Opportunity Lost or Due Dilligence as State Government Pores Over Benda Case
It has been over 9 months since it was first revealed that improprieties existed regarding the EB-5 program in South Dakota. Fine details on the wrongs within are slow in coming.
Part of the quest for knowledge played out in public this week. Members of the Government Operations and Audit Committee heard testimony from Attorney General Marty Jackley. The State’s top prosecutor was about to bring criminal charges against former head of Tourism and State Development Richard Benda before he was found dead in Charles Mix County last October. Benda allegedly took $550,000 from the State and used it for his own purposes as one of the most serious charges.
The Committee as it turns out includes Representative Susan Wismer who is running for Governor. She is keen on finding out exactly what happened for obvious reasons. The Democrat from Britton also has members of her Legislative District who have been adversely affected by the EB-5 program and the rise and fall of the Northern Beef Packers plant in Aberdeen. Wismer attempted to subpoena the records of Joop Bollen who worked with Benda through the South Dakota Regional Center. Wismer’s motion was not seconded and there was no further discussion.
Committee Chairman Larry Tidemann says that the missing money hasn’t been found yet and is also aware of the Federal investigation being headed by U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson. At this time, Tidemann feels the Committee has met all the requirements set before them by the Legislature. One aspect the Republican from Brookings notes as a positive in this would be a new safeguard in place for the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED). Prior to this series of events the GOED did not have the ability to do background checks on key staff who would handle state funds. The Legislature this past session granted more leeway in the vetting process.
For your enjoyment, both appeared on KSOO’s Viewpoint University to discuss the issue. It is interesting to note how both Wismer and Tidemann perceive the latest developments in this saga.
Part 1: Susan Wismer is frustrated on the day of the meeting that her motion to subpoena not pursued.
Part 2: Wismer ponders what could happen through a probe issued through the Executive Branch.
Part 3: Larry Tidemann explains why the GOAC exists and what it is supposed to do. Plus he questions Wismer's bold step.
Part 4: Tidemann says the vetting process is improved to prevent potential misconduct. Also he stands behind the Attorney General's investigation and the pending federal probe.