So, that was the version of the Hulk that just kind of sat there and gave credence to rumors?

Recall the post from a few days ago where State Senator Stace Nelson claimed to be akin to the Hulk going into a gladiatorial battle in the lead up to the latest Government Operations and Audit Committee?

(Yes, I thought he sounded like an idiot too.)

The version of the Hulk that Nelson tried to portray himself as must have actually been the version of the Hulk that sat there, did very little, and got scolded by Representative Jean Hunhoff. Because that’s what went on at the meeting.

Nelson was expected to have to take the stand under direct questioning from GOAC committee chair Deb Peters, coming after he demanded staff members and an attorney, but rebuffed by the LRC who pointed out that they just “asked what you know. Only you know what you know.”

While that’s what he expected, Peters played it in a bit more cagey manner. Peters asked him questions all day long about the validity of his sources.  And it turned out that Nelson couldn’t actually support his allegations. Most of what he used for evidence was all rumor and supposition.. again.

When he wasn’t getting scolded by Jean Hunhoff.  I’ll pull the clip of it. She let him have it for his silliness at one point.

Nelson spent time trying to use the testimony of LuAnn Werdel who apparently left the Department of Ed in 2011 before the Gear Up Grant in question was ever issued (There were two of them, the one in question was issued in 2012).

The problem is that Nelson and others who are trying to make hay over rumors is that they’re going for sensational grandstanding over the truth. That’s not the purpose of the committee. The purpose of the meeting is to identify what went wrong, and to fix the loopholes that allowed the wrong thing to happen.

And as related earlier by the Office of Legislative Audit, one important point that keeps getting overlooked is that there actually wasn’t any money taken from the Grant. The money was stolen from the Co-op.  Westerhuis embezzled from Mid Central Co-op, not GEAR UP. He reported to Dan Guericke, who reported to a board made up of representatives from each member school district.

So, if Nelson and others who are sending out press releases honestly cared about it, why aren’t they showing up at the school board meetings for those districts who participated in Mid-Central, and asking those Districts about their manner of oversight over the Co-op?

If GOAC ultimately thinks we need more legislation for the oversight of grants administered through the state, then by all means, require more oversight. That’s easy.  If there were laws broken, the Attorney General should and is already prosecuting. Again, easy.

But when it comes to the ridiculous and tiresome conspiracy theories and political theater that politicians are using to bolster their egos and political campaigns? Save it for the campaign trail.

And Hulk should go back to smashing. Because he stinks at the rest.

98 Replies to “So, that was the version of the Hulk that just kind of sat there and gave credence to rumors?”

  1. Anonymous

    Westerhuis stole from the co-op which was funded by the state. The state had an obligation to make sure those funds were used correctly. They failed to do that which allowed taxpayer money to be stolen, natives to be let down, and children dead. What part of that doesn’t require accountability from State leaders and appointed positions when displaying such incompetence? If this happened in your business, would Schopp still have a job?

    Reply
  2. Troy Jones

    I just can’t get passed an adult would compare himself to a comic book hero.

    At the end of the day, the “smoke” something was amiss caused Stace to look for a fire at the State level. It ended up being at the local level. I hope the Hulk grasps this and moves on.

    Reply
      1. Steve Sibson

        Pat, that analysis does not go into AIII, which was implementing Gear Up. It also does not include the apparent over statement of in-kind contribution used to obtain the 50% match. That also leads us to question, what all else was used to satisfy the 50% match requirement and what was the source of those funds? The match was not suppose to be a federal source.

        Reply
        1. grudznick

          Mr. Sibby, who said there was an overstatement? Mr. Nelson, or the US Department of Education, also known as the Gods of Educrats? Are you yourself Educratulese?

          Reply
  3. Anon

    Tara promised us fireworks, apocalyptic revelations (okay that’s redundant but who cares?) heretofore unheard proof of widespread corruption and we got the usual sound and fury signifying nothing. Very disappointing!

    Reply
    1. Tara Volesky

      Hey Anon, it was worth the drive to see it live. Quite a swamp out there. You can pull it up on SD.net.

      Reply
    1. Anonymous

      I think Pat was indicating that the money was stolen from the financial accounts of the schools, not the financial accounts of the State. I don’t believe he was trying to say that the money in question wasn’t State-in effect, Taxpayer-money.

      Reply
  4. Troy Jones

    Source,

    You are correct the state grants/gifts, etc. funds to the local school districts. But just like your salary ceases to be your employers funds when you get paid, state money ceases to be state money once it is given to the local government.

    Unless of course you are arguing against local control of schools too. Then it is a more nuanced argument. Do you support local control of schools?

