UPDATE: Jarrod Johnson Appropriations

Jarrod Johnson - Commissioner School and Public Lands

The Watertown Public Opinion is weighing in quite harshly on the pay raises Johnson gave out to his staff.

The only person who threatened to leave the office, however, was the recipient of the 20 percent raise which went to Johnson’s deputy, Justin Ohleen, whose annual salary currently is listed at $60,000. If Ohleen was so unhappy with making $60,000 a year, then why not let him leave and find another $60,000-per-year job? Apparently if he was willing to leave, there must have been one or more available to him.

What makes Johnson’s decision so bad is he violated the governor’s directive twice – once under Rounds and again under Daugaard. Plus, the lands commissioner oversees leasing of state lands for agriculture, mineral and oil and gas production purposes. Revenue from that is distributed to schools, universities and other state institutions. The money he gave his staff in raises should have gone to those programs and benefited the many instead of the few.

We realize we’re not talking about a significant amount of money. The point, however, is Johnson ignored a governor once and then, after promising not to do it again, did it again. What kind of leadership is that? Remember that the next time Johnson runs for office – if he does.

UPDATE: The Mitchell Daily Republic is now giving their opinion on the School and Public Lands controversy.

It appears that Jarrod Johnson is loose with the public?s money, and that?s frustrating to members of the state Legislature.

It?s also frustrating to us, after reading the account of how Johnson doled out raises to members of his staff after vowing to legislative leaders that he wouldn?t.

40 Replies to “UPDATE: Jarrod Johnson Appropriations”

  1. Anonymous

    Well I hope Ohleen feels satisfied in his 20% raise. He has single handidly brought down the future of one of the GOP’s rising stars.

    1. Anonymous

      I’m no fan of Ohleen, but Johnson did this to himself and the blame is his alone. That money should have gone to the schools. Period.

  2. Anonymous

    Not everyone in the Legislature is offended by Johnson’s budget decision. HE CUT 10 PERCENT AND DID NOT FILL A POSITION! Deb Peters is out of control and does not speak for the entire Legislature or all of the republicans in the legislature. Someone needs to get her on a choke-chain!

    1. cry fowl

      I have no problem with Jarrod making the decisions in his office. I do have a problem with Ohleen feeling like he is entitled to this raise.

      I also agree that Peters is a total grandstander.

      This is a perfect example of the media overreacting.

  3. Lee Schoenbeck

    I must be missing something about how economics work. Justin Ohleen told his employer, apparently, that I am worth x in the market and either get there or I’ll test the market. His employer made the decision to match the market. Justin, being economically efficient, took the deal.

    Whether his employer has issues with the people he answers to, the criticism of Justin for understanding capitalsim seems sorely misplaced. In fact, he’d be kind of a shlepp to waste productive years takign less than he could make in the employment market, as he will never get those lost years back.

    I assume Jarrod fully appreciated the significance of his decision and decided to take the heat, to keep somebody he saw as important to his ability to run the office. If Jarrod runs afoul of who he answers to, that’s his call (that cowboy is a big boy).

    1. Anonymous

      I wonder if the other people in the office deserved a 20% pay increase also?

      Maybe everyone in Pierre deserves a 20% pay increase? Including teachers, police, people who have been serving our state for 15 years…

      Ohleen is replacable.

  4. SouthDakotaWife

    Jarrod is a good guy in an atmosphere full of “not so goods”. He does what’s right for his office, which comes down to what will bring the most for our schools. AND, he isn’t afraid to ruffle some feathers to get it done. Good for him!

    1. Anonymous

      The only thing Johnson worries about is what his image looks like to the voters and the last thing he worries about is bringing revenue in to the schools if it will upset anyone who might be able to vote for him when he runs for higher office. Up until now, he has never ruffled a feather in his life. Are you Johnson’s wife?

  5. anon

    I’m not sure how giving someone a 20% pay increase is considered good stewardship and we all know the deputies are in on a lot of the decisions – including staff pay.

    It’s a little to much like cronyism for me. 3% ok – 20% give me a break.

  6. anon

    Isn’t it strange that Jarrod told the legislators that he couldn’t possibly cut 10% from his budget the first time he met with them. Then, a few weeks later, he managed to come up with the 10%. Now we learn that not only was there 10% extra in his budget, but also enough to give big raises.

    I think the bigger question is, why he told the legislature he couldn’t possibly cut his budget, when there was obviously a lot of excess in the first place….. Some conservative!

  7. CaveMan

    I believe the Commissioner told the committee that he needed another $600,000 to $800,000 for dam repair and failed to come to the meeting with the 10% cut as asked to do by the Chair of Appropriations. This was a huge mistake as he is now finding out memory serves many well in the business of politics.

  8. Anonymous

    60 grand thats alot of money pay 8 bucks thats more like South Dakota.Change our motto came to die not to buy .That should be our state motto.

  9. Anonymous

    $60,000 is a lot less than most of the college proffessors make for
    teaching, literally, a few hours a week. Question: Does Johnson’s operating budget come out of the revenues he collects? I think ALL of the revenues he obtains goes to the schools and his operating funds come from the general revenues of state government. Anyone know the fact of this matter?

    1. Anonymous

      If he was blowing more general budget then thats even worse. That money could have gone to all sorts of programs that got cut.

