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Noem Attacks Jackley on Delay of Zylstra Kaiser Sexual Harassment Settlement Check

Remember how back in December I said that a federal jury’s award of $1.2 million to former DCI agent Laura Zylstra Kaiser for her boss’s retaliation against her for complaining about sexual harassment by a Brown County sheriff’s deputy could impact Attorney General and DCI overseer Marty Jackley’s gubernatorial campaign? With two weeks left before the primary, Jackley’s opponent, Congresswoman Kristi Noem, has thrown that grenade.

According to court documents, after the guilty verdict, the state and Zylstra Kaiser reached a settlement. The state would pay $1,543,366, and Zylstra Kaiser would drop all claims for attorney fees, costs, interest, etc. The state was supposed to pay up by April 15, but Zylstra Kaiser still has no check.

The money is coming, says Jackley’s office:

Sara Rabern, DCI spokeswoman said there may not be a need for the hearing. There was never an intent not to sign the agreement, she said. It’s her understanding that officials with the Bureau of Administration’s Office of Risk Management were finalizing paperwork today to get the agreement signed [Elisa Sand, “Settlement Expected to Be Finalized between Zylstra Kaiser, DCI,” Aberdeen American News, 2018.05.22].

But according to Judge Charles B. Kornmann’s order issued last Friday, the state “is now proposing to deliver the checks and the signed release to counsel for plaintiff some date in early June.

Know what else happens in early June? The primary election, in which Laura Zylstra Kaiser’s husband, Dan Kaiser, is running for sheriff against Jackley’s pal, incumbent Brown County Sheriff Mark Milbrandt.

The Noem campaign smells the same thing I do:

“At the very least, Marty Jackley’s delay shows a blatant disregard for the needs of victims,” said Justin Brasell, Kristi for Governor Campaign Manager. “At the most, it shows he’s willing to manipulate victims and the criminal justice system for his own political purposes. There are questions this revelation draws, and they need to be answered” [Kristi Noem campaign, press release, 2018.05.22].

Also smelling of politics is this press release from the Attorney General:

The State of South Dakota confirms today that the State of South Dakota has finalized the Laura Zylstra Kaiser lawsuit. This case and settlement was handled by the Governor’s Office of Risk Management and the State’s insurance company.

The Director of the Division of Criminal Investigation, Bryan Gortmaker, first received the compromise settlement agreement and release in full of all claims on Friday, May 18, 2018. The paperwork was signed and finalized by the Governor’s Office of Risk Management on Monday, May 21, 2018.

Based upon these dates, this settlement was not delayed.  The language of the settlement agreement states the following: The payment will be made by delivering the checks to Kaiser’s attorneys so that the checks are in their hands no sooner than May 21, 2018, but in no event later than June 8, 2018 [Attorney General’s office, press release, 2018.05.22].

Why the possible delay to June 8? When the Governor’s Office wanted Northern Beef Packers (you remember them, right, Marty?) to get a million dollar check in 2011, they handed that money right to Richard Benda so he could personally deliver that urgently needed cash just eight days after it was requested. Zylstra Kaiser’s attorneys say that a court order to issue payment within three business days is appropriate.

A couple weeks ago, Team Noem was citing a bogus poll to paint a narrative of Jackley having to adopt a risky negative strategy to catch up to Noem’s purported lead. But now Noem is stepping out with a negative attack that, far from risky, is a pretty strong attack on Jackley’s treatment of a woman victimized at the hands of his friends and employees in law enforcement. If that check isn’t in Zylstra Kaiser’s hands this week, Noem should confront Jackley with this issue in their debates next week Tuesday on SDPB and Thursday on KSFY.


  1. John Tsitrian 2018-05-23

    How is it a “possible delay” to hold on to the check until the deadline imposed by the settlement? That’s a nice chunk of change, worth a few bucks a day, and smart money management would hang on to it until the last possible minute.

  2. Donald Pay 2018-05-23

    I can’t understand why Noem doesn’t go after Jackley’s corruption on the Gilt Edge Superfund Site.

  3. grudznick 2018-05-23

    Mr. Tsitrian is probably right that Mr. Jackley is just earning as much interest in the taxpayer funds going to Mr. Kaiser’s wife as he can.

    Mr. Pay, tinfoil hats are bad for the environment.

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-05-23

    Donald, I’d suggest Noem either isn’t aware of the issue, doesn’t understand the issue, can’t frame the issue into a press release that her boy Brasell can impress voters with in ten seconds, or supports the deal or is somehow otherwise involved such that she can’t put daylight between herself and Jackley on it.