    Reply
    1. Steve Sibson

      Again, we are not dealing with the actions taken to prevent an audit of AIII who was the entity actually implementing Gear Up. Both the State of South Dakota and the School Districts within the MCEC coop were funding salaries tied to Gear Up. How many of those school districts were favorable impacted by Gear Up? Is it fair to make them pay for the $4 million being sought by the SDDOE for its inability, as lead partner, to make sure the federal match rules were being complied with. Note that the grant application included AIII as a partner:

      “GUSD will be implemented by a diverse, experienced, and committed group of partners, led by the South Dakota State Department of Education and its Office of Indian Education. Partners include the Mid-Central Educational Cooperative, American Indian Institute for Innovation, Oceti Sakowin
      Education Consortium, South Dakota Board of Regents, Lakota Funds, Wells Fargo, Microsoft, and the DIAL Virtual School. The program will be evaluated through a rigorous, well-designed, and independent evaluation.”

      It is bad enough that those small schools got ripped for $1.4 million, only to be sued for $4 million by those who refuse to accept responsibility as “lead partner”. How much money did Kuhns and Melmer walk off with? What exactly did they do to deserve those monies? As evaluators and senior advisors to the grant, perhaps they should have assisted in developing process that assured compliance with grant requirements.

      More questions come if you would listen to the evidence Hulk dropped on GOAC from Werdel. Now GOAC and South Dakota’s criminal investigators work to question Werdel. Good job Hulk.

      Reply
    1. Anonymous

      Tara, you’d better check your autocorrect. It says “incredible” when you tried to write “an imbecile.”

      Reply
  5. Anon

    Werdel is no longer credible. The number of people who believe anything you say is inversely proportional to the number of times you change your story.

    Reply
      1. Anon

        Steve, she claimed to be aware of misuse of funds, then she denied it. Now she says nope, she knew all about it. When called to testify, her lawyer will advise her she shouldn’t admit to misprision of a felony, and she will change her story again, or refuse to testify. It’s unlikely she’s going to be a good witness for anybody.

        Reply
  6. Troy Jones

    Steve and Tara,

    You can’t just dismiss the manner, context and how she raised these issues and then claim there is a big conspiracy or corruption.

    I remember once where I kinda went off when I was younger and was ignored. John Wooley, one of those wise men in every town happened to live across the street from me. His advice was: You have to own what you say, how you say it, who you say it to and your motive for saying it. If you mess up on any of them, people will ignore you and you will have earned being ignored. It was advice i’ve fallen back on many times (and unfortunately failed to heed it other times).

    Effectiveness in anything demands being a good communicator. Most people like Schopp who have been in management for a long time have experience with literally dozens of dismissed employees who have thrown a bomb on their way out the door. And, in most if not all cases, those bombs weren’t credible and were intended to hurt. If this person combined frustration and anger related to her departure with the delivery of this information, she has to own the fact it was ignored.

    Reply
    1. Steve Sibson

      Troy, we now know, based on audit results, that Werdel’s warning should have been taken seriously. In addition, Campbell’s warnings collaborated Werdel’s. Schopp chose to ignore both warnings. A good manager listens to what their subordinates are saying to them.

      Reply
  7. grudznick

    If Mrs. Volesky says somebody is credible, they must be credible.

    What I think Mr. Nelson should do, if he had any balls at all, is tell his employee the Auditor General that he is going to have Mr. Sibby check their work.

    Reply
  8. grudznick

    When Mr. Nelson is Governor, and Mr. Russell is Attorney General, I bet you they make Mr. Sibby the Auditor.

    Reply
    1. Anonymous

      grudznick…I like you man but marijuana isn’t legal you shouldn’t do that stuff that alters your brain to such delusions 🙂

      Reply
  9. MC

    The more I research Gear-up, and the more evidence that is brought to light the more I’m convinced that we are dealing with Three distinct separate issues. They are closely related and intertwine with each other; it is very difficult to separate them at times.

    1. Mismanagement of the Gear-up program as a whole
    2. The mismanagement and theft of funds from Mid-Central Educational Cooperative
    3. The efforts to cover it all up.

    From the U.S Department of Education Website on Gear up:

    The GEAR UP program is a discretionary grant program designed to significantly increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education.

    Per the South Dakota application for the grant:

    The program will serve a priority cohort of 6,600 students each year over a seven-year period. Students will begin participating in the sixth grade, and will be followed through their first year at an institution of higher education.

    Of course, the Federal Government red tape machine requires various reports to confirm money is being spent where it was promised and at least the majority of the 6,600 kids get enrolled in to a college. To add to this confusion, some of the groups involved are:

    South Dakota State Department of Education
    Office of Indian Education
    Mid-Central Educational Cooperative
    American Indian Institute for Innovation
    Oceti Sakowin Education Consortium
    South Dakota Board of Regents
    Lakota Funds
    Wells Fargo
    Microsoft
    DIAL Virtual School.

