Merry Christmas at the Secretary of State’s office, as rumor is several were fired today.

The banner at the South Dakota Secretary of State’s website says they’re closed due to weather. But the word is that the Christmas-time blizzard didn’t stop the Grinch from visiting, as I’m being told at least FIVE members of staff received coal in their stockings as they were told their services are no longer needed.

I’m told that in addition to former Deputy Jason Lutz who resigned on December 8 when Steve Barnett left, today Elections head Kea Warne and Business Services head Kyle Holt were told they are done, along with three other staff members, one of whom was with Elections, along with Director Warne, leaving little staff to respond to elections questions.

I had heard word earlier that part of the arrangement for Monae taking office early was that there were to be no changes until after the first of the year.

But with today’s snow day massacre, I guess that didn’t happen.

70 thoughts on “Merry Christmas at the Secretary of State’s office, as rumor is several were fired today.”

    1. She promised to make sure our election is legal by checking the rolls and removing those who have died. She also promised that the county auditors would receive the training needed to insure honest elections. What is wrong with that?

    1. After reading this, I’m afraid of this happening. It may be the beginning of the end of a one term SOS.

      1. Is Noem supposed to have rounds and Daugaard’s team?

        Every elected official is entitled to have their own staff. If they screw it up then they won’t be reelected.

        Noem has gone through 5 Chiefs in 4 years. She likes what she has now. Some growing pains in her first few years but ultimately that’s how it works. Elected officials need their own people to do the job the public elected them to do but then also carry out a vision.

        1. You do realize that 5 chiefs in 4 years is more an indicator she’s fickle, unsure of her priorities, and/or hard to work with, right?

  1. How thoughtful. As I understand it, one of those fired has been with the past 3 administrations and has a child fighting cancer. Suppose they’ll pick up the cobra insurance until something else comes along? Sounds to me like someone was intimidated by knowledge & ability.

      1. Agree Lee and I have worked with Kea for over 14 years. She is what I would call indebted with institutional knowledge. This won’t end well.

        1. Kea WAS the SOS office ! Without her expertise and testifying at committee meetings, the SOS office would have been without a go-to person. I think Monae should reconsider.

          1. If Kea was the SOS Office, that is admitting that Barnett was just the person with the title. We know he was seldom in the office. Perhaps Monae will actually fulfill the office duties for which she was elected. If Kea was so great, why hasn’t she ever run for the office?

        2. If I understand correctly after attending meetings and doing my own research, our election systems is a shambles because we can’t audit the results and a company from another state is running our machines and software and they refused to provide a decryption key for the CVR.

          When they refused to allow us to audit our digital election data, it confirmed EVERYTHING.

          South Dakota is not a gold standard even if only every legal vote cast was counted and the results were 100% accurate. If they were, we need an AUDIT TRAIL!

          1. So you’re telling me they digitally hacked a paper ballot? You obviously know less than Kea.

          2. So, Mr. Dale, are you saying we need an audit? Might Ms. Tonchi be able to provide such a service?

          3. John Dale, what meetings did you attend?
            I have discovered it is very easy to go to a meeting and discover you are in a room full of tinfoil hats. It doesn’t mean that any of the people doing all the talking know what they are talking about..
            While it is interesting to hear them talk, one finds oneself embarrassed to admit to being there.

            Ms Johnson secured the nomination for SOS by pandering to these same people. The problem is, she will now have to find evidence of widespread election fraud, and if she doesn’t find any, they will turn on her.

    1. Kea is a good person. She left when Gant came in also. I feel bad for anyone coming and going from an office but it is the life of working for an elected official. Sos, Congress, Governor, AG…

      Monae would have worked with Kea in previous administration’s.

      It didnt work for Gant when she left. Maybe it will work for Monae.

      1. Well, remember, in previous administrations Ms. Monae was the receptionist, and probably has a bone to pick with Ms. Kea, who was a high-ranking and respected official. It’s probably about spite.

  2. I’m surprised somewhat that she’s up-ending the staff right now, as Monae is going into a legislative session where one hot topic is over whether the SOS should be elected at convention or in a primary. Clearing out elections is going to be closely scrutinized.

    BUT, a lot of budgetary money for salaries are locked up in those director positions, so there were sure to be some changes so she could hire her people.

    Who she brings in – especially in elections – will be closely watched.

