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.