    The relationship between these organizations is a bit confusing. In some cases the same people were employed by multiple organizations, in conflicting roles. From the audit reports, there were times where accounting was fuzzy, some reports have either not been written or have vanished. There seemed to be plenty of buddy-buddy business going on.

    From the E-mails and news reports, it appears a least two people tried to raise the alarm that something wasn’t right, and attempted to bring some accountability to the system. LuAnn Werdel was dismissed, it is unknown if the dismissal was related to reporting error in Gear-up. Roger Campbell resigned, again there is very little we know surrounding the circumstances of his resignation. That leaves The Secretary of Education, Melody Schopp. I would like to take her at her word, however, at this point; I am going to want to see hard copy proof.

    Now we come to the money. I have to be honest, I am so glad Senator Deb Peters, who is an Accountant, is chairing the GOAC. The special audit only included the MECE. It appears from the audit, that QuickBooks was used to link the various bank accounts and allow the transfer of funds from one entity to another almost seamlessly. From what I can tell along with all of the back and forth of people between the Alll, the MECE and all the other players, There were some unexplained expenditures, and money going places it shouldn’t have. It has been reported the Legislative Executive Board, that all of the Gear-up grant money has been accounted for. However, there is still $1,400,000.00 from the MCEC bank account that is missing. Somewhere I seen a report that read when the MCEC board asked the executive director about the audit or the budget, they were told ‘Money in – money out’ WHOA! For any of my account friends out there, this should make the hair on your neck stand on end, like fingernails on a chalkboard. Time to dig deeper on this, and maybe order more audits. Like the old adage says ‘Follow the money.’

    Despite Senator Nelson trumpeting the charge, he is asking some good questions. Secretary Schopp has gotten really good at dodging questions. The timing that some of these e-mails are coming out is rather interesting. GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Lora Hubbel spent campaign money on a Private Investigator to look into the tragic death of the Westerhuis family. There has been no word of the results of that privately funded investigation. There is a lot of he said, she said, point the finger, going on. The GOAC is not a court. They do not convict people of crimes. If they uncover evidence of a crime, they should turn it over to the AG office. I am not sure a crime was committed; The GOAC may need to close up some loopholes, and maybe some (okay, a lot ) of training.

    Senator Sutton is correct, we are not going to move forward until everything is sorted out. If that means 10 hours at the Vermilion map, then order some pizza. If that means putting people under oath, then so be it.

    At the end of the day, this whole mess belongs to one person. He is ultimately going to have to deal with it. I do not envy the Governor for having to deal with this ugliness. I shall keep him in my prayers

    Reply
    1. Tara Volesky

      MC, I am quite impressed with your post……..now, any other legislators what to step up to the plate and give their view on this matter?

      Reply
  10. Troy Jones

    Mike,

    The irony on Secretary Schoepp is those most critical are most often saying education is a matter of local control.

    This is a cooperative formed by and run by school districts yet she didn’t do enough regulation and auditing despite the reality she doesn’t have the legal authority to regulate these types of entities and doesn’t have the accounting stafff to do the auditing.

    I assume the legislators who are critical of her are working on legislation to expand the Secretary’s powers and giving her probably 50 auditors. Otherwise they are of a phony and dishonorable character.

    Reply
  11. mhs

    Mike, I can’t stress enough we should not expand the use of education co-ops. They are endemic in Minnesota and have become bloated bureaucracies often used to circumvent spending restrictions (yes, there actually are a few in Minnesota) on local districts, issue debt without voter approval, etc. In short: they’re a far worse example of Big Education spending than AII or Mid-Central could ever be.

    Before you consider any legislation, just look to the People’s Republic to the East and its complete control by the teacher’s unions then vote no.

    Reply
    1. Anon

      Yup the education cartel is the new mafia.
      They show up in state houses all around the country, on school days, wearing matching shirts, pack the halls, scream and holler, and demand more money “for the children.”
      If they don’t get more money, they promise us “the children will be hurt.”

      They get gazillions of dollars and take offense if any of us uneducated and unwashed ask what they are doing with it.

      The solution to any problem with the schools is always more money. No matter how much they get, it’s never enough.

      If you suggest that maybe all the money spent getting Native American kids geared up for college was wasted, you’re a racist. That’s the trouble with evaluating the results of this latest boondoggle. Nobody wants to be called a racist. We better spend more money. Don’t ask what they want to do with it. They’re the experts and you wouldn’t understand if they tried to explain it to you.

      Reply
  12. Troy Jones

    Mike,

    I just noticed your comment this rests with the Governor. I assume you are working on the legislation right now to greatly expand the legal authority of the State DOE to supervise, monitor, audit, and regulate local school boards plus the $7mm appropriation for the 50 accountants, support staff, travel and office equipment and space (I am pretty sure that won’t be enough for what you are calling for at all the school districts but hiring that many accountants the first year can’t happen. You can add the other $3mm or so next year).

