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Tapio Whines to State Bar About Schoenbeck Picking on Him and His (Rented?) Lake House

Last Friday, Watertown lawyer and former legislator Lee Schoenbeck dropped by the comment section to criticize my excessive coverage of Senator Neal Tapio’s scapegoating and attacks on the free press:

Tapio is a nut job and he can’t be recalled. It is our fault and he will be gone soon. No chance he could ever be elected to even clean our garbage cans. Quit giving the joke and jerk attention [Lee Schoenbeck, comment, Dakota Free Press, 2018.01.19].

On Saturday afternoon, Senator Tapio penned a letter to the South Dakota Bar Association asking for a formal opinion on whether it is unethical for a bar member to question his qualifications for office online. Tapio also asks how to formally request “an ethics investigation into an attorney who willfully spreads verifiably false information against a public elected official” and indicates that he’s gunning for a reprimand, a public apology, or even disbarment.

Tapio’s letter doesn’t name Schoenbeck or cite the specific offending comments, but when the Watertown Public Opinion follows up, Tapio doesn’t mention the above “joke and jerk” comment; instead, he alleges that Schoenbeck has questioned Tapio’s legal residency:

In the Dakota Free Press blog Schoenbeck is asked to comment on Tapio’s true residence.

“He lives in Rapid City. He rents a place on Lake Kampeska and keeps a little stuff in it to claim residency,” Schoenbeck writes. “It’s an old scam for those that disrespect the state constitution and the idea that the people in our community deserve representation in Pierre.”

In his email Tapio says Schoenbeck “has repeatedly claimed I do not reside in Watertown, but rather in Rapid City” [J.T. Fey, “Tapio Asks S.D. State Bar Association to Look into Schoenbeck’s Comments,” Watertown Public Opinion, 2018.01.22].

I have checked my database: I can find no comment from Lee Schoenbeck concerning Tapio’s lakeside rental. But Schoenbeck affirms his statement in the paper:

Schoenbeck, a former state legislator, responded to Tapio’s comments this morning in an email to the Public Opinion.

“He doesn’t live here. He lives in Rapid City and visits here often enough to claim to be a resident,” Schoenbeck wrote. “When Neal Tapio called our community rec center a ‘socialist palace’ I thought he made it clear he wasn’t part of the community. When he goes on his anti-religion rants, he made it clear he doesn’t respect the Constitution” [Fey, 2018.01.22].

Schoenbeck also shows a true manliness far superior to the brittle insecurity Tapio has demonstrated with his swift, flailing attacks on immigrants, Muslims, business leaders, nuns, and the press:

Schoenbeck seems unfazed by Tapio’s requests to the state bar.

“I’ve got broad shoulders,” Schoenbeck wrote. “I’d rather have him attack me than the innocent people he regularly attacks. and our community he so dearly seems to enjoy embarrassing” [Fey, 2018.01.22].

Did you catch that? Innocent people.

The South Dakota Rules of Professional Conduct for lawyers includes only one rule that might be relevant to Tapio’s complaint. Rule 8.4(c) says “It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to… engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.” Yet nothing in Tapio’s letter to the bar or his statements to the press refutes a single word Schoenbeck has said. Tapio doesn’t state that his owns rather than rents the Kampeska dwelling. Tapio does not deny that he maintains a dwelling in Rapid City. Schoenbeck doesn’t question that Tapio has an “actual address” on Kampeska; he only alleges that Tapio maintains that address to qualify for the ballot in District 5.

Well, there’s one way to settle this. Let’s see the property records from Codington County for 188 S Lake Drive, Watertown, the Kampeska address Tapio claimed on his 2016 nominating petition. And can someone tell me where Tapio’s Rapid City property is and how often folks see him around town?

Of course, it’s silly that we’re having a debate about Lee Schoenbeck’s veracity when the real scourge to our society is Neal Tapio’s propagation of racist, Trumpist lies.


  1. dave 2018-01-23 08:27

    i don’t have access to complete information here, but this is the record for that address according to the 1st District web site…

    record owner_name owner_stre legal

  2. dave 2018-01-23 08:30

    digging further…….. the place is for sale, no one lives there… listed for $329K

  3. Nick Nemec 2018-01-23 08:31

    Sen. Tapio apparently is opposed to both the freedom of religion and free speech portions of the First Amendment. Since he sure seems ornery and litigious I’ll assume he supports the “redress of grievances” part.

    Kudos to Lee Schoenbeck for calling this bigot out. He is an embarrassment to our state. I’d like to see other prominent Republicans telling Tapio to go shut up and go home. Rapid City? Watertown? Lake Kampeska? It’s hard to tell.

  4. Nick Nemec 2018-01-23 08:38

    Usually when someone is a resident of a community the neighbors can vouch he lives where he says he lives. Is there any record of him regularly attending a church service in Watertown? Does someone sit in the pew behind him? Is he a member of any local civic organizations? Where does he buy his groceries?

  5. Rorschach 2018-01-23 08:39

    Lee made comments at DakotaWarCollege about Tapio’s residency. Seems that Tapio probably just took your name in vain to create the false impression that Lee made his comments on a Democratic blog rather than a Republican blog.

    Tapio’s complaint to the bar is without merit and will go nowhere. Besides that, Tapio won’t win this battle with Schoenbeck in the Watertown paper either. The facts don’t seem to be on Tapio’s side.

    The legislature should start stripping people of their seats for not living in their districts. Besides Tapio, there are questions about Jenna Haggar Netherton’s residency as well.

  6. Sarah 2018-01-23 08:42

    Those would be Neal’s parents. Who also don’t live there. They live in Seattle.

  7. Jenny 2018-01-23 09:29

    Tapio should act like a big boy instead of running to the principal’s office. He should expect that when he puts down a group of people from different faiths praying for peace, he’s going to be called out.

  8. Jenny 2018-01-23 09:37

    It’s all about control. Republicans like Tapio and Trump want to feel superior to other ethnic groups from different religions. Underneath their pseudo-patriotic images, they are really insecure men.

  9. Donald Pay 2018-01-23 09:52

    The best of South Dakota can be seen right here: “I’ve got broad shoulders,” Schoenbeck wrote. “I’d rather have him attack me than the innocent people he regularly attacks. and our community he so dearly seems to enjoy embarrassing.” Thanks, Lee Schoenbeck, for standing up to a bully.

  10. Curt 2018-01-23 17:49

    I was curious last year when Sen Tapio made an appearance at a RC Crackerbarrel event, but he and I travel in distinctly different social circles so I do not know how much time he spends in the Hills area.

  11. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-01-23 20:07

    Good find, Dave! Thanks for pointing me to the First District website!

  12. Kyle 2018-01-25 11:57

    A search of property records in Pennington and Meade county does not reveal any property owned by Neal Tapio. He could still rent, but it does not look like he owns anything near Rapid City.

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