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Senator Duhamel Plans to Keep County Job, Despite Constitutional Prohibition

Senator Helene Duhamel, whom Governor Kristi Noem appointed in December to fill the District 32 seat vacated by, says she plans to keep her day job working for the Pennington County Sheriff, even during Session:

Helene Duhamel, a newly appointed state senator representing Rapid City, said she will work part time as the public information officer for the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office during the 10-week legislative session. A human resources employee in the sheriff’s office will fill in when she’s not available [Arielle Zionts, “Duhamel to Work Part Time at Sheriff’s Office During Legislative Session,” Rapid City Journal, 2020.01.16].

Senator Helene Dumahel, in Pierre for her matron Governor Noem's budget address, screen cap from KOTA-TV, 2019.12.03.
Lawmaker, lawbreaker?

I don’t mind if Duhamel puts in hours for the Sheriff when she takes off her legislator badge (as long as she doesn’t skip any Session days to fly to a public information officer convention in Texas). But if Duhamel plans to keep her Senate spot (and she is one of the first candidates to file for the 2020 election), she’s going to meet the South Dakota Constitution, Article 3, Section 12:

No member of the Legislature shall, during the term for which he was elected, be appointed or elected to any civil office in the state which shall have been created, or the emoluments of which shall have been increased during the term for which he was elected, nor shall any member receive any civil appointment from the Governor, the Governor and senate, or from the Legislature during the term for which he shall have been elected, and all such appointments and all votes given for any such members for any such office or appointment shall be void; nor shall any member of the Legislature during the term for which he shall have been elected, or within one year thereafter, be interested, directly or indirectly, in any contract with the state or any county thereof, authorized by any law passed during the term for which he shall have been elected [emphasis mine; SD Const., Art. 3 Sec 12].

Senator Duhamel will vote on bills affecting funding for counties. Her contract with Pennington County involves payment made possible, directly or indirectly, by state dollars she will vote on. The moment any bill affecting Pennington County’s funding takes effect—be it July 1, 2020, for the budget or any other normal bill or sooner for any “emergency” bill, Senator Duhamel will have to resign either her Senate seat or her job with Sheriff Thom.

Of course, she probably won’t, because Republicans have lost interest in enforcing the law on themselves. They did so in 2001, when Attorney General Mark Barnett went after Republican Carol Pitts, an SDSU Extension specialist who won a seat in the House in 2000. Barnett invoked Article 3 Section 12 in 2001 and got the South Dakota Supreme Court to deny Pitts her SDSU paycheck for FY2002. But in 2016, Attorney General Marty Jackley declined to look into similar legislator conflicts of interest, saying it’s up to the Legislature itself to decide if members of the Legislature have disqualifying conflicts of interest. And current Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg—pffft! no one can count on Ravnsborg to handle anything effectively in court.

Senator Duhamel works as a lawmaker in Pierre and speaks for law enforcement in Pennington County. One would thus expect her to understand the law that pertains to both of her jobs. But we’ll see which paycheck, if either, she chooses to forgo.


  1. jerry 2020-01-17 10:39

    Helene is just another grifter living off the state’s teat. Pick a lane Helene, pick a lane.

  2. Marvin Kammerer 2020-01-17 10:43

    if it’s unethical, don’t do it helene ! you of all people should know better.

  3. Donald Pay 2020-01-17 11:49

    Pretty sad. Someone with ethics and an understanding of civics wold, as jerry said, “pick a lane,” as is required by the state Constitution. Maybe she was not aware of the provision. Helene needs to make a decision. She can be an example of what students interested in public service should NOT become, or can decide to follow her oath to the Constitution.

  4. Debbo 2020-01-17 16:51

    Duhamel’s public reputation, which she has guarded quite zealously, is at stake here. Does anyone have any guesses?

    Where does Jackley get off saying it’s not the AG’s job to investigate violations of the state constitution? I thought that was at the heart of the job.

