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Legislature to Offer Sexual Harassment Training January 17; Good Reason to Delay Abdallah Hearing to January 18?

The South Dakota Legislature has finally caught up with other states and decided to offer training on “legislative ethics, professionalism, and sexual harassment.” All legislators and legislative staff “are expected to attend” this new training on Wednesday afternoon, January 17, the sixth day of the 2018 Session.

In the press release announcing this step, Senate Majority Leader R. Blake Curd (R-12/Sioux Falls) says, “The Legislature takes sexual harassment seriously and it will not be tolerated.” To demonstrate his commitment to that declaration, Senator Curd should ensure that Senate Judiciary does not hold its confirmation hearing for Gene Abdallah until January 18, when members can apply their training to ask Abdallah about his brutish response to a public accusation of sexual harassment against him. Perhaps that hearing will also give Senators a chance to question Abdallah’s nominator, Attorney General Marty Jackley, about why he allowed staff in his DCI to punish a female agent who reported sexual harassment in 2011 and who just won a $1.2-million lawsuit against the current DCI chief and a former agent.

Other legislators quoted in the LRC press release:

  • Senate Minority Leader Billie Sutton (D-21/Burke): “South Dakotans expect and deserve a government that is honorable and respectable. This training is the first step in the right direction to help ensure we have a culture of integrity and professionalism in Pierre that we can all be proud of. As elected officials, we must be held to the highest standards of good and ethical conduct. We must continually be listening to the people we represent and taking action to ensure we are doing all we can to promote a principled state government that supports equality and opportunity for everyone.”
  • House Majority Leader Lee Qualm (R-21/Platte): “In light of the current national allegations regarding sexual harassment, I am excited the leadership of the South Dakota Legislature is moving pro-actively to ensure all elected legislators and legislative staff have an opportunity to participate in this training. As leaders, we take this topic seriously and expect all members and staff to attend. Integrity, ethical conduct, respect and professionalism are demonstrated every day in legislators and staff. This training will strengthen these great qualities.”
  • House Minority Leader Spencer Hawley (D-7/Brookings): “Everyone expects to be able to work in a safe, harassment-free environment. This training is an important step for the SD Legislature to take to help ensure the professionalism and highest ethical standards from our elected officials and staff.”

33 Comments

  1. grudznick 2017-12-18 18:15

    It is a good reason to delay it. Are they scheduling it right up front before this training on the harassing and such?

  2. Roger Cornelius 2017-12-18 18:56

    This training for legislators and their staff members is not mandatory, but rather “expected to attend”, we’ll have to have ears up to see who skips out and their reason for doing so.

  3. grudznick 2017-12-18 19:39

    Mr. C, it should be a public meeting, as many could benefit by listening. And then the heads could be counted and the legislatures and LRC staffers who skip could be shamed.

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-12-18 21:53

    I agree with Grudznick: the training should be a public meeting. All citizens could benefit from attending, or at least listening/watching online via SDPB (hey! SDPB! archive the video for future reference!).

    Roger, we should also have journalists at the door taking attendance and publishing the absence list. Majority Leader Curd should make sure to schedule a make-up session for anyone who misses.

  5. Edwin Arndt 2017-12-18 22:52

    Has anyone considered that not all legislators need training on how to act?
    This whole thing is going totally off the rails.

  6. Kurt Evans 2017-12-18 23:58

    On November 27, Dana Ferguson had written:

    Abdallah, a former U.S. Marshal and state highway patrol superintendent, was representing Sioux Falls’ District 10 in the state House at the time. On Monday, he denied the allegation and said he never met Campbell.

    “She can go to hell,” Abdallah said. “I’ll put my background of 37 years up against anything. If they believe her over me, I don’t want the appointment.”

    Attorney General Marty Jackley said Monday that he would stick by his appointment despite the concerns from Campbell.

