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.