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.