    Reply
  13. Anonymous

    Mike,

    I just noticed your comment this rests with the Governor. I assume you are working on the legislation right now to greatly expand the legal authority of the State DOE to supervise, monitor, audit, and regulate local school boards plus the $7mm appropriation for the 50 accountants, support staff, travel and office equipment and space (I am pretty sure that won’t be enough for what you are calling for at all the school districts but hiring that many accountants the first year can’t happen. You can add the other $3mm or so next year).

    Reply
  14. Anonymous

    Troy, you can’t just dismiss the state’s roll in this because the money left their hands and was stolen. It’s been shown that literally nothing was done with the funds to the benefit of students for many years. The most basic monitoring to insure students were being helped would have shown these coops weren’t doing their jobs. That alone would have removed the money sooner and may have required more digging into the finances. This is the good ol boys club at it’s finest and a lot of people got paid who should have trouble sleeping at night. If Democrats were in charge, you’d be all over it.

    Reply
  15. Common Sense

    Facts that are actual facts:
    1.) Sane people don’t kill other people let alone their own children. Clinically speaking, that person is a casebook sociopath. No connection to the state besides the hell fury the desperate man was going to face. No conspiracy. Do you not trust the DCI or law enforcement either? Probably not….
    2.) No state money was stolen. A disgruntled employee does not change THAT fact. I wonder what else she’s after actually…or hiding. Does Angela look into that? Again, probably not…she’s after some Emmy that she’ll never get. People outside the state see this as a huge joke and waste of lawmakers’ time.
    3.) secretary schopp is still in her job because she is an effective and forward thing leader. I guess she is a woman so I can see why Sen Nelson and Tapio have issues with her. That male ego thing can be such a pain, huh? And, the Gov must be doing something right as he’s still one of the most popular in the US.
    4.) is this a East River thing? When I look up anything over west, they report on the actual NEWS. Hmmm, how crazy is that? Or, maybe they don’t have time to listen to this total farce? Focusing on actually making change and their own behaviors…wow, Wouldn’t that be interesting? All I’ve seen is the same group of people degrade, berate and insult any person that isn’t in “that group”? It’s sickening. I could see a defamation of character lawsuit in the future…

    Reality check:
    1.)Women can be in leadership positions
    2.) Common Core is here to stay.
    Trying to bring down the DOE, Schopp and the Gov because of this is the most pathetic political antics I’ve witnessed yet.

    Reply
      1. Anonymous

        Sorry. I don’t even know who Ms Beal is. But, odds are I would get along with a sensible and realistic person.

        Reply
      2. Anne Beal

        No. I didn’t write it. I disagree with quite a bit of it.
        1. I wouldn’t call Westerhuis a sociopath. I call him what he was: a Family Annihilator. I have been interested in FAs since I was 11 years old. I knew one. She wasn’t a sociopath.
        2. Angela Kennecke has moved on to a story about a fish farm near Brookings. She thinks it’s more interesting. That’s what a dud this story is: a failed fish farm is more interesting.
        3. I don’t think Dr Schopp is all that effective. I think she serves at the pleasure of the Governor, who wanted her to spend her time promoting Common Core. I think Common Core is idiotic. Massachusetts had higher academic standards before Common Core. Why the state couldn’t just adopt Massachusetts’ standards (or Minnesota’s) instead was a question few asked and nobody answered.

        As for Nelson and Tapio having problems with women in leadership
        Positions, that’s an excuse put forward by a woman who fails to meet expectations and gets criticized for it.

        I have never used that excuse.

        Reply
  16. Troy Jones

    Anonymous 9:55,

    Do you realize the stolen funds in question were money appropriated by local school boards to the cooperative?

    Can you show me in law where the Secretary has the staff and authority to monitor such school board appropriations and then withhold funds if she doesn’t like what she finds?

    If you can, I will entertain your premise. Otherwise, your premise is scapegoating someone for a wrong which they are not legally empowered to impact.

    To have prevented this theft of funds, we need a more powerful Secretary of Education and weaker school boards.

    I am waiting for the critics of the Governor and Secretary to have the intellectual honesty to propose this solution. Otherwise they are phony and dishonest.

    Reply
    1. Steve Sibson

      Troy, giving the DOE more power when they have too much already is not the proper response. The proper response is to reduce the size and scope of the SDDOE and State government in general. Again, I urge Republicans to fall back on their foundational conservative principles of a limited government and return control back to the people. Local control is a myth.

      Reply
  17. Troy Jones

    Steve,

    First of all, to be clear, I agree many of these programs are delivering insufficient results for their costs and on the merits should be terminated. I actually think they are more harmful than if nothing were done. I just think the only way to end them is a discussion of their results on their merits without regard to all these distractions. Fraud and abuse is a constant effort to be fought whether the program has merit or not. Law enforcement and national defense also have fraud and abuse. Thus, I think when we conflate what we are talking about (fraud/abuse vs. merits) we create distractions which feed the status quo.

