Posts Tagged ‘government

28
Jan
14

Rep. Susan Wismer Announces Campaign for Democratic Nomination for Governor

Susan Wismer

Susan Wismer

State Rep. Susan Wismer, (D-Britton) announced today that she will begin collecting signatures for a campaign for the Democratic nomination for Governor this week.

“South Dakotans need and deserve a state government that works for them,” said Wismer.  “It’s time we had a Governor that stands up for middle-class South Dakotans, invests in education, and brings a fresh voice to the conversation, instead of the machine that has controlled Pierre for a generation.  That’s the kind of leader I intend to be.”

Wismer is a third term Democratic legislator from Britton. She is a small business owner; she and her sister have operated a tax and bookkeeping practice for over 25 years.

She and her husband Mark, also a Britton native, are the parents of three children. Her family has a long history in South Dakota politics. Her grandfather Art Jones was a rural electric leader and State Senator; her uncle Curt Jones was a State Senator from 1970-1986.

Wismer has served on Appropriations Committee since the beginning of her legislative service. She is a current member of Government Operations and Audit Committee, and has served on the Legislative Redistricting, Legislative Planning, and various summer study committees. She is a representative to the Midwestern Higher Education Compact and on the planning committee for the International Legislators Conference. She is an alumnus of the Midwestern Council of State Government’s Bowhay Legislative Leadership Development Program. She was a member of the first class of South Dakota Ag and Rural Leadership.

Wismer is a 1978 graduate of Augustana College in Sioux Falls, with a major in English and a minor in Journalism, and passed the CPA exam in 1982. In her community she has served as secretary treasurer to the Britton Economic Development Corporation and Britton Area Hospice for over 20 years. She is a member of First Presbyterian Church of Britton and has participated on several Presbytery committees.

“I owe the voters notice that they will have a choice in the race for Governor this spring in the primary and in the fall. I will continue the important work of being a state legislator through the course of this year’s session.  I would appreciate your patience as I work through the legislative session, along with my busy tax season at my office. I owe my constituents and my clients my full attention until April 15, after which I will turn my attention to the campaign full-time.”

An official statewide kickoff tour will be announced in the coming months.

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15
Jan
14

Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s State of the State address

In case you missed it — here’s a link allowing you to view South Dakota Public Broadcasting’s coverage of Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s State of the State address, presented to the Legislature in Pierre Jan. 14:

Video: State of the State Address – 2014 | Watch Statehouse Online | SDPB Television Video.

10
Jan
14

Jackley to release Benda info to auditor general

PIERRE, S.D – Attorney General Jackley announces that the Attorney General and the Auditor General today filed a joint motion with the Sixth Circuit Court. This joint motion requested a court order authorizing the Attorney General to lawfully release criminal investigative and state grand jury information in the custody of the Attorney General to the Department of Legislative Audit.

“The Legislature and our courts have set limitations on a prosecutor’s ability to release criminal justice information, and I do believe that privacy protections provided by our laws are important and worthy considerations,” stated Attorney General Jackley. “Disclosure of the Benda criminal investigation matters to our State’s Auditor General for a lawful purpose is and should be occurring through proper procedures, not as some suggest by dangerously giving prosecutors unlimited authority to release criminal investigations that may involve innocent witnesses or suspects.”

The release of the documents and information is for the purpose of assisting the Auditor General in completing the Department of Legislative Audit’s financial and compliance audit of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) for the period of FY2010 through FY2013. Under South Dakota law, the Department of Legislative Audit has authority to obtain access to financial records that are in the custody of state agencies in order to perform its auditing activities. The Auditors for the Department of Legislative Audit have determined that the Attorney General may have financial records and information pertinent to the GOED audit in the following areas:

  •   Reimbursements to former Department of Tourism and State Development Secretary Richard Benda regarding trips to China that were paid from state funds and from the Expense Fund maintained by South Dakota Regional Center, Inc. (SDRC), which under the agreement between GOED and SDRC are state funds.
  •   The flow of the $1,000,000 Future Fund Grant monies from the Office of Governor to Northern Beef Packers Limited Partnership (“Northern Beef”); the flow of $550,000 of those monies subsequently transferred by Northern Beef to SDRC; and how the $550,000 was used by SDRC.
  •   Other grants, loans or payments made to Northern Beef by the GOED or any other state agency, directly or through the South Dakota Development Corporation (a nonprofit corporation affiliated with GOED and staffed by GOED employees).
 The Auditor General anticipated that some of the financial documentation and information contained in the investigation file and obtained by agents in the course of their investigation are not available from other state agencies or third parties, and that the release of such documentation would also eliminate duplication.