    1. You are spot on Pat. I don’t think Monae has any ability to change the outcome of the nominating process (the legislature will do whatever they want) but she will need to have the resources to hire who she wants and she will also need the new team to be competent on day 1.

    2. Why is the Republican Establishment so bent out of shape that the At-Large Reps are chosen or nominated by the State and Precinct Committees? Is this not a rock solid tradition of American Government – the Landowners, Property Holders deep within the “State” have the right to lobby for, and choose who they wish? Is this not what the Committee Members are for, to work closely with the people across the State to ‘change’ their minds often to constantly change leadership at the top?

      I am asking simple, but honest questions sir, It really does not matter if your Democrat or Republican really, the At-Large Reps should always be chosen by those most effected – Landowners, Property Holders, and the People Elect to place at the Conventions…

      This is the one main issue I have with the “party” is that it plays to much politics when it does NOT get it’s way.

      To Lee Schoenbeck, I am NOT happy with you sir, you act like a child when you do not get your way, so you go on a bashing party to threaten and attack those who may NOT always agree with you. Lee, I have agreed with you and disageed with you on many topics, but please, let it go man…the process works as intended.

      We go through the process every two years – we elected Precinct Committee Persons every two years, and their job is to work closely with the people, thus helping to mode legislative concepts by connecting the Legislators to the People.

      There are 687 Precincts across the State – the people voted to elect a committee to represent them at the closest of all places – the Precincts. That tells you the people may or may not agree with the overall motive of the party, let alone the Legislature.

      DO NOT change a thing…

      In fact, if we change anything, we need to repeal the 17 Amendment to allow the Precincts, the Delegates, and the Legislatures to also choose the U.S Senators.

      1. I’m surprised they aren’t working on changing the succession order. SOS and Monae are too high.

  3. Fire Kea Warne, election chief for many years? That is really dumb of Monae. Warne was one of the people that could have made Monae look smarter than she is.

    Stand by for election night tom foolery. Dumb legislative bills. Lawsuits to force her to follow the law. Angry county auditors.

    Its Jason Gant, the Sequel.

    1. Gant wasn’t the cluster everyone says he was. He had a big vision and some of those ideas are the framework of the sos now. He didn’t get all the puzzle pieces in place before he left but the pieces were there. And maybe he was too big of a thinker and was too ambitious with too many ideas. Had he been able to avoid some controversy he would have taken that office decades into the future.

  4. I can’t tell if that noise I hear is the wind blowing 35 mph or Alice Kundert spinning in her grave.

  5. Seems essentially to be 2 weeks notice.

    It sucks, but in the minds of those who lost their jobs .. do we think they understand and accept why?

  6. I love the reference to Alice Kundert! All kidding aside, this SOS office appears to be in shambles before it ever gets off the ground. The Legislature will eat Monae and her skeleton/inexperienced staff alive. Just more fodder for the election integrity conspiracy folks when the next election rolls around and the SOS office falls flat on its face. Sad. SD deserves better.

  7. Johnson is doing the right thing .. this is not a daycare or playground, our livelihoods and national values are at stake. South Dakota is small, which means it can be corrupted pretty easily. At the same time, it means our ditches are a little shallower (proverbially), and it’s a little easier to repair human resources systems like our election system.

    Support the SOS, and do your civic duty by understand the goals, implementations, and problems of/with our system.

    Johnson’s SOS term, for her constituents, was not a power grab.

    The movement comes from a good faith effort to do this the right way that we might accept future election results.

    This is one piece of the puzzle, though, given how military grade psychological programming could cast a vote into a person’s mind, then cast it back out into the ballot box (treating the person as a pass through for US military domestic political objectives .. insane).

    1. “Mr. Madison, what you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.”

      Mr. Dale, what you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

  8. I hope the Appropriations Committee takes a hard look at this office. All the staff cuts should equal some significant savings for the taxpayer’s. South Dakota Open Government shows new deputy secretary Tom Diedrich is already making $20,000 more than Jason Lutz the previous deputy. Firing people and increasing others salaries right before Christmas is not a very conservative or Christian thing to do. Shame on the new Secretary and her Deputy.

    1. I don’t want to get into defending Monae Johnson here but she won. She has the right to hire the people she believes will carry out her vision. If Deadrick costs more to bring on and she has it in her budget good for her. If she makes big changes the new people have to do a good job or Monae will take the blame.