    “If Senator Abdallah made such a comment, it would be inappropriate,” he said. “However, Senator Abdallah has denied making the comment”…

    Campbell emailed Jackley’s campaign for governor on Oct. 27. A spokesman told her he would relay the message to Jackley. Campbell said she hasn’t heard back since then.

    http://www.argusleader.com/story/news/politics/2017/11/27/ex-lawmaker-accused-harassment-lobbyist-she-can-go-hell/897320001/

    On December 1, Todd Epp wrote:

    “I would certainly look at any additional information that she is willing to provide,” Jackley said today. “In the event that Senator Abdallah made the comment it would be inappropriate. However, Senator Abdallah is denying he made the comment …”

    http://kelo.com/news/articles/2017/dec/01/jackley-responds-to-campbells-allegations-regarding-abdallah/

    If Jackley “would certainly look at” any additional information Tiffany is willing to provide, then why did he ignore her October 27 email? And at this point, how much more information does she supposedly need to provide?

    Let’s give Jackley the benefit of the doubt and assume he didn’t know Abdallah was a notorious alcoholic and loose cannon. Abdallah is aggressively defaming Tiffany now by making the ridiculous claim that he’s never even met her and publicly condemning her to hell. Doesn’t Jackley regard these comments as inappropriate? Does he really believe they never met?

    Jackley seems to be forcing me to choose between the conclusion that he’s sorely lacking in the ability to discern the truth and the conclusion that he’s basically evil and content to let the strong crush the weak. He doesn’t belong in the governor’s office either way.

  7. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-12-19 06:31

    Edwin, not every teacher needs six credits of college credit every five years to know how to teach, but the state requires every teacher to pay such tuition and take such classes to renew her or his certificate.

    Not every employee needs to be told not to do drugs, but lots of employers make every applicant pee in a cup.

    Not every candidate would take illegal campaign donations, but we make every candidate file campaign finance reports to ensure everyone follows the rules.

  8. Edwin Arndt 2017-12-19 08:13

    Cory, I stand by what I said. Who decides what constitutes training.
    Are the standards universally agreed upon? I doubt it.
    If I were a SD legislator, I’ll be damned if I’d show up.
    Clear?

  9. Dana P 2017-12-19 10:06

    Not all legislators need training on how to act, Edwin? This type of opinion on sexual harassment is why its a problem. I don’t believe all legislators are harassers. I don’t believe that all legislators look the other way. However, there is enough of a problem that is pointing to it is an issue that needs to be addressed. Training and awareness is a great start. Not the be all-end all solution, but it’s a start. The Kaiser case is proof positive. The allegations against Allabaduh are proof positive. The Wollman case is another example. For crying out loud, what we see in the media with multiple people (mostly men) on a daily basis getting outed. (reminder: yours and my tax dollars have been used to pay off accusers of our DC politicians. Aren’t you mad yet?)

    Many people in many jobs, have to go to “refresher” training/basic training for all sorts of topics. This shouldn’t be any different. Unless your head is in the sand, every day we see example after example of how sexual harassment is a major issue and needs addressed. Just looking the other way and saying “well, not everyone…….” isn’t a good fix to the problem. I would love it if we lived in a world where common sense would dictate. Sadly, we don’t.

    With all due respect, Edwin. Your two comments show that you (and like minded people) are part of the problem. Not part of the solution.

  10. Ryan 2017-12-19 11:03

    I pretty much agree that now is a good time to do everything we can about this issue since it has become such a hot topic and everyone’s attention is at least somewhat on sexual assault or sexual harassment. I think Edwin’s suggestion that not everyone needs training is accurate, however it seems like a reasonable thing to ask of our elected officials to sit through some training that they may or may not need, even if the only result is a greater understanding of the consequences for harassment or assault rather than a change in the attitudes of predators. It shows that we as a society take this seriously and want to make some progress. I don’t think you’ll ever get rid of all the bad people who want to take advantage of others, but if we can shame them and scare them enough to keep themselves under control, we might be moving in the right direction.

  11. Edwin Arndt 2017-12-19 13:37

    Dana, what makes me mad is that we seem to be living, in the present time, where
    accusation and allegation equals guilt. In some of these cases due process is not
    even considered. If this situation persists, heaven help us all.

    It is interesting that yesterday, Monday, Sen. Pat Leahy, Dem., Vermont,
    apologized to Al Franken for calling for his resignation. He said that the ethics
    committee should have investigated the situation. Rep. Collin Peterson, Dem.,

    Minn. 7th district said much the same on a radio program in Fargo this morning.