The Court has issued an Order allowing the Attorney General to release the Division of Criminal Investigation Reports reasonably necessary for completion of the Department of Legislative Audit’s financial and compliance audit of GOED, consistent with the Attorney General and Auditor General’s joint motion. The Court noted “This Order neither increases nor decreases any statutory requirements of confidentiality; all such provisions remain in effect. The Order simply allows these two agencies to share information in the exercise of their respective duties.” The Court further made clear that “except to the extent any information is necessary for inclusion in the Department of Legislative Audit’s public audit document, all documents and information obtained under this Order shall be held confidential and only accessed by the Auditor General and those members of his staff that are part of the GOED audit.”

12
Dec
13

Rep. Kathy Tyler Renews Request for an Independent Forensic Audit from Executive Board

Sioux Falls, SD (December 11) – Rep. Kathy Tyler (D-Big Stone City) plans to ask the state legislature’s executive board to authorize an independent forensic audit of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) overseeing the controversial EB-5 program after her call for a special session did not garner enough signatures.

Tyler released the following statement today:

“While I’m disappointed that two-thirds of the state legislators did not want a special session to follow the money associated with the EB-5 program, Northern Beef Packers, and the GOED, I am pleased at the amount of bipartisan support that there is for an investigation of the EB-5 program and the GOED.

“Many legislators told me they too want answers to the many questions raised about the EB-5 program  but that a special session wasn’t the right venue, and I understand that. They pointed to an article by South Dakota government reporter Bob Mercer, which laid out how the state legislature’s executive board, which has subpoena and summons powers, can authorize an investigation.

“ I had, in fact, already followed Mr. Mercer’s advice. I asked to be placed on the agenda of the November 18th executive board meeting; however, the board rejected my request because of ongoing state investigations. With state investigations closed, we’re now left with more questions than answers.

“Because of continuing bipartisan support for an investigation of the South Dakota’s EB-5 program and its projects, I’m renewing my request for an independent forensic audit at the next executive board meeting on Monday, December 16.

“The more I research the issues and the more people I visit, the more I see the necessity of an independent forensic audit of the entire program and its projects. The $550,000 stolen from the state Future Funds program is just the tip of the iceberg; South Dakota citizens have lost millions of dollars and deserve to know where their money went. It’s our responsibility to find the answers; let’s get to the bottom of this once and for all.”

Kathy Tyler

State Representative

48170 144th St

Big Stone City, SD 57216

605.237.0228

rep.tyler@state.sd.us

www.facebook.com/tylerfordistrict4

04
Dec
13

Commentary by Rep. Kathy Tyler (D-Big Stone City)

Can the state authorize a forensic audit of SDRC, Inc?
By Rep. Kathy Tyler (D-Big Stone City)

One of the big questions concerning my request for a forensic audit of South Dakota’s EB-5 Visa program is whether or not the state has the authority to authorize an audit of SDRC, Inc, a privately held company.

The SD Legislature could and should immediately authorize a forensic audit of SDRC, Inc.

The contract outsourcing the administration of the lucrative EB-5 franchise to SDRC, Inc was made effective on December 22, 2009 and was signed by South Dakota Department of Tourism and State Development Secretary Richard Benda and by SDRC, Inc. President Joop Bollen on June 4, 2010.

Under Section 14 of the contract: (Please note that SDRC in this paragraph refers to SDRC, Inc.; DTSD is the Department of Tourism and State Development—now GOED; CIS is Citizen and Immigration Service)

“SDRC shall maintain such books, records, and reports as are currently or in the future required by CIS, 8 CFR 204.6 or other applicable law, or as may otherwise reasonably be required by DTSD. SDRC shall provide true and correct copies of such books, records and reports to DTSD as often as such books, records and reports are required to be provided to CIS, but in no event less than monthly. SDRC shall provide DTSD or its designee reasonable access to SDRC’s original books, records and reports such that DTSD can assure itself of SDRC’s compliance with the record-keeping requirements contained in this paragraph.”

Even though the Administration official claims that South Dakota cannot legally audit SDRC, Inc., the contract language specifically states our right to access the original books, records, and reports. The state can and should authorize an audit of the entire program, starting in 2004 to the present time.

Unless the Administration is going to suggest that the Legislature cannot provide oversight to an Executive Branch Department, there is no reason not to order up a forensic audit of SDRC, Inc. It is our duty and responsibility to the citizens of South Dakota to authorize this audit.  It’s time to do what’s right.

If SDRC, Inc. wants to obstruct justice, they can seek their own private attorneys.  It will illuminate just where guilt truly lies.

And off the record, I’m not asking for an audit of a federal program as some reports are stating. I am asking for an audit of South Dakota’s EB-5 program.

31
Oct
13

Feds looking into SD beef plant

DIRK LAMMERS, Associated Press

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Federal authorities are investigating the finances of an idled beef plant and a federal immigration program that supplied much of its funding, two former chief players in the company told The Associated Press on Thursday.