  5. Bob Newland 2020-01-17 18:37

    It’s the AG’s job to, first, cover up constitutional violations, then, failing that, to say they aren’t constitutional violations at all.

  6. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-01-17 19:55

    Donald, it’s possible she didn’t know. She didn’t spend your news career covering much real news, certainly not Legislative news, so she wouldn’t have run into this before as I have in covering the Legislature. But one would think that when the governor called and asked her if she’d like to do the job, Helene would have gone to her employer and said, hey, is there any reason I can’t do both Legislature and this job, And her employer would’ve looked this up or had the states attorney check on it and would’ve found this basic principles of the Constitution and would’ve said to her, gee, Helene, no, you won’t be able to, not once you vote for the budget. Or the Governor’s people, who surely vet their appointees, would have known this conflict existed and would have advised Helene that she would have to choose between her current job and serving in Pierre so they could avoid snafus like this that would reflect poorly on the Governor’s decision-making.

  7. Donald Pay 2020-01-18 09:47

    I love this, Cory: “She didn’t spend your news career….” Just to be clear, I had a couple jobs in the news bidness that lasted 2 years in total, getting fired from one position, after which I decided “eff the news bidness.” Someday I might tell that story. I think you meant “her news career.”

    By the way, Bob Newland always has a way of stating things perfectly. That should be on the job description for the Attorney General position.

  8. 96Tears 2020-01-18 10:45

    Shocking! The Duhamel name appears to have fallen when Helene, perhaps the shiny hood ornament of the family’s vast Black Hills broadcasting empire at one time, has to chose which public teat she may continue clinging to and which one she must drop to prevent a violation of the State Constitution! After all, Governor Noem recently proclaimed her “a pillar of her community and a trusted voice for Rapid City,” pointing to her status as “a fifth generation South Dakotan who is well known as a news director and anchor for the family-owned KOTA-TV.”

    And now, this. Alas.

    Fear not, Helene! There must be a tax trough somewhere for an outstanding member of the ruling class to feast! What we’ve learned from EB-5 and GEAR UP is there are plenty of venues in state spending where leaching can be done in privacy and political pals may be stroked with largess without fear of anyone going to jail or even being investigated.

    Who needs a crummy part-time job at the sheriff’s office when your friend Kristi can do for you what previous governors and attorneys general have done for their pals by hooking you up to a quiet little slush fund? Ever since Barnett and Larry Long left office to get their judge appointments and retire, nobody in the AG office has bothered to chase legislators around (unless they’re Democrats) over conflicts of interest and mere constitutional violations.

    By the way, some of you folks might remember District 35 Senator Sharon Green, right? She worked in the Pennington County sheriff’s office as a counselor. Her so-called conflict was front page news back in the 90s in the Rapid City Journal. Dreadful! She received federal funds for her professional work, but since the money passed through the AG’s office budget to Pennington County, the GOP ruling class chased her around with a stick. Of course, she was a Democrat.

  9. Donald Pay 2020-01-18 12:01

    Yeah, I remember Sen. Sharon Green, my Senator. She was kind enough to give me rides back and forth from Pierre to Rapid when my car was, let’s say, on blocks. She didn’t even want gas money, because she said she couldn’t accept anything of value from a lobbyist.

    Yes, she got some passthrough money, but I guess that counts, too. It came ultimately, after several steps from the feds to the AG to the Sheriff to Sen. Green. I bet only Dems have to worry about that number of degrees of kevin bacon. If I remember right, she ended up giving up that counseling work.

  10. Debbo 2020-01-18 14:27

    96, I think that’s one of the most beautiful comments ever written on DFP. Is there a writer’s award for DFP? A sort of Pulitzer? How about the DFP Doozy”? I nominate the above referenced comment. 😁

  11. Tom Moen 2020-02-16 11:44

    When can Rapid City vote on who we want in Pierre? Pillar in the community! REALLY Gov.

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