    Second, you may be correct that with 20-20 hindsight warnings about this cooperative should have been given more weight. But, that doesn’t change the reality current law doesn’t give the Secretary of Education the authority to monitor, audit or withhold funding to school districts. Since you clearly do not support giving DOE more power, it is incongruous to criticize DOE for failing to exercise power they don’t have under the law.

    Again, I agree we need to reduce the size and scope of government at all levels and I believe it will be done by strictly and objectively measuring results and costs and spend our political capital articulating “doing something is not better than doing nothing” as sometimes doing nothing is the best thing.

    Anonymous: Regarding me being an establishment apologist, you are mistaking for apology the pleasure I get in calling out phony, intellectually weak, dishonest cowards like you. Your personal willingness to personally castigate people (90+% of your posts are personal attacks) while attempting to hide your identity from personal accountability is pure cowardice.

    Reply
      1. Troy Jones

        I”ve always despised that saying because it is either:

        1) An excuse to do what one says is immoral
        2) Or commit immorality without consequences.

        Isn’t integrity being who you want to be and claim to be no matter where you are?

        Reply
  18. Steve Sibson

    ” But, that doesn’t change the reality current law doesn’t give the Secretary of Education the authority to monitor, audit or withhold funding to school districts.”

    Troy, to her credit, the Secretary of the SDDOE was the one who took the grant away. SO with all do respect, your point is off. Second, I do not equate coops with school districts. Coops add another layer that reduces accountability and adds finger pointing, not to forget the additional costs.

    I for one have a lot of respect for Secretary Schopp. I know she believes what she is doing is in the best interests of the state, Unfortunately, she is wrong. This is where I differ. This whole situation is very sad. But, I would hope that we all, including the Secretary, has learned from it. If I may use a word for the title of her Doctorate dissertation, the labyrinth has gotten way too big. It is way out of control. Time to shrink it, not think that we fix it by adding to it, which is the approach liberals like Senator Peters are advocating.

    Reply
  19. Troy Jones

    Steve,

    We really aren’t very far apart but items are being conflated which I think messes things up.

    She took away a grant unrelated to the theft. And, unknown to Secretary Schopp, the thief knew losing the grant would bring down the house of cards and cause this “family annihilator” (using Anne’s description) to kill his family and himself.

    Here is my point: The criticism of the Governor/Secretary is they did nothing to stop the theft. Well, as I said before “current law doesn’t give the Secretary of Education the authority to monitor, audit or withhold funding to school districts” but should have clarified withholding “state-aid” funding. The theft of the money is the central part of the controversy and the Governor/Secretary have no real authority or capacity to have stopped it.

    When you get into the efficacy of the grant program, we are entering into legitimate political debate on what programs the government should and shouldn’t fund. And, while I might be willing to experiment on things more than you but would be very quick to pull the plug when it doesn’t show results, in general, I agree we need to shrink the labyrinth significantly.

    I guess when we conflate fraud/abuse and the merits of a program I think we inadvertently create an environment that supports the status quo. The status quo needs to be discussed, changed, reformed, shrunk, refocused, and a host of other terms.

    Reply
    1. Steve Sibson

      “The theft of the money is the central part of the controversy and the Governor/Secretary have no real authority or capacity to have stopped it.”

      Troy, for me the central part of the controversy should be who benefited legally, but within a conflict of interest. This is what I call crony governmentalism. I agree, our discussion, investigations, and focus should go beyond the $1.4 without excluding it. The $1.4 million was easily found via audits. The question becomes what kind of hanky panky occurred that does not get uncovered by an audit? When the audit cannot go into certain private entities that is part of the so-called “partnership”, then we need to eliminate such arrangements as part of our mission to shrink the size of the labyrinth, and thereby reduce corruption.

      And I do agree that we are not that far apart. I do not view this as a Republican problem. I view it as a liberal big government problem that involves both political parties. I am sure the Democrats would want to continue giving taxpayers’ money to their voting base. What they refuse to accept is that that same system puts money into the pockets of Republicans too. Gear Up is a shining example of that very thing. If we did the work, I am sure we would find out that Democrats also benefited from GearUp.

      Reply
  20. Anonymous

    Such a relationship between public and private entities shouldn’t exist in the first place if the DOE can’t make sure the grant is fulfilled. The fact money was stolen is strike 2 in the case of complete incompetence by our govt and Republican ran state. They like these good ol boy club agreements where everyone gets paid. Socialized and privatized profit. The Republican motto.