The revelation comes a day after Gov. Dennis Daugaard said the state’s economic development office was being investigated. Daugaard declined to provide details of that investigation, and state officials on Thursday refused to say whether the investigations are the same. News of the probes comes soon after a former top official in the development office was found dead with a gunshot wound.

Dennis Hellwig, who stepped down as Northern Beef Packers’ general partner more than four years ago, and Bob Breukelman, the plant’s former construction engineer, told the AP they have been questioned by federal investigators about the idled Aberdeen plant’s financial dealings and the federal EB-5 program, in which foreign investors can secure permanent residency for as little as $500,000.

“There were some discrepancies in the way the EB-5 program was being handled,” Breukelman said.

Neither Hellwig nor Breukelman would go into detail about the agents’ questions or their responses.

On Wednesday, Daugaard told the Sioux Falls Argus Leader an investigation was underway into the Governor’s Office of Economic Development prior to Daugaard’s administration involving possible financial misconduct. Daugaard declined to provide details of that inquiry, but said there “has also been a federal investigation.”

Daugaard’s statement was made public a day after the funeral of Richard Benda, who was found dead with a gunshot wound on Oct. 22 in a grove of trees near Lake Andes. Benda, who had served as secretary of the department handling tourism and economic development from 2006 to 2010 under former Gov. Mike Rounds, was Northern Beef’s former loan monitor.

South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley said Benda’s death remains under investigation, and a final autopsy report is expected in two weeks to a month.

“We’re treating that as a crime scene because there was a gunshot wound indicated,” Jackley said.

Neither Jackley nor Daugaard’s spokesman, Tony Venhuizen, would comment on whether the investigations Daugaard revealed Wednesday involve Northern Beef, Benda or the Aberdeen-based South Dakota Regional Center, which arranged EB-5 loans to the beef plant and other projects in the state.

Allegations about the South Dakota center have drawn the attention of U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Grassley in February sent a letter to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services asking the agency to look into the “possible violations.”

Northern Beef Packers opened its $109 million state-of-the-art facility on a limited basis in 2012 after years of delays. Its owners filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection less than a year later, saying they didn’t have enough money to buy cattle for slaughter. With $138.8 million in liabilities and just $79.3 million in assets, according to court documents, the plant laid off most of its employees.

The plant was pitched in 2006 in response to Rounds’ South Dakota Certified Beef initiative. Rounds, who is now running for U.S. Senate, hoped to get the state’s ranchers premium prices by allowing consumers to track animals from birth, through a feedlot and to a meatpacking plant.

Rounds said in a statement issued Wednesday that he “recently became aware of an investigation into some alleged misconduct” but referred all questions to Jackley. Mitch Krebs, Rounds’ Senate campaign spokesman, said Thursday the former governor would not comment further.

Once locally owned, Northern Beef Packers is 41 percent owned by businessman Oshik Song with 69 other South Korean investors who each gave at least $500,000 under the federal EB-5 program. The plant used the funds to spur the start of construction, and Hellwig stepped down as general partner when the Korean investors asked to buy out his shares.

The new owners recruited another round of EB-5 investors, but the new investment fund provided loan money instead of equity shares in the company. Northern Beef eventually began to ramp up production earlier this year to about 200 head a day — far short of the 1,500 capacity — after obtaining additional financing.

Bankruptcy attorneys have asked that a minimum bid of $12.75 million be set for the plant, which is scheduled to be sold at auction on Dec. 5.

___

Online:

EB-5 Program: http://1.usa.gov/16OYBD2

___

Follow Dirk Lammers on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ddlammers/

27
Jun
13

Thune disappointed with immigration reform bill

Sen. John Thune

Sen. John Thune

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Senator John Thune (R-S.D.), Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, made the following statement today after the Senate passed the immigration reform bill (S. 744):

“Our immigration system is broken and must be fixed, but the legislation passed by the Senate today fails to make the necessary improvements to secure our borders and comes with an enormous price tag to the American taxpayers. I offered a number amendments to the bill that would not only have strengthened border security, but also would have offered accountability to the process by requiring implementation of the border security provisions before granting legal status to over 11 million undocumented residents.

“We need to have an immigration system that not only secures the border and increases national security, but that also reduces the wait-time and simplifies the process for those entering the country legally. Unfortunately, instead of proving to the American public that Congress is serious about border security and enforcing the laws already on the books, the final Senate bill gives weak promises on border security, leaving many aspects of implementation to the discretion of the Secretary. Simply put, the Senate immigration bill is legalization first and empty promises of border security second.

“While we are a nation of immigrants, we are also a nation of laws. I am disappointed that the Senate missed this important opportunity to secure the border and fix our broken immigration system.”




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