Bon Homme’s Viral Drama

Mark and Blair (DeJong) Maggs are shown with their four children: Gauge, 6; Kodi, 4; J.R., 3; and Ridge, 6 months.    

TYNDALL — An unusual election-year conflict in the Bon Homme County sheriff’s department has gone viral, drawing national attention.

Deputy Sheriff Mark Maggs ran against Sheriff Lenny Gramkow in Tuesday’s Republican primary. No other candidates filed for the race, meaning the GOP primary winner would become the sheriff for a four-year term.

In the end, Maggs won the election but lost his job.

Gramkow issued a termination notice, firing the deputy one minute after the polls closed Tuesday night.

By evening’s end, Maggs had won in a landslide 878-331, or a nearly 3-to-1 margin.

Maggs posted the termination notice on his Facebook page. The notice, with a 7:01 p.m. time stamp, said, “This letter is to inform you that, effective immediately, you are terminated from the position as deputy sheriff for Bon Homme County. As of this moment, you are no longer an employee of Bon Homme County.

“Please turn in all equipment belonging to Bon Homme County by 5 p.m. June 6, 2018.”

As a result, Maggs finds himself in an unusual situation as sheriff-elect. He will assume office in January and take charge of the department from which he was fired.

In the meantime, he is left without an income and fringe benefits, such as health care. He and his wife live in Springfield with their four children, ranging in age from 6 years to 6 months.

Under state law, a sheriff holds broad authority in the hiring and firing of his personnel. In addition, South Dakota is a “right to work” state where employees can be fired without cause.

Gramkow didn’t respond to Press & Dakotan requests for comments on the termination letter and his reason for immediately firing the deputy sheriff.

Maggs has worked as a Bon Homme County deputy sheriff since March 2013, according to his biography. After filing to run for sheriff, Maggs continued working in the department until his immediate termination Tuesday night.

Maggs told the Press & Dakotan Wednesday that he hoped to meet with the Bon Homme County Commission today (Thursday). The regular meeting is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. in the Tyndall courthouse.

In the meantime, he has declined media interviews until resolving the situation.

“I would like to speak with the commissioners prior to speaking with any media. It sounds like we may have that opportunity (Thursday),” he told the Press & Dakotan.

“My position right now is not only keeping my family’s best interests in mind but also Bon Homme County’s best interests in mind.”

However, Maggs’ supporters weren’t waiting for the County Commission meeting in order to demand action.

“Some of the residents of Bon Homme County have started an online petition in an attempt to have me reinstated as deputy sheriff,” Maggs told the Press & Dakotan.

In his Facebook post, Maggs extended his appreciation for the backing he received not only in the election but also in the aftermath of his firing.

“Thank you all very much for the support. The petition will not be necessary,” he wrote. “I trust our county commissioners heard your voices (Tuesday) night through the election results, and I also trust that they will stand with my family and I (in) the way you all have and ensure that my family will not be left hanging without an income or insurance.

“Thank you all again for the tremendous level of support through the years and currently (in this situation). It means the world to us.”

Maggs graduated from Penn State University in 2011 with a bachelor of science degree in crime, law and justice. He joined the Bon Homme County sheriff’s office in 2013, serving as a deputy sheriff and earning his law enforcement certificate from the South Dakota Law Enforcement Training academy in 2014.

In addition, he has worked for the Clinton County Correctional Facility in Pennsylvania and Mike Durfee State Prison in Springfield.

Bon Homme County Auditor Tamara Brunken declined the Press & Dakotan’s request for the agenda for today’s county commission meeting.

“It is past the 24-hour cutoff,” she wrote in an email.

The Press & Dakotan consulted with South Dakota Newspaper Association executive director Dave Bordewyk about the declined request.

Bordewyk responded that the Press & Dakotan is entitled to a meeting agenda, regardless of the time frame.

“An agenda is a public record, period,” he said.

In addition, the “24-hour” rule deals with the minimum amount of time that an agenda or other notice must be publicly posted before a meeting, Bordewyk said. The 24 hours doesn’t mean the amount of time that an agenda or other public record remains available, he added.