    Reply
  21. Anonymous

    Socialized risk and privatized profits. The Republican motto. They need to ask these people who apparently we’re making money on the side of their full time jobs what they actually did. If the likes of melmer and Moore can’t prove they actually worked, that is theft. Plain and simple.

    Reply
  22. Anonymous

    Troy, if you had money to give out and decided to provide training for your employees, would you just hand over the cash and hope for the best or would you try to make sure you could monitor that cash before handing it over? If the state couldn’t monitor the implementation of the grant, then maybe they should not have taken it. We all know red States love federal money and why SD is a welfare queen on the federal level. The only thing conservative in this state is the size of the govt and they will continue to promote that even if it means kids dying. I guess they just don’t have the guts to turn down money they can’t handle.

    Reply
  23. MC

    I am going to first apologize to the very gracious Mr. Powers, as this may veer off topic.

    Wow! This is one of the reasons I like this kind of forum. Between MHS, Mr. Sibson and Mr. Jones, I believe we may have zeroed in on part of the issue, and maybe even part of a solution.

    I believe we should have a good hard look at the educational cooperatives. Do they need additional oversight or should we just do away with them completely? To be completely honest, I really don’t care for either of these options. One is more regulation, more big brother, the other is even worse.

    There hasn’t been a legislative session in recent memory that school districts haven’t asked for more money. I like the idea of educational cooperatives. Member School districts pooling their resources, to help each other. Smaller school districts come together, form a cooperative, and then apply for various grants that benefits all the school districts. They are able to have consistent staff training and there are of host other benefits with school districts working together. On paper, this sounds like a really great idea, especially when it comes to special education services.

    However, the devil is in the details. Without adequate oversight, these cooperatives can breed corruption. From what I can tell, these cooperatives have some type of governing board, made of members from participating school districts. That makes sense. However they are superintendents, principals and educators, and sitting on cooperative board may be second position or an additional duty to an already part time position. Staff hired by the board will take time to service all the member schools, and will furnish the reports as required or requested, many times those reports or just glazed over and filed away. To add to all this, that part time person hired to schedule special education resources, may have another position at a member school district working with special needs kids.

    The Department of Education could offer guidelines and provide some regulatory oversight. However, this would add a level of government/administration that really isn’t needed in an already bloated system. I hesitate at giving the Secretary of the Department of Education greater authority over education cooperatives. At the same time, I’m not ready to ban these types of cooperatives.

    To add to this troubled mix we have the tribes, and their educational organizations. I would want to tread very lightly when it comes to offering any kind of assistance to any of the tribes. What we may see as assistance they may see as an intrusion into their culture and possibly an attack on their solvency as a nation.

    I would want to see more information about these educational cooperatives, both In state and out of state. I want to see how they are organized and how efficient they are and most importantly, what issues are the cooperatives and the member school districts experiencing. I also would want to hear from the tribes, what they expect from the state as far as educational services. Maybe the GOAC should focus on the educational cooperatives compare that to MCEC then decide what legislation is needed rather than just reacting to just one incident.

    Reply
  24. Troy Jones

    MC,

    Let me answer some questions you asked or address some issues:

    MC-“Do they need additional oversight or should we just do away with them completely?” If we can’t trust multiple school districts to come together to pool resources and receive shared services, can we trust any school district to run their school? Why don’t we just end all local control? Frankly rather than based on one cooperative assuming “these cooperatives can breed corruption” that maybe we just have ask ourselves what went wrong and watch for it in the future.

    MC: Doesn’t want to add “a level of government/administration’ or give “the Secretary of the Department of Education greater authority over education cooperatives” or “ban these types of cooperatives.” Does that mean you want someone else to regulate cooperatives or are you thinking the status quo is the best option even if it means bad people coming into a place of trust might be able to steal some money until caught (which by the way may not be unreasonable because to be assured you can’t ever be stolen from will require very expensive and extensive financial controls which might exceed the potential amount to be stolen).

    Mike, your last comment is the silver lining. Too often we so react to problems or issues like this we forget to use it as a learning experience. Instead of spending all our time trying to attribute blame (I always thought it principally should go to the guy who killed himself and his family), all interested parties should sit down and assess opportunities for improvement in the program, controls to prevent a repeat and even possibly whether the program should be terminated or shrunk.

    P.S. Now that we have much of the facts, whether you agree with the Governor or Secretary Schopp on things like Common Core, I think an apology is in order. They were accused of very serious charges which goes straight to their integrity and character. Can we agree that was over the top and they didn’t directly and intentionally aid and abet corruption?

    Reply
    1. MC

      I really don’t think the Govenor or Secretary Schopp directly, or knowing aided in the corruption. I believe they gave the business manager benefit of the doubt, absence of any real evidence to contrary. As far as they knew, they had the grant money, and kids were being help into college. She did what most anyone in her position would do at the time. I honestly believe she did act in the best interest of the state, with the information she had available at the time. Yes there were warning signs, but are couple of E-mails alone enough to trigger a full scale investigation? Based on what I seen so far, I don’t see where she has done anything wrong. However, no matter how this ends up, it is still going end up in the Governor’s lap.