    Sexual assault is pretty much straight forward and most people would agree, to
    some extent at least, what it is. The definition of sexual harassment can be
    very nebulous and subjective. What one women considers harassment another
    may consider a compliment, e.g. “You’re looking good today”.
    As for the training, who gets to decide what is appropriate and what is not?
    To think it is possible to micromanage the conduct of intelligent and independently
    minded people is folly.

    I remain stubbornly in my mindset. If I were asked to attend such a session
    I would consider it an insult. Sorry.

  12. mike from iowa 2017-12-19 14:41

    I can hear partisan, corrupt wingnuts griping why should we need to be taught about the evils of cronyism and corruption? Why can’t we force Dems to do the same? Wah, wah,wah!

    Why? Because both sides Don’t Do It!

  13. Roger Cornelius 2017-12-19 15:11

    It never occurred to me that someone would object to the sexual harassment training being offered by the legislature, except for predators themselves.
    The women that have been assaulted and sexually harassed need to do nothing more than tell their stories and that should be agenda enough.
    For real men that don’t commit these acts against women showing your support for them means that they recognize a serious epidemic and want to help and be a part of the solution.
    Attending and supporting such forums, whether sanctioned by the state or not, helps make you a better person, by closing the door on such an opportunity shows your limitations.
    The real insult is men that don’t know the difference between right and wrong, good and bad, or simply don’t care.

  14. Ryan 2017-12-19 15:23

    I agree with Edwin that due process seems to have flown out the window recently when it comes to accusations of sexual assault or harassment. That in itself is somewhat troubling, but I don’t think that is relevant in expecting our representatives to show that they take this issue seriously by taking action to have a conversation about it.

    Edwin, you said you would be insulted by being asked to attend a paid training session about an important topic that you think you already understand. That insulted feeling you have is also subjective, like you suggest that harassment is subjective. I think most people would understand that the training is designed to help people to “get it” who might otherwise not “get it” and would not be insulted to be a part of the conversation. If you are already a good person and your behavior doesn’t change after the education, great, but relying on people to self-identify as Predators or Not Predators to determine who gets the training likely won’t get any butts in the seats.

  15. m 2017-12-19 15:41

    Bill Clinton ring a bell? House wingnuts were telling Clinton to resign so they didn’t waste time and money having to impeach him for all the crimes he was accused of and exonerated for.

    Clinton should never have been impeached as Monica Lewinski was not anypart of the original crimes Ken Ratts was appointed to lie about.

  16. mike from iowa 2017-12-19 16:35

    How did m sneak past security? I have a sneaky suspicion m is a plagiarist because I writ that Bill Clinton post.Those are my words. Curse you, m.

  17. bearcreekbat 2017-12-19 16:58

    Edwin and Ryan, due process describes the procedures that must be followed before the government may take action affecting our rights.

    What sort of due process should be followed when someone makes a public allegation of sexual abuse against another person? Can you identify any recently accused men who were denied this due process?

  18. Ryan 2017-12-19 17:58

    bcb – I can’t speak for Edwin, but I was speaking of the general idea of due process, not strictly constitutional due process. I’m not saying the government has denied a person due process under the law, I’m saying people lately seem to be quick to judge the accused with very little information. I can’t say it surprises me, but I do think a lot of people believe headlines are facts, and it isn’t specific to this issue, but this issue being so prominent in the news makes it worth talking about in this context. I doubt there are many accusers making things up, but the risk exists that an accusation of bad conduct alone will result in a person losing his or her livelihood, so the people who judge without knowing the details are a powerful force. I’m personally comfortable knowing that I treat people with respect, but just one accusation against an innocent person can have a massive impact on that person, regardless of that person’s true character or actions.

  19. Roger Cornelius 2017-12-19 18:07

    In recent weeks there has been a lot of said about ‘due process’ and the inevitable ‘innocent until proven guilty’ by defenders of sexual predators.
    Once again we find that ‘due process’ applies to those accused and not the victims of sexual aggression.
    Correct me if I am wrong, but the only person I am aware that has been charged criminally for sexual abuse is Bill Cosby and he has stalled the court system for months at a time to get out of his situation.
    Do women get due process when they make a public accusation of being sexually abused, report it to authorities only to have nothing done. Is that the due process that men are concerned with.
    Granted, men have lost their jobs, forced to resign from public office, and faced public shame, but none thus far have had to face the criminal justice system.