The Press & Dakotan renewed its request for a Bon Homme County Commission agenda, with no response from the auditor’s office. The Press & Dakotan also requested that the newspaper receive agendas and other notifications for future meetings and other functions.

While not providing an agenda, Brunken did respond to P&D questions about the commissioners’ business matters under consideration as of Wednesday afternoon. The agenda did not include the sheriff’s situation or a meeting with Gramkow and/or Maggs, the auditor said. As a result, she didn’t expect the commissioners to discuss the matter.

In addition, the county commissioners will today canvass the primary election, including the sheriff’s race and the Republican primary for District 5 commissioner. The commission seat represents the Springfield area.

In the GOP primary for the District 5 seat, incumbent Russell Jelsma defeated challenger Dustin Wayne Tjeerdsma 166-162. The race is subject to a recount, according to Deputy Secretary of State Kea Warne.

Under state law, a contest is subject to a recount if the margin between candidates amounts to less than 2 percent of the votes cast, Warne said. In this case, a recount could be requested as the margin fell below seven votes, she noted.

The losing candidate must request a recount within three days of the completion of the county’s election canvass, Warne added.

Follow @RDockendorf on Twitter.

(10) comments

bjs12258

Sheriff Gramkow just revealed his true colors. What a petty, vindictive, juvenile man. He should not be in charge of anything and should be ashamed of himself for being such a poor loser.

FedUp in BH

What Gramkow did was wrong but let's be honest, Maggs is just as shady. Remember the dog killed by officer Magee? Magee lied and Maggs covered for him. He deserved to be fired for that alone!

BDT

Yes it was bad but really he should have resigned and then ran against the sheriff. That would have been the decent thing to do. The sheriff good or bad gave that young deputy a job and took him under his wing. The deputy gained experience, training and was able to take care of his growing family. The deputy enjoyed that for 15 years then thanked him by removing him from his post. I'm not saying he shouldn't have run but he was in a no lose situation. If he lost he wanted to still be a deputy even though he bites the hand of the man who gave him his start in law enforcement and if he won he was the new sheriff. Law enforcement has changed. In my day it was a brotherhood and you took care of one another. I guess the new sheriff got one last lesson. Consequences of your actions are real.

BS54

My understanding Maggs should of been fired months ago and the Sheriff went out of his way to keep him employed.

wojo007

I live in a right to work state and that does not give any sheriff the power to get away with firing an employee for political reasons. A vindictive sheriff in my county has cost the county hundreds of thousands of dollars if not millions for this same thing. He is now serving time in a federal prison. We will see about this guy.

JIm Kress

"right to work” state where employees can be fired without cause

Right to work and "at will employment" are two separate legal entities. Your statement is incorrect.

Ken M

How about we wait for the facts to come out before we start making people answer questions.

RonniiRaygun

Well thank God for North Dakota. You folks down South in the LOWER state seam a little backwards.
Maggs, shot the dog...... but he did not shoot the deputy.
One sounds like he made a bad choice and the other sounds like an butt monkey. Maggs won the election and if the soon to be former Sheriff fired him the board of commissioners should fire the Sheriff and instate Maggs as the interim Sheriff until January. Next the board of commissions should hold a hearing on the dog shooting for transparency. If Maggs messed up, then decide what the most prudent course of action should be. All said the old Sherrif sounds like a difficult and arrogant person and should be fired.
In North Dakota we'd fire both of them and say "Oh for Jeez hey dats no good yah".

Emperor Palpatine

Yes good, good, the dark side of the force is strong with both Master Gramkow and Apprentice Maggs. Gramkow's final lesson to the young Maggs is nearly complete. Maggs will rule the county and bring the dark side of the force and the Siths true power. Maggs will soon be the Master and will need a new apprentice. One that is far more powerful and younger than Master Gramkow. HEHEHEHEHEHEHEH [sneaky]

ejlw

welcome to the small town of gossips, never going to change
how about you folks just wait for the entire results to be disclosed

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