      Reply
    1. Pat Powers Post author

      Tara, I removed your comment because you are crossing the line into what I consider being abusive.

      I have no problem with disagreeing and debate, but when it devolves into name calling, I reserve the right to put an end to it.

      Reply
      1. Tara Volesky

        Could you explain how I crossed the line Pat. And how was I being abusive? What was I name calling, snow flake?

        Reply
  25. Commonsense

    Tara Volesky…are you interested in resolving the issue or just taking down Sec Schopp and the Gov? It seems like any factual point that shows possible deficiencies in actions in the DOE (plausible argument) but isn’t direct slander on the Sec are outrageous to you. You do realize that you are making some very VERY dangerous comments about individuals. If you are lawsuit crazy, well….tides may turn.

    Reply
    1. Tara Volesky

      So Charlie, are you saying Senator Nelson an expert in fraud cases and who has donated hundreds of hours investigating this case is not credible?

      Reply
      1. Anonymous

        Maybe he would be viewed as credible if he actually gave credit to his “sources?” Mr. Nelson has been preaching from a very high pulpit for a very long time about criminal activity he had evidence of. When he was put on the spot to produce that evidence, he fell flat on his face. Just like you need to earn respect, you also need to earn credibility. Mr. Nelson has shown he is not capable of that.

        Reply
        1. Tara Volesky

          Hey Anonymous, Nelson is not a keystone cop, he happens to be NCIS. Made a career out being a professional investigator.

          Reply
          1. MC

            Once a Marine, always a Marine. However Senator Nelson is no longer with Naval Criminal Investigating Services. He is currently serving as a South Dakota State Senator.

            I should also point out what you see on TV is far from the truth.

            Reply
            1. Tara Volesky

              I have never watched NCIS. Isn’t it nice to have someone that has a wealth of experience and expertise with his background. Hey, we don’t need to hire an Independent investigator, we have one for free. Keep track of your hours Stace. lol

              Reply
    2. Tara Volesky

      CS, could you please explain yourself ……like making some very Very dangerous comments about individuals. Please point out the comments. Thanks.

      Reply
  26. Tara Volesky

    I am just for finding out the truth. Not worried about your insults. Just asking questions from a typical SD citizen. Sorry but I can’t be bullied or intimidated. Are your scared of my questions Commonsense? Have some commonsense and live up to your name.

    Reply
  27. Charlie Hoffman

    People who didn’t know or care didly squat about Gear Up 18 months ago are suddenly experts on Native American scholarship funding inadequacy and fraud. Convenient for Swamp level politicians. Yes?

    Reply
  28. Common Sense

    I would say questions about accountability and oversight are being asked by the “typical” citizen. But, questions concerning this grand conspiracy and blaming deaths on innocent people are ridiculous. Holding different opinions and engaging in conductive discourse on educational policy is one thing (i.e. Common Core). Carelessly repeating blatant lies and personal comments about individuals that one doesn’t know is immature and disrespectful. I use the word “commonsense” to remind people to use it and have a mind of their own. I want to believe most people in our state have some level of decency and respect for one another. This whole spectacle has been based on personal insults and degrading certain people instead of the actual facts. This shouldn’t even be called the “Gear-Up” scandal. The “MCEC” scandal would be much more appropriate considering the actual charges in this case are based on stolen co-op money….NOT state funds. Again, NO state funds are missing. Maybe I analyze things too simply…but usually the facts can be deduced to the simplest terms. Research methods 101…..? Regardless, the witch hunt will continue for personal political gain and to destroy others. I’m all about finding out what happened but prefer not to personally attack, degrade and belittle people on the way. As far as these things go, it doesn’t get you closer to the “truth” which won’t be accepted unless it completely aligns with your own viewpoint. Call me a joke all you want… it doesn’t change the facts or entice me to engage in insults with you. I don’t know you or anything about you. Therefore, I have no reason to do so.

    Reply
    1. Steve Sibson

      “The “MCEC” scandal would be much more appropriate considering the actual charges in this case are based on stolen co-op money….NOT state funds. Again, NO state funds are missing. Maybe I analyze things too simply…but usually the facts can be deduced to the simplest terms.”

      That analysis contains only partial truths. We need to know, what was the source of the “co-op money”? Was it the school districts? If so, then why should the state rub it in with the $4 million civil suit? It was due to the state’s lack of oversight (when was the first audit of MCEC?) that allowed that to happen. In addition, some of the charges stem form actions taken to protect the entity that implemented Gear Up…AIII. Has that entity ever been audited?