      Deadrick was deputy before. He was the business services guy before. He is an attorney. He was speaker of the house. It makes sense he might cost more. He’s also closer to the end of his career rather than the middle. Those guys usually cost more.

      When Dusty Johnson was Chief of Staff for Daugaard he was paid $114k. Mark Miller is Chief for Noem. He gets paid $178k. Is Miller worth $180k? Yes. Is Dusty worth $180k? Yes. They were willing to do the same job for different numbers. There is nothing wrong with it.

      Officials pay what they have to pay to get the person they want.

      1. If there’s that much “slush” in these budgets, then the appropriators should be looking at that. The Appropriations Committee should have oversight, and review of significant pay raise is in constitutional offices. If they’re transferring funds from operating to salaries just to pay an inflated wage the taxpayers suffer.

  9. It doesn’t make any sense to remove all your department heads without any replacements. Another unforced error, the lack of experience running an organization is obvious. I would’ve expected Tom Diedrich as the former Speaker of the House to advise her to hire replacements and send out a press release announcing the change. The lack of obvious political maneuvering is sad.

    1. This might be a situation of careful how you treat your receptionist or their office friends because they might end up as your boss someday.

  10. I think this whole affair is a very unfortunate thing to happen to the former employees of the Secretary of State’s Office and to the reputation of the Republican Party. I do not understand the so-called issue of election integrity…what’s the problem?? If there is a problem it has certainly turned out well for the Party over the past 50 years. This business of creating a “big issue” out of circumstances that are really no issue at all, will certainly undermine the credibility of the Party, sooner, or later, and I think sooner. Mr. El Rayo Ex has a good point…not only is poor Alice, as rock ribbed a Republican as ever existed, spinning in her grave, many of us old timers are shaking our heads in total disbelief. Where does this stuff come from???

    1. You been living under a rock? Republicans have been pushing this election integrity nonsense for over two years now. This is where it got us in SD. You reap what you sow.

  11. Pat, can you tell us what the options are to remove someone from office?

    Can someone be removed for incompetence?

  12. Kea Warne for SOS!!

    After all the shenanigans I’m sure that are coming she will be a shoe-in!!

  13. First mistake she made was hiring Deadrick who fancies himself a leader and an Intellectual. Can’t wait until this is a primary race in 3.5 years and we take her out… and him. Maybe we can get Kea to run.

    1. It sounds like Gov Noem is a big fan of Deadrick. He was Speaker when she joined the legislature. He might have been the reason the gov appointed Johnson.

  14. She’s been in office less than a month and has already destroyed the Secretary of State‘s office. Talking with delegates, Tom Diedrich was supposed to keep her for making mistakes bringing his experience to the office. Maybe the Secretary of State‘s office should be elected every two years so we don’t have to suffer through four years of this.

  15. Gross incompetence qualifies as a reason to remove her from office – South Dakota, codified law below:

    § 4. Removals of officers not subject to impeachment. All officers not liable to impeachment shall be subject to removal for misconduct or malfeasance or crime or misdemeanor in office, or for drunkenness or gross incompetency, in such manner as may be provided by law.
    History: Repeal proposed by SL 1974, ch 1, rejected Nov. 5, 1974; repeal proposed by SL 1975, ch 2, as amended by SL 1976, ch 1, rejected Nov. 2, 1976.

    The definition of incompetence: inability to do something successfully; ineptitude.

    Removing your department heads less than a month before legislative session is the definition of incompetence.

  16. First the convention elects Ravnsborg four years ago. Now this. And almost took out Rhoden and Jackley. Time to let all the Republicans vote for these office holders in the primary.

  17. Kea was the best. Extraordinarily competent and fair. It’s a loss for the Secretary of State’s office and the citizens of South Dakota.

  18. Kea provided institutional knowledge in the elections department, she understood why changes had been made in the past and could explain to the legislature the impact these changes had, and how HAVA funds could be used. Very disappointing to see such an extreme change so quickly, firing 1/3 of the staff is a mistake. The Secretary and her Deputy will need to explain to the legislature why the head of the elections department, with 20 years experience, is no longer needed to run that office.

  19. That’s what happens when whackadoodles are nominated and elected. Stupid things follow. Just like at the AG’s office 4 years ago. Republicans just can’t kick the far, extreme, stupid part of the party.

Comments are closed.