Can you fight “the man” when you are “the man?” Pennington County Commissioner George Ferebee found out that you can’t:
After fighting the charge for two years, Pennington County Commissioner George Ferebee was convicted on Monday of violating a county zoning ordinance.
Ferebee, 77, was ordered to pay a $200 fine for maintaining on his rural Hill City property a septic system that lacked an operating permit. The zoning ordinance states that on-site wastewater treatment systems need to be pumped, inspected and issued permits regularly.
The verdict and sentence came on the heels of a five-hour trial at the county courthouse before Judge Warren Johnson, a retired 4th Circuit Court judge.
“The defendant’s own words convict him,” Assistant State Attorney General Robert Haivala said in his closing argument. “He hasn’t complied with the ordinance.”
But defense attorney Shawn Turnow, in his closing argument, said the county hasn’t surveyed Ferebee’s Gillette Prairie Road property to determine which “sections” fit the ordinance’s description of a lot.
Turnow added that Ferebee, a longtime critic of government oversight of septic systems, “became a target” of the ordinance’s 2014 amendment. That year, the word used to describe property exempt from the septic regulation was changed from “land” to “lot.”
At one point, about 30 people filled the courtroom gallery, including state legislators Chip Campbell, Tim Goodwin and Julie Frye-Mueller. Rep. Lynne DiSanto also showed up with her husband, Pennington County Commissioner Mark DiSanto.
Ferebee fought the ordinance… and the ordinance won. And we wonder why justice is often difficult to obtain at times. Because courts are clogged with this type of silliness that took a five hour trial, and resulted in a fine of $200.