:20

    SDDC is mismanaged and needs a major overhaul. I think the people of South Dakota care about the people who live there – its time to act.

    The facility is for the people who need care and treatment. These people are entitled to care and treatment
    The facility is not for the management team or human resources or the human rights specialist??? or the lawyers.

    Do you think you’re actually going to get anywhere with this bunch?
    They are not accountable because they are neither licensed nor capable. But they are in charge of things. They only do what it takes to try to maintain a facade of legitimacy.

    LOOK — they are going to hunker down and “lie and deny” – its their motto

    Does anyone wonder what is happening to the people who live there- and their lives while this goes on and on???

    They deserve better….. Good food, a clean environment, treatment for their problems, and they are obviously not getting that.

    I guess some may be so #### happy to get an influx of Federal money to run this sham organization that they don’t even care if it functions?? Im sure the “management” will happily let us pay them as long as they can.

  9. Truthteller 2016-06-29 15:58

    I wonder why KELO news and Angela Kenneke has not covered anything about the GOAC meeting held at SDDC on June 20?
    Has state government silenced any coverage of this?

  10. Truthteller 2016-06-29 16:31

    The subject of the “whole system” having staffing troubles was brought up at the meeting. And it sounded to me as though this was an excuse for issues discussed.
    Who is in charge of ensuring adequate qualified staff for caring for people with disabilities?

    Are these people not entitled to adequate qualified staff?

    its not Ok for us to merely say – “oh we have staffing troubles in all these places” …”we’re working on it”

    Are the other facilities being funded? Obviously they are..So they are being funded and not fulfilling their obligations?
    Are they collecting money for services they are not providing? Is SDDC being funded and not fulfilling its obligations?

    I think the real question is – is it acceptable for people with disabilities who need care to have to accept poor services? And then why is that OK?

    Let me answer that – Because people with developmental disabilities still have no voice in our society.

  11. Truthteller 2016-06-29 16:48

    Given that – I don’t think Paul Register and staff at SDDC will have much voice regarding workplace bullying, corruption and targeting at SDDC. Apparently its condoned behavior?

  12. truthteller 2016-07-03 14:51

    i appreciate Susan Wismer’s comments.

    I’d like her to ask why SDDC has a “health care services coordinator” with no medical degree or experience – not even nursing experience. What does this person do for SDDC?

    How about a human rights expert – really? What is that? ANSWER—Its a person hired to mitigate liability for the state.
    the investigations they do are to ensure they blame an individual staff for anything that happens, and not the practices of the facility. they still carry on the practice of having pharmaceutical reps on their campus bringing them lunches???

  13. truthteller 2016-07-03 15:13

    When Director Ted Williams left SDDC – things really went bad fast.

    The management team was never in support of Jan Banghart. And morale plummeted fast. They worked against her and bashed her behind her back. Called her wicked witch of the north and ridiculed her ideas.

    Barb Abeln as Director is a joke, and nobody who works with her would disagree.

    SDDC needs competent leadership and a new management team.

  14. truthteller 2016-07-03 15:36

    SDDC is plagued with “Legacy type, Tenured” people in positions of influence with no skill or knowledge or anything to offer. Worst of all – no accountability. Its bureaucracy at its worst. Its not difficult to see.

  15. truthteller 2016-07-03 18:05

    There are plenty of hardworking people to take the staff jobs.

    Raising pay would be nice but that won’t change anything.

    FIRST = Change the culture. Change leadership and “management”.

    Morale is low because leadership is disengaged, non-communicative, elitist and incompetent – more concerned about avoiding accountability and liability— and staff don’t trust them.

  16. leslie 2016-07-03 18:37

    rohr-that’s a good list to be made broadly known in this election.

  17. truthteller 2016-07-03 19:37

    Yes sir.

  18. Truthteller 2016-07-06 21:29

    I get the impression from news releases that have been written for Yankton press
    Keloland, Aberdeen news, Redfield press etc that there is little interest in discussions of controversial material – and there has been no mention of the executive session held at Sddc during the GOAC committee meeting there on June.

