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Guest Column: Cops Trying to Sting Meade County Cannabis Petition Driver?

In his latest guest column with tales from the petition trail in Meade County, Bob Newland says he’s had a couple suspicious characters inquire about working for him as paid petition circulators… suspicious enough to make him think they might be fingers on the long arm of the law trying to trip him up!

Bob Newland, guest columnist, petitioner, marijuana advocate.
Bob Newland, guest columnist, petitioner, marijuana advocate… and Meade County’s Most Wanted Man?

Have Clipboard–Will Travel, Installment VI
Bob Newland guest column

Previous installments of my adventures in Meade County, South Dakota, attempting to raise voter awareness of the Meade County Commission’s allotment of a medical cannabis license to a single favored licensee can be found on Dakota Free Press on May 7,  May 10, May 13, May 17 and June 14.

Installment VI presents weirdness associated with undercover stings in pursuit of ballot issue circulation violations.

In the briefest possible introduction for the un-or slightly impaired-woke, I am conducting a petition drive in Meade County, South Dakota, to correct an obvious injustice. The Meade Co. Commission has decreed there shall be only one medical cannabis dispensary in the entire county, which is bigger than England. The commission has allocated that license to a weed dealer with ties to the Commission. WTF? Right?

There is a lot of WTF? in Meade County. Often, by the time the word “cannabis” has passed my lips, folks are grabbing my clipboard. The folks who are beating the streets with this message are sufficiently gratified, by similar gestures of appreciation for their efforts, to continue with a surprisingly daunting task, to continue beating the streets for $60 per hour.

Yep. No one has ever paid anywhere near the effective price-per-signature rate in SoDak as are my employers. All that said, why am I having such a struggle to obtain the signatures of 1,200 people registered to vote in Meade County (which has about 20,000 registered voters)?

Part of it almost certainly is illustrated by the fact that I have been stung once, maybe twice, by undercover law enforcement action.

On 7 June 2022, I was in Sturgis, SoDak, when I received a call from someone purporting to be responding to an employment-offered ad. I have more help-wanted ads out there on the cybernet and everywhere else than I can keep track of. This caller said he was responding to my ad.

This caller said he was interested in my offer. My offer was $40-$65 per hour to say these words to 60-or-so people per day: “Hi. I’m circulating a petition to persuade the Meade County Commission to allow more than one medical cannabis dispensary in the county. Would you like to help?”

I made an appointment to meet this dude at the Slash J in Piedmont, a notorious hangout for various characters in various stages of liver damage, at 3 p.m. I described myself so he could spot me. I walked in and immediately saw the guy, sitting at the bar, resembling the overweight deputy sheriff model on decals on gas dispensers advising you not to get gas without paying (as if that were even possible now). He acknowledged me and we went to a table.

He gave me a name, but I didn’t pay much attention. He was 5’10”, 180#-or-so, shaved head, cop-beard. He portrayed himself as having been dis-jobbed from a “start-up IT company.” He said he thought my offer was interesting and that he wouldn’t mind making some money while he was waiting for replies to other offers for his services.

I explained to him that, unless he could come up with a better idea, we had to knock on doors until we had 1,200 signatures. He asked about remuneration. I said, “I’ll give you $20 per hour and big bonuses if you actually do something.”

He said, “So this will be, like, under the table?”

I took a breath and looked at him. “Not at all,” I said. “I can’t count this much money under the table in a bar. It’s too dark. What did I just say that provoked that question?” He shrugged.

I suspected something like this was going to come down. I have provocative ads running in Meade County. I am administering a petition drive that directly challenges a county commission’s authority to grant favors. I also have previous experience being stung by undercover shame administrators.

The gas pump hero said, “I’ll let you know [whether I want the job you offered].”

The next day, one of my contract employees was knocking on doors in Piedmont. He was greeted at one house by a bald, bearded jerk who insulted him about the cannabis issue he was presenting. After I got a further description of his verbal assailant, I am fairly sure this was my job applicant. Oh, and this guy was wearing a Meade County Sheriff’s deputy outfit.

I suspect he was trying to find a way to bust me for a violation of SDCL 12-13-28, “Employment and compensation of petition circulators.” Click the link. Read the law and see if you can make sense of it. Maybe I and the petition sponsors will run into him down the line.

The next day, 8 June, I interviewed and worked in the field with a guy who said his name was Everett Quincy Thomas, of Lead SD. He said he was 22 and needed to make some money. We worked the crowd at the Wednesday night street concert in Sturgis. He observed while I approached people, introduced my clipboard and obtained four signatures. I asked him if he wanted to approach some people.

