My dear fellow South Dakotans,

While the regular legislative session is over, I have been appointed to several joint legislative committees that meet year round and which require considerable work every month. We will begin work shortly on the Tribal Relations Committee, and we are in full swing on the Government Operations & Audit Committee (GOAC).

Tribal Relations Committee’s duty: “… to make a continuing study of the relations between the state and its political subdivisions and the tribes and their tribal governments.” The GOAC is the investigative arm of the legislature: “inquiry and review of any phase of the operations and the fiscal affairs of any department, institution, board or agency of the state, to review any findings of abuse or neglect in a juvenile corrections facility.”

I promised you during the election to aggressively confront aspects of corruption within our government, to ask the tough questions on your behalf, to demand answers to those questions, and to ensure your hard earned monies taken from you in taxes are spent only on reputable matters in your service. To that end, I and others requested the GOAC to conduct extensive hearings into the GEAR Up corruption scandal that came to light in the aftermath of the tragic deaths of the entire six-member Westerhuis family on Sept. 15, 2015, near Platte. We start deliberations on having those hearings at 9 a.m. April 25 in Room No. 362 in the Capitol. It is open to the public and you are welcome and encouraged to attend.

Estimates are that up to $100 million in taxpayer monies disappeared into persons, entities, and organizations associated with GEAR Up over many years. Those monies were supposed to be used to prepare Native American youth for college. My understanding is that there is no tangible evidence showing even one Native youth benefited; however, numerous current and former state officials have been mentioned as having benefited financially.

There have been significant concerns and questions expressed by voters in our district, by other legislators, and even KELO’s Angela Kennecke in a news story, regarding our district Rep. Kyle Schoenfish’s reported involvement in the auditing of certain entities at the center of this scandal. On Jan. 31, I officially forwarded those questions to Rep. Schoenfish. He responded on Feb. 4 stating the questions were “..fairly easy to address.” Despite that statement, to date he has refused to provide answers to those questions asked by Kennecke and others. Additionally, Rep. Schoenfish failed to show up for two of our district’s five cracker barrels (legislative forums), one in Corsica on Feb. 16, and the other in his hometown of Scotland on March 11. He now claims repeatedly in his articles to our local papers that he has been “attacked” by “dishonest politicians and people” and claims to be a victim of “meritless political attacks.”

Rep. Schoenfish is being “attacked” by his own record and the ugly appearance that comes from avoiding answering questions that the public has a right to have answered. In regards to his missing or avoiding cracker barrels, if I as a husband, daddy, grandfather, small Sioux Falls business manager, hobby farmer and busted-up old Marine can make time to meet my obligations and drive several hours to attend the voters’ cracker barrels to be answerable to you, I expect a young, single man living at home and working for his father to make time for the responsibilities he knowingly signed on to (and got paid for), or to resign if he is unwilling to do so.

I will provide reports on the GOAC & Tribal relations work as it occurs.

God bless and Semper Fidelis.

(3) comments


Senator Stacy Nelson claims Rep. Kyle Schoenfish should resign because he did not attend a "cracker barrel." Sen. Nelson seems to confirm Rep. Schoenfish's statement that his is the victim of “meritless political attacks.”

Where does Sen. Nelson live if he has to drive hours and hours to get to Scotland or Corsica? It does not appear to be in District 19.

I enjoy Republican on Republican attacks as much as the next guy but Sen. Nelson attacks don't seem to make sense. His claim that "up to $100 million in taxpayer monies disappeared into persons...associated with GEAR UP over many years" makes no sense. All the state and federal monies combined does not add up to $50 million. How could $100 million have been stolen?

KELO’s Angela Kennecke in a news story talks about $5 million dollars stolen from GEAR UP by Mid Central Education Cooperative in Platte. Attorney General Marty Jackley says Scott and Nicole Westerhuis stole up to $2 million in grant money. Mid Central didn't establish a proper accounting system or safeguards to prohibit employees form using their positions for personal gain. Mid Central blames the accounting firm for their misappropriations.

Mid Central lied to the State of South Dakota and the federal government why is it shocking to believe they lied to their accounting firm?

Sen. Nelson implication that Rep. Schoenfish accounting firm with in-cahoots with Mid Central's fraud has no basis in fact. Sen. Nelson is reckless.


@ dmilroy
Where does he live? Wrong question. Where does he work? Pierre. Duh. Several hours drive from Scotland and Corsica. And even if he didn't need to go to Pierre, the drive from one town to another to another and back again can easily add up to several hours. Personally I enjoy the beautiful views when I travel our area!

And he didn't suggest he resign over a single cracker barrel. Your reading comprehension skills are lacking.


Sen. Nelson's works seems consist of sliming his fellow Republican legislators.

Jmar, Doesn't it make sense that the "cracker barrel" where schedule for when the legislators were home? Do you really think Sen. Nelson intended to stay in Pierre during the long Martin Luther Jr. holiday weekend? Does it make sense to believe the Sen. Nelson would have stayed in Pierre for the two weeks between second to the last day of the legislature 03/10/17 and the last day (veto day) 03/27/17?

As for your criticism of my reading comprehension skills. Sen. Nelson statement is very clear. According to Sen. Nelson, "In regards to (Rep. Schoenfish) missing or avoiding cracker barrels, if I... can make time to meet my obligations and drive several hours to attend the voters’ cracker barrels..., I expect... (Rep. Schoenfish) to make time..., or to resign if he is unwilling to do so."

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