    Why write it talk about an issue as a journalist if you don’t bother being unbiased? Unless to mislead. Could be this isn’t journalism.

    Can the administration really not acknowledge the problems and address them?
    Or would it just take the kind of leader we really don’t have these days??

    It’s hard to imagine why this is being politicized – and minimized.

    What would it be like if political leaders could say – “I have misjudged this situation and want to set it right” or “I was wrong” or “we / I can do better”?

    I don’t care what political party or ideals you have or interests you have – Republican or Democrat. – There is no reason for anyone in SD to settle for poorly administered facilities and programs –

  19. Truthteller 2016-07-07 19:33

    i wonder if they have an official cannibis policy? Do they do drug testing?
    Given how prevalent it is these days. You know what I mean? Maybe just don’t ask don’t tell would be ok? Of course this is Conservative SD.

    I would guess they’d rather not even know…given their recruiting problems.

    That has to be a special challenge for a director. I mean who do you test and how often?

    That must be a human resources nightmare.
    I’m sure anyone charged with managing human resources there would have hard ethics dilemmas.

  20. Truthteller 2016-07-18 03:19

    inept, arrogant and incompetent directors and managers and mid level leadership – kept in place by apathetic government leadership is a scurge

    Talentless, lazy, uninspired and corrupt

    You’ve heard the saying. Good enough for state work. – well so have they
    unemployable in any other settings – they’ve carved out niches – robbing others of opportunity, taxpayers of their money and people of needed services

    That’s SDDC leadership
    The worst of the worst

  21. Truthteller 2016-07-20 08:49

    People are targeted at sddc for not being complicit with the unqualified leadership –
    So called leaders, directors, coordinator and managers- who spend their time cackling and taking breaks – sending the secretaries of their own personal errands – plundering the state’s resources for their own benefit- having meetings with themselves to discuss strategy to keep their positions – even though clearly there is a need for major change!

    – leaders without any clue of what their depts could do with qualified ethical leadership- and they don’t care because they are there only for their check and benefits and retirement Period
    They know it too – it’s just a position to them that they know they aren’t qualified for. The leadership who sit in plush offices with jobs that they aren’t qualified for; and they don’t even have contact with the people who live there or spend time in the people’s living areas

    – in the meantime their behavior has ruined morale for the rest – the professionals and the dedicated direct care staff

    Please intervene on behalf of the people who live there, the licensed professional staff and direct care staff.

  22. Truthteller 2016-07-21 10:07

    If you can’t get better management
    You won’t get it to work
    And it won’t work without both more direct care staff and qualified managers
    Redfield is probably not the right place for a facility that has these needs

    Obviously the question comes down to wether the operation should be moved to a city where more qualified people for management positions and professional licensed staff could be recruited
    AND more direct care staff applicants could be accessed

    Yes. thats going to have a cost but it is probably the right thing to do

  23. Truthteller 2016-07-21 10:19

    The inevitable truth is Redfield is not the right place for the operation.

    A lesser type of “just adequate to meet minimal requirements” type of operation is just not going to be adequate going forward, and that question needs to be addressed at some point.

    What we are seeing is probably an attempt to see if the system can get by a while longer without moving operations to a more favorable location.

    I think it’s beyond time to make a decision.
    Either raise the bar and step things up (raise wages significantly for staff and make a real effort to get management positions filled with qualified people) or move on to another location

  24. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-07-21 12:03

    Can you list the advantages of a new location? Would they include increased oversight? Would we have to build a new facility, or is there an existing facility that could take on Redfield’s functions?

  25. truthteller 2016-07-22 09:27


    First of all I suspect many of the people served there could fit into existing community service programs without modifications.

    As for the operation as a whole. Move it to a larger city. Then it will be possible to change the whole treatment framework to a facility that isn’t a stand alone – having minimal access to professional consultants and traveling far for specialty consultants.
    —but instead one that has close access to consultants of all types –

    Psychiatry, psychology and specialty medical consultation could be readily accessed.

    I would move it to Sioux Falls.

    There will be more access to direct care staff applicants too.