    John, you’re right: the state has already delayed the settlement to the tail end of LZK’s husband’s campaign, when any funds received now will be hard to turn into campaign outreach.

  5. mike fom iowa 2018-05-23

    Jackley playing politics with people’s lives? Perish the thought.

    Any interest accrued on the settlement money should go to winner, as well as any fines for not meeting the deadline.

  6. Jason 2018-05-23

    MFI wrote:

    Jackley playing politics with people’s lives? Perish the thought.

    How ironic since you play politics with dead children.

  7. mike fom iowa 2018-05-23

    Jason, I don’t play politics. I am not a politician. I have no desire to be one. Thanks for caring.

  8. Rorschach 2018-05-23

    When the Noem commercial with Zylstra Kaiser comes out it is going to be devastating. The state forced her to go to trial where it got it’s bell rung, then it tried to get her to sign a non-disparagement agreement – apparently after it’s time to appeal expired (when it had no bargaining power). The state slow-walked the payment for 5 months. 5 MONTHS! Forcing Zylstra Kaiser to incur additional legal fees and go back to court to actually get the payment she won from a South Dakota jury. Only AFTER the federal court lowered the boom on the state did the state finally find a way to shuffle the paperwork – which they should have done months ago. Still, the state is trying to delay actual payment further even while claiming they are getting it worked out. Even after all of this, the person on whose watch the hostile work environment both occurred and was attempted to be covered up is still employed by the state – Bryan Gortmaker. And his boss: Marty Jackley. This is a sordid affair on the state side. Everybody pointing fingers and nobody being held responsible for either the actions leading to the lawsuit or the unseemly actions withholding payment after the lawsuit was won. Heads ought to have rolled, and I’m not talking about Zylstra Kaiser. She should have Gortmaker’s job and bring in some accountability at DCI. I hope the federal court orders the state to cut a check within 24 hours – with interest.

  9. grudznick 2018-05-23

    Funny stuff, indeed.

  10. Debbo 2018-05-23

    “Noem should confront Jackley with this issue in their debates next week Tuesday on SDPB and Thursday on KSFY.”

    That should be a lot of fun. There are more women in SD outraged by state-sanctioned sexism than most realize. You can see from this particular case why they’re quiet. However, Noem could gain votes from from Jackley’s petty cruelties here. I hope she does bring it up.

    Rorschach, excellent comment.

  11. South DaCola 2018-05-23

    While I detest Noem, a Jackboots governorship is scarier than a 10-Headed Janklow. This guy covered up every secret he could, and when he couldn’t cover up this one he claimed ‘playing politics’. Not only do I hope Noem does a commercial about the sexual harassment, but she should also bring up the Mette case, and EB-5 and Gear-Up. Not only do I hope Noem beats Jackley, but I hope she creams him into oblivion.

  12. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-05-23

    She should have started that creaming a month ago, before the first early ballot was cast. Sexual harassment and the other scandals of Jackley’s AG tenure don’t seem like they’ll penetrate the consciousness of GOP primary voters in a two-week push. They need more drilling.

  13. Jason 2018-05-23

    Debbo wrote:

    There are more women in SD outraged by state-sanctioned sexism than most realize.

    Are you sane?

    If I was a betting man, I would bet money you would be the next Democrat to use violence against a Republican.

  14. Roger Cornelius 2018-05-23

    Debbo would never use violence against anyone unless it was in self-defense.

  15. grudznick 2018-05-23

    Mr. Jason, if I was a betting man, I would expect your scenario to occur at breakfast somewhere downtown Rapid City in the next couple of weeks, or perhaps over on Campbell street at the diner. I don’t think Ms. Geelsdottir is going to drive around and come back to South Dakota just to go smacking people upside the head, but watch yourselves at breakfast for there are angry libbies out there, and they lash out indiscriminately.

  16. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-05-26

    A point Ror made just sunk in: if there are Republican voters who make excuses for sexual harassers, Noem could still grab them with the money argument. Whatever happened to LZK, she filed a grievance, asked to be transferred back to Aberdeen to be with her family, and Jackley said no. He could have transferred her back to the Aberdeen office in 2012 and put the issue to bed. When she sued in 2015, Jackley could have offered a settlement. When the state lost, Jackley could have agreed to own up to what the jury said happened, paid out, and been done. Instead, Jackley rang up more and more cost for the state, all of which could have been avoided if he hadn’t tried to tear a family apart by transferring a new mom (and victim of sexual harassment) 160 miles away from home.

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