  20. Edwin Arndt 2017-12-19 19:10

    I’m not an authority on the justice system, but I believe it is the accused that is
    afforded due process, not the accuser. I don’t know this for sure, but if a woman is
    thus aggrieved, maybe the way to proceed would be to swear out an affidavid
    of the charge and bring it to the attention of the authorities. If the authorities then
    fail to act, that would be a failure of the justice system. I’m sure there is a proper
    way to proceed. Making an accusation years afterward detracts from credibility.
    If a man apologizes and confesses to improper or questionable behavior, that pretty
    much speaks for itself. However, if a man denies the accusations, he should be afforded
    due process.

  21. leslie 2017-12-19 21:34

    Edwin, Dennis Daugaard said he agrees with you today. Some people don’t need it! LAHLAHLAH (don’t wanna hear about it, EB5, MCEC, Medicaid Expansion)…. (Side-stepping Gene).

  22. bearcreekbat 2017-12-20 07:30

    Ryan, I am not familiar with the term “general” due process. Can you expand by describing the “general” procedures that you contend an accused should be given before anyone should believe the accuser?

    Edwin, in your view once a statute of limitations has run for criminal or civil prosecution would your conception of due process be satisfied with a sworn affidavit, or should more be required before believing a woman’s accusations of sexual misconduct?

    For example, in Trump’s case there are at least two sworn affidavits on file in federal court accusing him of child rape (one from the victim and one from an eyewitness to the rape), although that case is no longer pending due to a voluntary dismissal by the plaintiff. Do these affidavits provide sufficient due process to establish that Trump committed this child rape?

  23. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-12-20 08:35

    Edwin, for what it’s worth, I don’t like the sexual harassment training that I have to take every year just to substitute-teach here in Aberdeen. It’s the same online videos, the same quiz questions, the same legal questions, and same points about decent, respectable behavior that I’ve taken as a given throughout my career. It reminds me of certain legal titles and terminology but doesn’t increase my knowledge or change my behavior.

    But I don’t take it as a personal insult.

    Curious, Edwin: do you also take the driver’s license renewal requirements as an insult to your driving ability?

  24. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-12-20 08:38

    I love due process. But don’t forget, as Laura Zylstra Kaiser (who reported harassment right away) shows us, due process can cost thousands of dollars in lawyer bills, not to mention a demotion, an onerous transfer, and other career-devastating retaliation.

    Let’s have this training in the Legislature. Let’s have it in public, so we can all watch the attendees and see how many legislators pay attention, how many doodle around on their computers, and how many skip.

  25. Ryan 2017-12-20 09:23

    bcb – I think you know what I mean, and I explained what I meant in my last post. Some bad people out there actively try to ignore or hide accusations of assault or harassment, and that is definitely not OK, but I think one reason that even some good people find this issue difficult to address is because it is almost always a he-said-she-said situation. As I mentioned previously, I personally don’t think there are many people who make up these stories for attention or personal gain or just to bring shame upon an innocent person. However, a lot of people might be of the mind that convicting a person with little or no evidence of wrongdoing creates the risk of wrongful conviction, whether that conviction occurs in a court of law or in the court of public perception. The consequences of both are very real, and often times I think the sentence in the public perception venue is more damaging.

    A common thread lately in this public conversation is that everyone should believe an accuser immediately when an accusation is made, without question. That might be a tough pill to swallow for a lot of critical thinkers, skeptics, and people who otherwise live their lives based on a review of the empirical evidence in any given situation. The truth is, if my wife or child or close friend or other family member told me about something that happened to them, I would probably believe them immediately and take action. But asking the entire population of people to trust the word of a total stranger without anything else being presented as evidence is different than trusting and believing people you know.