      I rather look at the systemic culture of corruption than focus on trying to find “fall guys” so that the system can remain intact. MC and Troy:

      The problem that we see here is that too many people trust too many so-called “experts”. That symptom is what liberals call cronyism. What they don’t want to admit is that there is also cronyism in government, not just in capitalism. Cronyism is protected by the system by charging whistleblowers with being not credible, or being a bully, or not being a “team player”. That is the essence of the post that started this threat. The author of that post rightly goes after comments that are abusive and personal attacks. I would respectfully point out that Senator Nelson is being attached with abusive personal attacks that seem to be designed to distract us from the questions that I have laid out in this comment.

      I would hope that we can get to the point that we can forgive those who made mistakes and have learned from them as they should be able go forward a better person doing a better job. We all should also learn from their mistakes. Why can’t we step back, learn all we can about what went wrong, and perhaps then conclude that the centralization of power and money, which may seem more efficient, also attracts those who want to take advantage of it.

      I am a non practicing CPA. I have been taught that any system if Internal Control can be circumvented by collusion by two or more parties. That is what cronyism does… creates the collusion that results in the fraud. Our system of legalized corruption fosters cronyism. It is time we deal with it.

      Reply
    1. Anne Beal

      Tara, I think most sensible people are losing patience with this:
      “Look at the map!”
      —where’s the map?
      “Listen to the tapes!”
      —-what tapes?
      “Senator Nelson has received information!”
      —-what information?
      “He has an informant!”
      —-who?
      “He’s an ace NCIS investigator!”
      —- what has he discovered?
      Now you claim he’s really blown this thing out of the water.
      —when? What did he blow out of the water? This “thing?”
      What thing?

      Reply
  29. Tara Volesky

    So if it’s not such a big deal, why are they resisting a meeting at USD? The EB-5 monster has just been resurrected.

    Reply
    1. Anne Beal

      Because there is no reason to hold a meeting in the political science dept at USD. The map is no longer on display there. Isn’t that a good enough reason to not bother to go there?

      As for tapes of the August 29th meeting, what tapes? Where can a person access the tapes?
      If there are tapes it would be interesting to hear them.

      Reply
      1. MC

        They are on that ‘other’ blog
        I need to sit down and listen to them again very closely and make sure I know what I was hearing.

        Reply
  30. Troy Jones

    Tara,

    First the map is not evidence. It might be something else but it doesn’t met the definition of evidence.

    Second, what exactly does this “major piece” tell us specifically in your own words and why do you think it says that?

    Third, have you reviewed it yourself or who are you relying upon for that assessment?

    Reply
    1. Tara Volesky

      I have not reviewed it personally, but I have close friends that have gotten the review with Professor Damgaard. Heck, if I was on the GOAC I would be 100% for seeing the map and gathering as much information as possible. Next time I go down to USD I do want to see it. Remember, these people work for us. Most Legislators have no clue what goes on in the inside. They are about as in the dark as everybody else. It’s time to let the sun shine in.

      Reply
    2. Tara Volesky

      Troy, so you think reviewing that map is a waste of time? It’s called follow the $$$$$$ map. I would not discredit Professor Damgaard and his class that have spent hundreds of hours researching this scandal. What? do you think they just did this for nothing? I think they are a lot smarter than than most people give these bright minds credit for. I respect their countless hours of research.

      Reply
  31. Anne Beal

    I listened to the recorded phone conversations between Senator Nelson and Luann Werdel.
    She told him she sent an email to Dr Schopp in 2011, after she was fired, telling her that funds were being misused.
    Period. She didn’t name names or give dollar amounts.
    And then she followed that email up with a second email, apologizing for the first.
    On the phone call, of July 2017, 6+ years after her termination, she told Senator Nelson that two of the people on the Gear UP payroll were getting paid to do nothing, and that she told a number of people about it in 2011, but
    she did not include any of that information in the email to Dr. Schopp.

    She then told Senator Nelson, repeatedly, that she was only aware of the “tip of the iceberg” and she had no idea what Scott Westerhuis was doing. So she never warned Dr Schopp about any embezzlement conspiracy, either, because she didn’t know about it.

    And then she said, that after she was fired, she left it all behind and didn’t think anymore about it until the Westerhuis deaths occurred, 4 1/2 years later.
    And now, six years later, she’s coming forward.

    She might be credible, but I pity the prosecutor who has to run with this.

    Reply
    1. Anne Beal

      I think YOU need to listen to the tapes again, if you can get past the two of them talking about themselves. There isn’t a lot of content in the calls. All the pertinent information is in the email she sent out after she was fired.

      Reply
  32. Troy Jones

    Tara,

    Are these the same close friends who told you we were going to hear all this testimony at the last GOAC meeting which was going to expose the Governor et. al. as part of a great big corruption? Or different friends?

    Reply

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