South Dakota Chamber to host Ernie Goss

The South Dakota Chamber of Commerce and Industry has retooled its annual economic outlook conference. The 2017 version on Tuesday, Nov. 7 will last two hours, from 4 to 6 p.m., at the Country Club of Sioux Falls at 3200 W. Twenty-Second St.

That’s one-half of the news.

The rest of the story is a tight program features two speakers when the presentations start at 4:30 p.m.

HyVee officials start the show with a conversation about anticipating and meeting the needs of consumers.

Then the microphone is handed to Ernie Goss, professor of economics at Creighton University. Goss conducts an ongoing analysis of the region’s economy. He likely will talk about the background and provide his expectations.

Going forward, the chamber’s economic outlook event will review the predictions, according to David Owen, the chamber’s president, and Mary Anne Boyd, the organization’s vice president for program services.

The event this Nov. 7 will cost $30 to attend and offers “heavy hors d’oeuvres and beverages,” according to a news release. Registration deadline is Nov. 4 at

The event began in 2007. The 2016 conference drew 120 registrants, according to the chamber’s December 2016 meeting minutes, “a decline from typical attendance numbers of close to 150.”

The 2016 conference featured four topics — South Dakota economic conditions, housing, technical education and employer-based health care — built around a luncheon.

Keith Moore responds to GOAC

The Legislature’s Government Operations and Audit Committee sent a letter to Keith Moore asking questions about his involvement with South Dakota’s GEAR UP program. His reply arrived Friday at the Legislative Research Council.

Moore was state director of Indian education for Gov. Mike Rounds and state Education Secretary Rick Melmer. After Melmer left to become dean of education at the University of South Dakota, Moore soon followed, leaving for USD in August 2009 to be the university’s chief diversity officer.

Moore accepted appointed as the federal director for the Bureau of Indian Education and began on June 7, 2010. Here’s a biography issued during his time at BIE. He left BIE as a federal inspector general issued this conduct report in 2014. He now works as state director for Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Moore said in his letter to GOAC he wouldn’t be appearing before the committee when it meets Thursday (and possibly Friday) in Sioux Falls. In the letter he said he was invited to be on the advisory panel for GEAR UP from August 2012 through September 2015.

GEAR UP is a federal program, operated through the state Department of Education, to help students know there are education opportunities available after they graduate high school.

Accounting firm says Westerhuis gym came from mother’s help

On Sept. 12, 2017, the Legislature’s Government Operations and Audit Committee’s leaders — Sen. Deb Peters, R-Hartford, and Rep. Jean Hunhoff, R-Yankton — sent a letter to the accounting firm that previously conducted annual audits of Mid Central Educational Cooperative at Platte.

The Peters-Hunhoff letter asked:

“In your response to Committee questions dated August 17, 2017 you indicated that the gym constructed at Mr. Westerhuis’ home was discussed with management of the Mid Central Educational Cooperative. Can you provide more details on what was discussed and the answers that you received from management? “

The letter went to Randy Schoenfish of Parkston. He is the father of state Rep. Kyle Schoenfish, R-Scotland, who was part of a team of accountants who conducted the past audits of Mid Central.

The Sept. 22 reply, unsigned, from Schoenfish and Co. said the firm’s typical practice is to drive past the key financial person’s residence or farm. The reply said Scott Westerhuis indicated his mother was helping him financially. You can read the full reply here.

Scott Westerhuis was business manager at Mid Central. He allegedly killed his wife, Nicole, and their four children, then lit their house afire and killed himself. The slayings occurred in the early hours of Sept. 17, 2015.

State Education Secretary Melody Schopp had called Mid Central director Dan Guericke on Sept. 16, 2015, to notify him the South Dakota Department of Education would be terminating its contract.

Mid Central managed the federal GEAR UP program as a contractor for the state department. Nicole Westerhuis was an assistant business manager at Mid Central.

While their house burned to the ground, a two-story metal building next door didn’t catch fire. It contained many pieces of physical training equipment. A swimming pool that was under construction didn’t burn either.

The legislators’ question was about the metal building.

GEAR UP was intended to help middle school and high school students from lower-income households be aware of educational opportunities available after high school graduation. Mid Central primarily focused on schools with high populations of American indians.

Guericke, GEAR UP manager Stacy Phelps and Stephanie Hubers now face state criminal charges for various roles involving Mid Central.

Black Hills State University eventually was chosen to replace Mid Central as GEAR UP manager. Mid Central closed June 30.

The legislative committee meets Oct. 5-6 in Sioux Falls. GEAR UP is one of the agenda items.

Rick Melmer answers GOAC

Former state Education Secretary Rick Melmer has sent a two-page letter to the Legislature’s Government Operations and Audit Committee.

In it, Melmer acknowledges his role in the first grant received by South Dakota for the federal GEAR UP program.

He said in the letter he wasn’t part of the second grant that Mid Central Educational Cooperative sought.

He goes on to acknowledge he was part of a GEAR UP advisory panel that Mid Central’s then-director Dan Guericke assembled.

Melmer said Guericke invited him to be on the advisory panel.

GEAR UP recently began its final year of operation in South Dakota. The program was managed by Mid Central during the second grant until September 2015. Black Hills State University has run it since then.

GEAR UP is intended to assist lower-income students from middle schools and high schools be aware of education opportunities that are available after they graduate high school.

Legislators on the operations and audit panel are scheduled to discuss GEAR UP and Mid Central during their Oct. 5-6 meeting in Sioux Falls at Carnegie Town Hall.