    This will not be a popular comment, I understand that, but in no other situation is it appropriate to make a decision or judgment about something based solely on the unverified word of a person we don’t know, especially when that person remains anonymous or speaks on the issue decades after it is alleged to have happened. In every other situation it is appropriate to consider the circumstances surrounding an accusation to determine how credible the accuser is, because in any he-said-she-said situation, credibility is the only evidence. Recency and anonymity are factors in determining credibility in every other scenario. Yes a lot of people have been through terrible things, and yes victims need to be supported, and yes we need to be clear that there is no blame on the shoulders of any victims, but I disagree with the theory of guilty-because-accused. Who makes up the jury pool? Who are the prosecutors and judges? Regular people. If the societal rule is for all people to believe every single accusation, there is no difference between due process of law and general due process of public perception, because the public is the court system.

  26. Edwin Arndt 2017-12-20 09:33

    I believe that once the statute of limitations has run out it’s to late to proceed with
    a criminal case. A civil case might not be subject to the statute but I don’t know
    that. Whether or not you want to believe anyone’s accusations is your personal
    decision. To establish that the accusations are true in court requires that you proceed
    with the case. Filing an affidavit in and of itself does not establish guilt in the legal
    sense, it is only the beginning of due process. For due process to play out would
    require a trial. The court of public opinion is not due process. Again, please understand that I’m sort of guessing at these things. If you want definitive answers
    talk to a prosecuting attorney or a trial lawyer.

    In the case you describe concerning Trump, why did the plaintiff not proceed?
    Filing an affidavit establishes nothing. It’s just the beginning.
    I do

    understand that the justice system is much more fair to those who have a lot of
    money.

    By the way, I’m no fan of Donald Trump. If he would resign we wouldn’t have
    to pay him to play golf. And, Mike Pence is nothing if not a polished politician.
    A President Pence would advance the conservative agenda far better than
    Trump ever will.

  27. Edwin Arndt 2017-12-20 09:42

    Cory, when these people were elected, there was no requirement that they
    sit through a training session. If this is going to be a requirement before every
    future legislative session they can decide accordingly.

    I’m finished with this subject now.

  28. bearcreekbat 2017-12-20 09:56

    I too am a big fan of the legal concept of due process of law and would agree that our government cannot and should not take adverse action against anyone without first providing notice and an opportunity to be heard before an impartial decisionmaker.

    As for the idea of “due process” in a non-legal setting, where private citizens form opinions and take action rather than the government, it would seem that “notice” is given by making a public accusation and “an opportunity to be heard” is given by the accused’s opportunity to admit, deny, or otherwise respond to the accusation in public. The accused can even choose to have a day in court by filing defamation lawsuits in which the accuser can be deposed and a fact finder can decide whether the accuser defamed the accused.

    Other than that, it is still very unclear to me what further due process protections might be useful or helpful to the accused in the court of public opinion.

  29. bearcreekbat 2017-12-20 10:15

    mfi, Thanks – that makes me laugh out loud fer sure – it’s called Republican “due process.”

  30. mike from iowa 2017-12-20 10:35

    Mr Arndt, you may be overlooking the voting public come next year’s election. If the public finally decides they have been railroaded into giving the wealthy more wealth at everyone else’s expense, Drumpf/Pence may be dealing with a hostile congress in 2019.

    As you may see when all the drafting errors are exposed in the new taxcuts for the koch bros, those errors will need eight or nine Dem senate votes to fix the wingnuts mess and I don’t see Dems being that touchy feely ever again.

  31. Darin Larson 2017-12-20 12:29

    Due process is only one important consideration in the administration of justice in a case of alleged sexual harassment or assault in the non-criminal realm. When I consider the vast landscape of sexual harassment and sexual assault cases that are unreported or ignored or trigger retaliation, compared to the infinitesimaly small number of documented false allegations, I think the rational conclusion is that justice demands more accountability of the alleged perpetrator rather than more due process for the alleged perpetrator. The system has been stacked against victim’s of sexual harassment and assault and only recently has the pendulum begun to swing back toward equilibrium in terms of justice.

    Lastly, this isn’t the criminal law world where our system is designed to let “100 guilty people go free lest one innocent person be convicted.”

  32. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-12-21 09:45

    Edwin, job requirements change all the time after people are hired. Employees and elected officials who don’t like the new working conditions are free to resign.

    Is there any constitutional reason that 2018 legislators cannot be required to attend training or satisfy other conditions to work in the Capitol?

    And note, the LRC note said “expected,” not “required,” to attend.

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