The Damaged State Capitol

If you haven’t caught the twitter feed coming from the Governor’s Chief of Staff Tony Venhuizen, Tony has been documenting much of the damage around the State Capitol grounds from the recent storm in Pierre for Social Media:

And that damage to the Capitol isn’t insignificant. According to the Capitol Journal:

The storm also ripped off as much as 25 percent of the copper flashing from the Capitol Building annex’s roof, officials say.

About 15 square feet of copper was peeled back and thrown to the Capitol’s lawn, said Leah Svendsen who oversees maintenance on the Capitol grounds.

“That copper just kind of peeled off,” Svendsen said. “We’re really lucky that it happened at 3 a.m.”

Svendsen said she doesn’t yet know what the cost of repairing the copper flashing will be but it won’t be cheap or easy.

“It’s hard to find companies that can repair the copper,” she said.

Losing the copper led to some water damage on the Capitol’s fourth floor, Svendsen said, and repairs will need to be made. The roof has since been sealed, she said.

No other damage was reported to the Capitol building, Svendsen said.

Read that here in the Capitol Journal.

I asked Tony last night about the damage to the State Capitol, and “whether the repairs can be covered through existing funds, or will special measures have to be taken to cover the costs?”  He indicated that the structure is covered by insurance, which should alleviate some of the burden taxpayers will have to bear for the storm damage.

I suspect however that the trees are a different story.

The potential problem is that the Capitol Complex building fund is always stretched beyond it’s limits with basic maintenance projects, and a massive storm is going to tax already limited resources.

FBI closes EB-5 Investigation with no charges or prosecution.

Apparently, everyone is in on conspiracy! The Capitol Journal reports that the EB-5 Case is closed with no charges or prosecution:

The FBI has closed its investigation into South Dakota’s investment-for-visa program and the U.S. Attorney’s office has decided not to pursue prosecution.

FBI spokesman Kyle Loven says the agency recently forwarded its findings of the state’s EB-5 program to the office of U.S. Attorney Randy Seiler. Loven says the office decided not to bring charges.

Read it here.

What is, and what isn’t in the “public interest” when it comes to records available elsewhere?

The Argus Leader has a story today on the Division of Banking’s refusal to release applications and complaints on some lenders, despite the records being noted as public documents. But, there’s a curious carve-out that says otherwise:

The applications, according to Bret Afdahl, the director of the South Dakota Division of Banking, are not public documents. Afdahl denied an Argus Leader request for the applications, in part by quoting a law whose title notes that banking division records are “open to public inspection.” In his denial of the records, Afdahl noted that the “division must encourage full and complete disclosure of financial and background information” of those seeking a license under laws regulating money lenders.

Money lenders are a distinct class of business regulated by the division. They are typically associated with high-interest, short-term loans.

The Argus Leader also requested all consumer complaints received by the division since Jan. 1, 2014. Afdahl denied the paper’s request for those records, arguing they aren’t in the public interest and could be used to harm people or banks.

Read it here.

To understand why the Division of Banking is saying no, when the Argus is saying “yes,” you’ve got to go back to the law:

51A-2-35.   Records of division open to public inspection–Exceptions–Court order. The records of the division are open to public inspection. However:
             (1)      The director may withhold from public inspection any record, including any correspondence, for so long as deemed necessary for the protection of a person or bank or to be in the public interest;
             (2)      The director shall withhold from public inspection any record required to be confidential pursuant to federal statutes or rules or regulations of the board of governors of the federal reserve system or the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation; and
             (3)      Reports of examination shall remain the property of the division and shall be furnished to the bank for its confidential use. Under no circumstances may the report or any supporting documentation be disclosed to anyone, other than directors and officers of the bank or anyone who is acting in a fiduciary capacity for the bank, without written permission from the director.
     Any record of the division shall be made available upon order of a court of competent jurisdiction if cause is shown.

Read the law here.

And that’s an exception that’s pretty wide open.

I have to concur with the state’s largest paper, who adds: “The application also asks whether an applicant or “control person” of the company has been convicted of a felony, been subject of previous regulatory actions, declared bankruptcy or possessed unsatisfied judgments or liens. All of that information is already publicly available.”

In fact, the ownership information of the banks is also going to be largely public through the Secretary of State’s Office corporate filings.

Given the fact that all of that information IS available through public sources in other places, is the “deemed necessary for the protection of a person or bank or to be in the public interest” carve-out from open record laws warranted or needed?