Monthly Archives: April 2011

Rosebud tribal organizations challenge state water office

If threats carry through to legal action, a big struggle is taking shape between several Rosebud Sioux tribal organizations on one side and on the other side the state’s water chief engineer, Garland Erbele, and the state Board of Water Management. The board holds a set of hearings Wednesday, May 4, regarding permit applications for six irrigation wells in Todd County.  The applications all come from Nebraska parties: Harvey Gunnink, Mission Farms, MLT Investments, Danielski Harvesting and Farms, and O’Neill Farms. The state chief engineer has recommended that the state board grant each of the permits. Protesting the permits and the board’s general authority to decide the matters are the Sicangu Treaty Council of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and the Tribal Land Enterprise, a sub-organization of the tribe. The basic argument is that state government has no authority to make decisions within the exterior boundaries of the Rosebud reservation. A second argument is that tribal well-water supplies are being polluted with nitrates and farming might be the source. The treaty council’s executive director, Edward Charging Hawk, has formally notified the state officials that if the permits are granted the tribe will treat the matter as a 1868 treaty violation and pursue the matter in the federal courts.

“The Cost of Cuts” via SDPB

South Dakota Public Broadcasting promises us a week-long investigative series next month (May 23-27) on both radio and television, and a followup in September, about the effects of state government’s budget cuts. We look forward to it. I happened to be looking through SDPB’s most recently published audit the other day. Among the documents is the Friends of South Dakota Public Broadcasting audit. (To get there, start at and click on “About Us” and find the link “Public Inspection file and other FCC Documents” and then scroll to the bottom to find the “Audit” link. The “Friends” audit document for 2007-2008 starts at page 27.) For 2008 the Friends non-profit organization raised $2,067,558 in operating revenue. Of that, operating expenses totaled $1,039,987. Because the organization also receives revenue from restricted donations (a term of art in the non-profit and IRS world; restricted money is treated differently than general donations) Friends was able to give more to SDPB than just the $1,027,061 difference between operating revenues and operating expenses. Altogether Friends transferred $1,460,338 to other organizations. If you keep reading through the audit documents you get an increasingly better understanding of how much Friends spends, and on what, to raise the money it gives to SDPB, from salaries and benefits and insurance, to the program guide ($92,992) and lobbying ($35,764) and membership recognition and appreciation, better known as gifts in return for donations ($91,227).

One reason for SDPB’s investigative interest in cuts is that SDPB took a cut as part of the Legislature’s budget balancing for fiscal 2012 that starts this July 1. SDPB’s total budget for fiscal 2011, which ends June 30, was nearly $8.8 million. That included just over $4 million in state general funding; about $2 million in federal funding; and about $2.7 million in “other” funding such as the Friends transfer of $1 million. For fiscal 2012 the governor recommended SDPB’s state general funding be reduced by $537.497 to $3,494,468.  That was the amount approved by the Legislature in the budget bill, HB 1251. Overall the Legislature gave SDPB authority to spend a total of $8,024,782. That included $2,047,527 in federal funds and $2,482,787 in other funds.

Ag-land assessments panel gets new faces

The Legislature’s advisory task force on agricultural land assessments will have some different members when the panel gathers Friday for its initial meeting of this year. There is quite a bit of turnover from the 2010 roster, especially among legislators. Joining the task force are Sen. Jason Frerichs, D-Wilmot; Sen. Tom Hansen, R-Huron; Rep. James Schaefer, R-Kennebec; and Sen. Billie Sutton, D-Burke. Returning legislators are Sen. Larry Rhoden, R-Union Center; Rep. Steve Street, D-Revillo; Rep. Justin Cronin, R-Gettysburg; and Rep. Paul Dennert, D-Columbia. Two past legislators who served on the task force are continuing as lay members. They are former Sen. Dave Knudson, R-Sioux Falls, and former Sen. Jim Peterson, D-Revillo. Larry Gabriel of Cottonwood, Ron Olinger of Sioux Falls and Kirk Chaffee of Sturgis return. Not coming back are former Rep. — and now U.S. Rep. — Kristi Noem, R-Castlewood; Curt Everson of Pierre; Duane Sutton of Aberdeen; and Walt Bones, now state secretary of agriculture. The one new member is Mark Biedenfeld of Gettysburg. (And just for the record, both Larry Gabriel and Duane Sutton are former legislators, but they were no longer in the Legislature when they started serving on the task force; Dave Knudson and Jim Peterson were members as legislators.)