He took the clipboard and in short order had obtained three more signatures. I asked him if he needed more training. He said he thought he had the hang of it. We retired to a nearby table and I asked his intent regarding circulation over the next few days. I gave him some satellite photos of areas in Sturgis and directed him to work those areas to avoid stepping on other circulators who were working nearby areas. He agreed, and then committed to going back to the street concert to continue working the crowd.

I pointed out that he already had over $100 in pay sitting on his clipboard (I had donated my work to him), and that I would be glad to pay him the next day for his work that night, if he would get his sheets notarized. He said he would take the maps to his car and return to the crowd. I watched him walk to his car, get in, and drive away.

In spite of my repeated attempts to contact him the next day by means of a phone number on which we had talked and texted, and the email address he gave me, Everett refused to respond.

There are some possibilities. Everett might be in jail or dead. He might have been a cop. He might simply be a lunatic. If he was a cop, why would he not at least meet with me to get paid and allow me to violate 12-13-28. Even a lunatic would, you’d think, respond to my offer to buy my clipboard back for over $100.00.

Currently, my ads offer $40-$65 per hour to recite two sentences to as many people as possible in Meade County. Fact is, some are making in excess of $100.00 per hour. And signatures are trickling in at the rate of 20-30 per day. A third are invalid, because the signers are unaware that they are not registered to vote.

At peak times, from about 6-8:30 in the evening, a circulator can knock on 20 doors before finding someone home. The rest of the day, it might be 40 doors. At that rate, four signatures per hour is not bad production. In the end, it won’t matter much. We’ll get the required number of signatures and Meade County will fight their validity in court. Maybe my sponsors will win, but by that time the whole complexion of cannabis retailing in SoDak will have changed again.

Please write me if they jail me.

Bob Newland, 605-209-4354,

“His clipboard for hire meets the calling wind.”


  1. grudznick 2022-06-24 09:30

    Beware those lunatics, Bob. They’ll run off with your clipboard every time. Especially when there’s a Camaro Rally going down.

  2. Bob Newland 2022-06-24 10:03

    Seconds after Cory posted this installment of the Clipboard Saga, I received a call from Kittrick Jeffries, a principal of Puffy’s, the holder of the allocated Meade County dispensary license.

    Kit (his own self-identification) was gracious and polite. He took affront at my terminology, “with ties to the commission.” He said, “If you had been at the hearing, you would have heard every member of the Commission say they didn’t want to award any licenses in Meade County. ‘We had a gun held to our heads.’ ”

    He further said that he was trying to assure that the license went to a South Dakota business, and that he was not opposed to our effort to expand the opportunity for competition.

    We ended the call on what seemed to be friendly terms.

    I hereby state that my term “ties” does not refer to any knowledge on my part of untoward business on the part of the County Commission or Puffy ‘s.

    I still hold, hiwever,, that the allocation of a monopoly is not right.

  3. Donald Pay 2022-06-24 10:50

    Jesus, Bob, I hope this is not true: “I pointed out that he already had over $100 in pay sitting on his clipboard (I had donated my work to him)….”

  4. cibvet 2022-06-24 11:27

    Good luck Bob. A year and a half and still holding up medical cannabis which means recreational cannabis
    might 3 or 4 years down the road even though it will be voter approved. I do admire your forethought because I find
    living in SD, that it can be sucked out rapidly.

  5. Bob Newland 2022-06-24 12:09

    Why, Don? He watched the signers when I carried the board. I watched the signers when he carried the board. Either of us could swear that to the notary.

  6. Bob Newland 2022-06-24 12:18

    In any case, it’s moot. Those sigs won’t be sworn to.

  7. All Mammal 2022-06-24 12:47

    What the man did when he took those signatures is a fraud perpetrated on the citizens who entrusted you with their mark, which in a First Amendment context, is sacred. He should be found guilty of breaking a heavy law by acquiring signatures under false pretenses and disappearing with them.
    Plus, it makes it that much more difficult for future legitimate circulators to gain the trust needed to get signature lines filled. Exercising constitutional rights is something that should be respected with the utmost reverence.
    He should be found, forced to cough up the signature sheet, and get a few books dropped on his body. From very high up.
    The disrespect enacted on the Bill of Rights by ‘lawmen’ is an affront to their oath. We need deputies, not dummy deputies.