    1. Anonymous

      What do you mean he doesn’t even work in Pierre?? Every time I have stopped in at his office he is there. Someone is giving you BAD information.

      1. Anonymous

        How many times have you stopped in Johnson’s office? Obviously not many. He’s rarely been there when I’ve gone to see him.

  10. Electrifying South Dakota

    With all due respect to Mr. Schoenbeck, and the other esteemable contributors on this blog, I think it only fair to call out an inconsistency in the message. Several weeks ago we dialogued about the low pay given to legislators, in that the compensation was grossly insufficient to cover the costs of travel, time out of the office, etc., but that the opportunity to serve was what truly important. Carrying that message forward to our present conversation, wouldn’t it be appropriate to suggest that employment with the State of South Dakota is an opportunity to serve rather than a means to wealth? If Mr. Ohleen doesn’t believe that service to the State and its people come first, shouldn’t he simply leave? By the rationale advanced in today’s conversation one could argue that an experienced attorney in the Attorney General’s Office should hold out for more, because they could certainly make more in private practice. The same could be said for the State’s engineers, physicians, etc. The incongruities of thought between this conversation and the legislator pay topic do not seem easily reconciled. If you want to test the market, fine, go. If you stay, you aren’t a schmuck, you are serving the people.

    1. anon

      Most people would have put the elected official they were serving first but Ohleen thought his raise was more important.

  11. Lee Schoenbeck

    Electrifying — I will take your comments as a serious discussion. The difference between a part-time elected official (legislator) and a full time employee is a significant one. One makes a living from this paycheck, the other does not. That is the fundamental economic difference.
    Now you make a good point about Mr Ohleen not being unique. The same rational, you say, applies to the assitant AGs and “State?s engineers, physicians, etc”. I agree. In fact, every day, all across South Dakota, state employees make a choice between private sector and public sector employment. In this instance, Mr Ohleen’s employer made an effort to retain him for the time being. I doubt that is unique. Others are retained by changing their positions to increase their pay, or in years past by awarding year end bonuses. No matter, many, many employees opt out of state employment each year because it is not in their economic best interest. Is this something you had not previously realized?

    PS none of this is an argument about whether there should or shouldn’t be across the board pay raises or freezes. The point is that the slams directed at Justin are — atleast economically – foolish

    1. Anonymous

      Seems to me the worse slams are directed at the real target – Jarrod Johnson. Ohleen and his employment are simply illustrations of the problem Johnson caused by giving him a 20% pay raise. Whether or not he’s worth the money is beside the point.

      1. Anonymous


        I think you make some good points but in most cases those who serve as the deputy in a constitutional office are also in on decisions made. It is almost like Ohleen gave himself a pay raise. Most deputies serve as a close confidant and that is partly why this looks so bad.

        I also don’t think Johnson did himself any favor with his staff by essentially making it visible to the world that they are only worth a 3% pay raise.

        Let’s combine the S&PL office with Auditor or Treasurer and call it a day.

        1. disappointed

          It doesn’t matter what Ohleen thinks he is entitled to for salary. It matters what the market will pay him and the market said he wasn’t worth it currently.

          Ohleen should go into the private sector for a while and see how much he misses his cushy government job.

          I’m seriously upset by their actions.

  12. Raise my Pay!

    Median Household income in South Dakota is $45,000.

    Ohleen is a single guy making $60,000.

    …and he felt he was entitled to a raise of 20% in the public sector at a time when we aren’t raising any pay – for anyone? That is $12,000 and it is flat out wrong for him to accept it.

    What is wrong with this picture?

    1. Anonymous

      Worse is that he is serving as deputy to an official and he is supposed to have his back not destroy his career.

      I think Jarrod lost on this deal. So did the people of SD.

    2. Anonymous

      Looks to me like he was making $50,000 and got a raise to $60,000. Remind me how much Mike Rounds’s son is making? How about Gov. Daugaard’s son-in-law Tonnis Venhuizen?

    1. JRM

      Even after the 20% raise Justin Ohleen is still the lowest paid deputy in a SD constitutional office. Jarrod Johnson has been kicked around for being fast and loose with the taxpayers money, but if you take the time to examine his record and compare it with the records of the other Constitutional officers you will find that in the area of deputy compensation he is clearly the most conservative constitutional officer currently serving.

      S&PL Deputy 60K
      SOS Deputy 65K
      Auditor Deputy 67k
      Treasurer Deputy 84K

      1. Anonymous

        Did those other offices give cost of living raises to everybody in their office? I bet they didn’t. Did they do it twice? I bet they didn’t.


    He needs to update his photo so he is wearing that big old hat he used to defeat Bryce Healy. The Betty Olson types just cant resist voting for someone in a cowboy hat.

  14. William

    Obviously, JJ thought that Ohleen could get $60,000 in the marketplace. He matched it to retain him. His office still made the cuts requested by the Governor.

    The marketplace isn’t really concerned that Ohleen is single, under 30 or what the median household income is.

    The marketplace determines pay based on desired skills and capabilities.

    If Ohleen has skills and capabilities worth $60,000 in the “open market”, so be it. Maybe he does, maybe he doesn’t, but if he does the market is fair.

    That’s a good thing!