So who wants to be a millionaire now?

A new round of polling results from the Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research firm on a behalf of a child-advocacy organization called First Focus, an offshoot of America’s Promise, reflects how deeply our nation’s opinions are split on what do about the federal budget. The poll’s results found 69 percent of the survey respondents thought things have pretty seriously gotten off track in our country while 24 percent thought things were headed in the right direction. Asked what they think about the federal government’s budget situation, 54 percent labeled it a crisis and 38 percent described it as a major problem but not a crisis. Only 6 percent said it was a minor problem or not a problem.

So what to do about the situation? The GQRR poll walked the interviewees down a list of one dozen spending areas and asked whether the person supported no reduction in spending, a minor reduction or a major reduction in each of the 12. The only areas where the minor/major reductions didn’t exceed the no reduction were K-12 education, which had 61 percent favoring no reduction; federal child nutrition programs with 54 percent for no reduction; and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) at 51 percent for no reduction. Medicaid, Medicare and Head Start all were essentially ties, with 49 percent favoring no reductions for Medicaid and Medicare and 48 percent favoring no reductions for Head Start.

Student loans, unemployment insurance, scientific and medical research, national defense, job training and transportation funding all came out with clear majorities favoring either major or minor reductions.

The pollsters split their sample in half and asked two sets of questions regarding general solutions. One group was given the choice of raising taxes or cutting important programs. Those results were 41 percent favoring higher taxes, 40 percent favoring cutting programs, 10 percent doing neither and 5 percent doing both (the remainder didn’t answer). The other group was given the choice of raising taxes on people earning more than $1 million or cutting important programs. The outcome found 62 percent favored taxing millionaires more while 24 percent favored cutting programs, with 8 percent favoring both and 4 percent favoring neither.

The poll also showed how selected information can change opinions regarding the House Republicans’ proposed budget. Initially there is 45 percent support, either strongly or somewhat in favor, and 39 percent combined who strongly or somewhat oppose.  Those percentages shift to 37 in favor and 56 percent opposed when Medicaid, Medicare and other federal healthcare cuts are discussed. The poll also points to opposition to cutting federal children’s programs and to giving governors more flexibility on state Medicaid programs if children’s health care is affected.

Five, or seven, shots fired?

The Pennington County sheriff’s deputy who shot and killed Scott Mollman at his Rapid City-area residence on April 6 fired seven rounds at Mollman, according to the investigation summary released from the state Office of Attorney General. Two people out for a walk in the neighborhood told investigators afterward they heard six — one initially, which is believed to have been fired by Mollman, and later five in rapid succession, believed to have come from the deputy. A third witness heard a similar pattern of one shot, then time passed, followed by five shots. A fourth witness who lives on the same road as Mollman’s residence heard one shot, then later four or five shots. A fifth witness didn’t report an initial shot but saw Mollman get out of his car and later saw the deputy walk to the front of Mollman’s garage, followed by the deputy telling Mollman to drop the gun and then five shots in quick succession. None of the witnesses quoted in the investigation summary reported hearing a burst of seven shots. The deputy said he heard a shot fired but didn’t see Mollman fire it. The deputy said that upon seeing Mollman in the garage he was afraid for his life; Mollman had a scoped rifle in one hand and a large revolver in the other hand, with a finger on the trigger and a thumb on the hammer, and wouldn’t put down the weapons. Afterward there was found one .223 round in the chamber of the rifle, while the revolver wasn’t loaded. Texting messages from Mollman to a girlfriend including phrases such as “killing spree,” “death by cop” and “suicided by cop” and two that said “murder time”. He was found to have a blood alcohol content of 0.14 percent; a BAC of 0.08 percent is the threshold for drunk driving.

Hats off to Brick

Sunday marked birthday number 107 for Gerald “Brick” Duncan, who lives at Oahe Villa in Gettysburg. He and his brother each had interesting nicknames. Harold’s was “Slim.” Brick farmed most of his life in the Seneca area.