  8. Jake 2022-06-24 13:00

    You’re to be commended, Bob, for the effort-and for posting to DFP regular; I think this very method, to be best way for So. Dakotan’s with their heads in the sands like ostriches to take notice. Though, sadly, the Dakotans who need to read DFP the most are likely the last ones to.

    \Good luck!

  9. Donald Pay 2022-06-24 13:31

    Well, Bob, I guess that would be legal, as long as both witnessed at the same time. Generally, the person wielding the clipboard and asking for the signature is the one who is considered the circulator by the person signing.

    All Mammal points up the problem of hiring out the work that volunteer citizens committed to a cause should be doing.

  10. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-06-24 13:36

    Regardless of the money, one thing that bothers me is that Everett Thomas has walked off with the signatures of voters who intended to submit their names to put a measure on the ballot. Thomas is disenfranchising those voters. He has a civic obligation to turn those signatures in to the petition sponsor.

  11. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-06-24 13:45

    Donald is correct, though, to point out a problematic aspect of the sheet on which Bob collected four signatures and Ev collected three. As Bob notes, there is some definitional fuzz, since both men were present and witnessed the collection of all seven signatures. Interestingly, the circulator’s oath on a county initiative petition is shorter than the oath on a statewide petition: “I, under oath, state that I circulated the above petition, that each signer personally signed this petition in my presence, and that either the signer or I added the printed name, the residence address of the signer, the date of signing, and the county of voter registration” [ARSD 05:08:02:00.03]. While I agree that “circulator” is considered exclusive for each sheet, we can argue that Bob and Ev can truthfully swear to each of the actions prescribed in the oath.

    Still, absolutely clean practice says one circulator per sheet. Nobody swears to anybody else’s signatures.

  12. All Mammal 2022-06-24 15:56

    Since it would be a crime for me as a petition circulator to register an eligible resident to vote then fail to turn that registration in to the auditor within a certain number of days, how is it not illegal for that skank undie cover to not use the signature sheet for what it was meant by submitting it to the SOS?
    Disenfranchising voters and robbing a petition are crimes enacted against the Constitution, US citizens, and an attempt to undermine the petition process. At the least, charge him with fraudulent soliciting, false impersonation, and theft. (I might have made up the fraudulent solicitation; it sounded ok. Denial of right to petition, circulator fraud?)

    Doesn’t get any more anti-American and fascist than that. My grandpa and grandma went to war to end fascism, as TRUE patriots do.

    Mr. Pay-I agree with the idea of an all volunteer petition circulating team, but realistically, that would probably do away with the petition process all together. Additionally, the oppressors might bring up some labor law violation or some bs if a circulator were to twist an ankle while on duty, who knows what sick little minds will come up with when they are out done.

  13. Donald Pay 2022-06-24 16:07

    Sure, Mr. Thomas didn’t follow through, but he had no reason other than money to do so. That he failed those citizens who signed is clear, but it is not illegal under South Dakota law. Maybe it should be. We worried about such monkeywrenching when we brought our initiatives, which is why we relied on people we knew were committed to the cause.

  14. Bob Newland 2022-06-24 19:37

    Donald Pay seems to have a mother’s milk allergy.

  15. Donald Pay 2022-06-24 21:18

    Bob, I am pretty cranky these days,I admit, but I’ve been off mother’s milk for 70 years.

  16. Bob Newland 2022-06-24 22:22

    Well, I got to kinda likin it these past two months. That doesn’t mean I don’t recognize the absurdity in every single element of this ballot issue campaign.

  17. grudznick 2022-06-25 08:09

    Mr. Thomas,
    I know you’re out there.
    You’re in hiding.
    And you hold your meetings.

  18. John Dale 2022-06-27 08:29

    If the legislature had supported this:

    We would all be rich, beautiful, have amazing hot significant others, and bigger members.

    As it stands, we have none of these things and I can’t say Bob is wrong about some of the strange conduct coming out around the cannabis issue.

    Meanwhile, alcohol is a destructive scourge that we can get on every street corner.

    For the life of me I don’t understand why we allow alcohol sales and not cannabis sales if not to appease the bar owners, who would lose many customers since people would start using cannabis and likely elevate their understanding and perspective such that they would stop drinking?

  19. Bob Newland 2022-06-27 08:48

    While I agree with John Dale that it is INSANE to criminalize or even midemeanorize cannabis possession or use, I have seen no evidence suggesting alcohol use declines in jurisdictions where cannabis is more or less legal.

    That could be because it’s obvious that anyone who wants cannabis can get it, regardless of the law.

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