The committee also sent a letter to Keith Moore, who was Indian education director for the state Department of Education under Melmer and later Tom Oster. Moore hasn’t responded yet.

LuAnn Werdel and Roger Campbell, who followed Moore as Indian education director, also were sent letters. They haven’t responded yet.

Emails provided to the legislators indicated that Werdel and Campbell alerted Melody Schopp to problems in the GEAR UP program.

Schopp was deputy secretary for the state Department of Education when Werdel told Schopp and Oster.

Schopp dismissed Werdel on the day in 2011 when new Gov. Dennis Daugaard appointed Schopp as secretary to replace Oster.

Campbell replaced Werdel and later left after friction between Campbell and Mid Central officials.

Legislative auditors determined more than $1 million couldn’t be accounted in Mid Central bank account. The cooperative at Platte closed June 30.

Is the obligation recovery center succeeding?

The answer seems to be yes, based on a report delivered this week to the Legislature’s Government Operations and Audit Committee.

The Legislature created the center in 2015 at the request of Gov. Dennis Daugaard and despite strong objections from private collection agencies. Lawmakers approved HB 1228 after several attempts.

The four-page report, required by the 2015 law, from Commissioner of Administration Scott Bollinger shows the center’s operations returned a substantial amount of money to state government in the first year.

Regents look at high-school matriculation

State government’s Board of Regents received a report Tuesday evening that shows approximately one-third of high school graduates chose to attend a public university in South Dakota.

The report covers five years through the 2014-15 academic year.

If you read to the end, you’ll find a hint about where the regents’ executive staff suggest the public universities look to further recruit.

According to the report, 10 percent of the high school students who didn’t pursue post-secondary education scored an 18 or higher on their pre-graduation ACTs.

The regents, who govern South Dakota’s six traditional universities and three university centers, meet Oct. 3-5 at Dakota State University in Madison.

They also will look at a related report that charts trends from fall 2010 through fall 2017. This report considers residents, non-residents, students who are on-campus and who are Internet-based, and high-school students who are dual-enrolled.


Two men sentenced for meth involvements

U.S. District Judge Roberto Lange sentenced two men last week for their roles in distribution of methamphetamine.

On Sept. 18, the federal judge sentenced Corey Ryan DeHorse, 24, of Eagle Butte to eight months in custody, followed by three years of supervised release, and a $1,000 fine.

DeHorse admitted that he sold a substance with a detectable amount of meth to another person for $100 on Aug. 5, 2016.

On Sept. 19, the federal judge sentenced Louis Anthony Good Shield, 38, of White River to 18 months in custody, followed by four years of supervised release, and a $1,000 fine.

Good Shield admitted he conspired with others between Jan. 1, 2013, and Sept. 17, 2015, to distribute methamphetamine. His role was to travel with others during the transportation and provide the ‘muscle,’ according to the U.S. Attorney office for South Dakota.

For public colleges, a ‘held their own’ report?

State government’s Board of Regents, whose members oversee South Dakota’s six traditional university campuses and three university centers, released the fall enrollment report yesterday.

The universities didn’t have much to show, in either direction. The glass, as some might say, was both half-full and half-empty.

That might be a sign of success. Here’s why.

South Dakota schools said they graduated 9,320 students in spring 2017, according to the schools’ statewide report card was issued Tuesday.

For 2016, graduates totaled 9,088. For 2015, the number was 9,298. In 2014, it was 9,385. And 2013 was 9,495. (For 2012, the percentage was 81.50 but the number of graduates wasn’t immediately clear.)

So high school graduation has been relatively flat in recent years — and the regents’ piece of that pie has been relatively flat, too, in recent years.

One step the regents decided to take, at their August retreat, was to start notifying high school students whose Smarter Balanced assessment scores were high enough. The notices will tell students that they automatically qualify for enrollment in South Dakota’s public universities and public technical institutes.

Paul Turman, one of the vice presidents for the regents’ central office in Pierre, explained that move Monday to state government’s Board of Education Standards, whose members oversee the rules for South Dakota’s K-12 public schools.

The test of the new strategy now comes in the next few years for the regents and the public universities, and for the tech schools and state government’s new Board of Technical Education.

Aeronautics panel considers six projects

The South Dakota Aeronautics Commission is scheduled next week to discuss six proposals for improving public airports. They are:

Martin $316,666.67 for an airport master plan;

Pierre $888,888.89 for a boarding bridge;

Redfield $3,920,000 for runway construction;

Rosebud $228,000 for snow removal equipment;

Sisseton $170,000 for runway reconstruction design; and

Watertown $895,000 for construction of hangar taxilane expansion including design.

The meeting is Tuesday, Sept. 26, at 1 p.m. CT at the Becker-Hansen Building, 700 E. Broadway, Pierre. The agenda including a call-in number and other materials are at

Correction on Ben Reifel post

I received this response today from the South Dakota Art Museum at Brookings:

Ben Reifel did not start the Museum’s collection of American Indian Art.
Actually he never donated any of his collection. He had a number of objects on long term loan. After his death we worked with his daughter Lloyce Reifel Anderson to convert some of them to acquisitions back in 2004. At that time we accepted 18 objects..

His reputation and presence on the board was a notable accomplishment for the Museum.
Thank you for celebrating the life of Ben Reifel he was a great man.


Lynn Verschoor, Director
South Dakota Art Museum

(Note: The below post has been corrected.)