    I recommend a Clinical director position be a key component in administration /Rather than the clinical components be administered by beurocrats – the clinical director would have oversight on operations and the direction of treatment and direct oversight over psychology staff and training of regular staff.

    There will always be a need for oversight but the current model in Redfield defies oversight due to its direction and conceptualization and decision making being based in Pierre rather than the minds of the professional mental health staff and a proper clinical directorship.

    In its current location and function direct access to necessary experience and knowledge is lacking. It can’t work with Pieree micromanaging. It will have to be a more typical arrangement with legislative oversight but the treatment program, through the vision and knowledge of its own driving the decisions and goals.

  26. truthteller 2016-07-22 09:35

    I don’t know about the need for new construction. I suspect it would work better to have an entirely new facility rather than add the operations to another existing one.
    Why not build a new facility? It’s been way over 100 years with the old one. And it will be needed for years to come.

  27. truthteller 2016-07-22 09:46

    i don’t know why Redfield was chosen in the first place. People with disabilities such as those cared for in Redfield were not welcome in society in years past and probably it was thought to be preferable for their housing to be out of sight of society.

    But the attitude toward people with disabilities has changed over the years.

    in a way by keeping the operation in Redfield the isolation is continuing.

  28. truthteller 2016-07-22 10:16

    Would any of us choose to get treatment in an isolated, outdated, understaffed facility wracked with controversy? Nope we would not.

    Then why spend money trying to maintain this necessary operation in a resource desert?
    To save a buck? How does it save a buck?

  29. truthteller 2016-07-22 12:12

    i’m going to assume that nobody would intentionally favor of a disparity in standards for people with disabilities.

    So lets say its purely a financial decision.

    it won’t save money if you consider maintenance of the old buildings.

    Consider the waste of money paying the “old legacy administrators” such as the unqualified health care coordinator and her personal secretary, and many others.

    Also consider the possibility that inadequate staff and poor treatment standards leads to protracted
    treatment times and people spending undue time in institution.

  30. truthteller 2016-07-25 00:19


    Not providing fully staffed treatment in the first place is not fulfilling the contract for services.

    It’s fraud in the first place

    If it was a hospital – could they simply say – well too bad we can’t maintain the nursing ratios we need to keep patients alive and safe and treated – but we want the beds full of people we can collect payment for?

    Is SDDC was a private business it would be sued and go bankrupt because they are not able to provide what they are selling. – who would patronize a business like that?

    Add in the staff bullying, targeting and corruption.
    Then also allow for managers and coordinators and directors who are basically laypeople who’ve just worked there too long- without special training. And don’t tell me about a bachelors in psychology – that’s fine but what kind of maintenance training certification or licensing have any of them done?
    -Have they really made it their lives chose profession? Have they undertaken training for that as a chosen life’s work? They have mostly figured out how to manipulate the time schedule and get Fridays off. No they have just worked there a long time and been promoted beyond their ability. And it’s easy state work – (just not for the understaffed direct care people who are burning out and being injured and strong armed)
    Yeah it’s that bad
    And it’s millions of dollars a year (23 m for 2017) mostly federal.

  31. Truthteller 2016-08-08 16:50

    We are either going to be ok with simply warehousing disabled people in places like SDDC or step up and demand our money’s worth.
    We are going to demand the state have fair workplaces or we are going to continue to allow systematic abuse, targeting and corruption.

  32. Truthteller 2016-09-16 06:25

    How is the GOAC doing with their work on SDDC and it’s embarrassing deficiencies?

    Has any progress been made in finding competent leadership for the facility?

    Have standards risen?

    Does Abeln and her management team have plans for their resignations?

    Is pressure being applied for them to be replaced with qualified people?

  33. Truthteller 2016-09-19 03:11

    Will the embarassingly incompetent leadership and management team be forced to resign or fired?

    Will they be allowed to continue to run the facility into the ground and cover up abuses and deficiencies ?

    Fire them it’s beyond time

  34. Truthteller 2016-10-19 16:44

    It will probably require new leadership in Pierre to accomplish needed improvements to state facilities and services

    It’s pitifully obvious that there is rampant corruption of leadership in this state
    This had led to waste and abuses of resources and – misuse of influence

    But until then we are apparently held hostage to incompetence arrogance and waste…
    As are the citizens patients and students and people in need

  35. Truthteller 2017-01-24 05:10

    When will SDDC’s corrupt and incompetent administratives be replaced or fired?