Two gubernatorial traditions worth keeping

When Gov. Dennis Daugaard steps to the microphone today for the luncheon gathering of several hundreds of South Dakota’s top high school students, his speech at the Associated School Boards of South Dakota event will mark a continuation of the tradition begun by former Gov. Bill Janklow and upheld by former Gov. Mike Rounds. Afterward he gets on the air with KCCR-AM radio for the station’s “Ask The Governor” program. Both of Pierre’s two radio companies — KGFX is the AM flagship of the other — host regularly scheduled shows featuring the governor who is in office at the time. It’s a welcome public service by the stations, their news staffs and by our chief executive. The academice excellence event, by the way, is sponsored by the South Dakota Community Foundation and Citibank.

Jacque Fuller Day

We somehow missed that Gov. Dennis Daugaard proclaimed April 12 as Jacque Fuller Day in South Dakota to honor her achievements in developing the community of Lead and service on the state Board of Economic Development. Here’s an amazing nugget: Not only was she a charter member of the board, which oversees low-interest loans to business projects, but she rarely missed a meeting in 24 years.

Lance Russell and Merton Tice

If you care about the law, you need to read the South Dakota Supreme Court’s public censure of lawyer Lance Russell of Hot Springs for his illegal release of grand-jury proceedings while he was Fall River County state’s attorney. First, Russell made the public release of grand jury transcript and exhibits part of plea agreements reached with two of the defendants in the city golf-course investigation. That was illegal. Second, the defendants’ attorneys accepted those provisions; evidently they didn’t know it was illegal. Third, Circuit Judge Merton Tice (now retired) accepted the plea agreements and signed an order designating the grand jury transcript and exhibits as public records open to public inspection. That was illegal. Then Russell, a Republican who is an elected member of the state House of Representatives, attempted to defend himself politically by putting the grand-jury transcript on his personal Internet site. Finally Circuit Judge Jeff Davis stopped further misuse of the transcript and exhibits by ordering that they be sealed.

The Supreme Court in its censure states that Russell admitted he didn’t research the law in releasing grand-jury information. The justices said state law clearly prohibited the release, “and Russell misled the trial court by submitting an order to an inattentive judge upon improper grounds. Russell’s release of the transcript was an effort to protect his personal reputation from increasing public criticism.”

The Supreme Court also deals extensively in the censure with Russell’s decision to issue a news release in December 2008 criticizing Judge Davis over the scheduling of a murder trial. Russell wanted the trial to be held while he still held office as state’s attorney that month. The justices said that action of itself was sufficient for censure.

In issuing the public censure, the Supreme Court took the lowest of the four disciplinary actions available to it. The justices said a public censure was appropriate in that Russell had no other complaints against him. They could have placed him on probationary status, suspended him or disbarred him.

Heaven forbid! State universities hire politicians

The powers that be now in charge of South Dakota Republican Party publicity have done it again. State chairman Tim Rave, a state senator from Baltic, is quoted as criticizing the decision by South Dakota State University to hire Democrat Stephanie Herseth Sandlin in the political science department. As I recall, she also did some teaching at SDSU before she was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. But bringing Herseth Sandlin back is hardly a first. For example, the University of South Dakota has tapped former governor and former congressman Bill Janklow to talk to students. Who better than a Herseth Sandlin or a Janklow to teach about real life in real politics? Former governors, former federal Cabinet officials and former members of Congress dot campuses throughout the nation. Heck, one of the key hands on U.S. Sen. John Thune’s staff, Jon Lauck,  has kept busy in both politics and academia simultaneously. Sure, there’s good reason to be watchful of former elected officials using our state-funded campuses as stopovers and launching pads to revive careers. But I really, really, really doubt Bill Janklow is planning another comeback, unless it’s as a fire truck, and something tells me Stephanie Herseth Sandlin won’t be trying one either, at least not any time soon. Oh, by the way, who’s that guy Janklow tapped to be president of USD? Oh yeah, Jim Abbott, who was a state legislator, ran for the U.S. House (1996) and ran for governor (2002), all as a Democrat. Better run him off campus too.