    A young woman recently died there – I hope this wasn’t due to unsafe practices or inadequate medical supervision. I wonder what the people in charge of the medical dept there have to say?

    Another woman was sexually molested by an employee some months back.

    Maybe the worst thing about SDDC is that – nobody is accountable because the administration is unqualified and micromanaged. INCOMPETENT over promoted people are in charge.

    They’re still there because of their lack of ethics and employability elsewhere.

    I am anxious for anyone working there who holds a license.

  36. truthteller 2017-06-13 05:37

    take note of the stories in the news about the death at SDDC recently
    and the apparent block of information to the person’s mother regarding the circumstances around the death

    obviously the place should be investigated – but there is no comment from them

    presumably this person was a ward of the state?

    so we are to rely on the benevolence of government to determine how much information gets out even to family?

    and let SDDC and state gov determine for the rest of us the degree to which incompetence, poor practice or malpractice played a role here?

    I think we all know better than this – how is this possible in this day?

  37. truthteller 2017-06-13 05:45

    im not surprised this happened given the level of ineptitude, ignorance, incompetence and complacency of the SDDC management

    nor am I surprised to hear of the stonewall for information

    come on people – please do something!!!!

  38. truthteller 2017-12-22 12:21

    please check out the entry at


  39. Porter Lansing 2017-12-22 12:28

    C’mon, people. PLEASE DO SOMETHING!!!

  40. truthteller 2017-12-22 13:17

    I’d be curious to hear what their Human Rights Specialist has to say about it?

    that person’s name is
    or the administrator of the facility

    it seems important
    and relevant to the initial posting on 6/21/16 by CAH

  41. Truthteller 2018-08-26 19:48

    Is the state of South Dakota involved in two lawsuits over this negligence death at redfield?

  42. truthteller 2019-02-16 18:45

    a recent story from Keloland news describes workers rights violations,
    injuries and hostile, corrupt management

    death due to medical neglect
    hostile management
    illegal management actions
    workers rights violated
    oh my gosh…
    close SDDC or…please – at least – get competent management ?????

  43. Truthteller 2019-02-24 20:07

    If sddc can operate with the same number of workers (50 short) and browbeat the existing employees- with the fear of losing their jobs if they are a problem – they will continue

    Less full time people is cheaper – even with the overtime

    Safety and efficiency are at a lower level
    This is a “managed “ risk of their way of doing business

    They are maintaining the worker shortage purposefully I suspect to save money

    Competent care, training achievements and safety is diminished-
    maintaining a minimal requirement – meeting minimal requirements to receive federal funds is the only thing that matters to the state here

    The “management” is complicit and corrupt with the ongoing situation

    It’s a sham institution
    Warehousing people cheaper by milking the federal government for money rather than meeting the needs of the customers, clients, citizens of South Dakota is what this is.

  44. grudznick 2019-02-24 20:25

    Ms. Truthteller, you are right that they should just shut that institution down, mothball it, and move those people away to a different town. Redfield is dying, and the taxpayers need to get out of the game of propping it up.

  45. truthteller 2019-02-28 15:13

    I don’t think its always been so corrupt…maybe

    but I think politics and cronyism is why we are keeping the place there – corrupt politics etc

    add to that – who is hired for management positions and higher salaried jobs (Redfield people have all the higher paying jobs) frequently promoted without merit ( a little of that goes a long way )

    its shamefully obvious
    the whole thing is corrupt at its core

    it could be a valuable resource for citizens but its just
    some kind of sick hometown money mill run by a bunch of local nincompoops –

    its a meritless undefendable down-home shady system

  46. Truthteller 2020-02-15 18:26

    They’ve apparently stopped hiring

    I think the last 30 FTE cut is just a harbinger
    If they are down to below 100 clients

    There is no way the maintenance and utilities and transportation costs can work there

    It’s time to shut ‘er down
    So git r done

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