If you’ve been following the GOAC hearings on Gear-Up at all, you might have noticed that State Senator Stace Nelson has been having a bit of difference with a committee member or two. Or all of them. Maybe staff, too.
As I’m told, the latest tiff got started because Nelson might not have been paying attention to the committee discussion. Or, you might say the committee had one conversation and Senator Nelson had one all to himself. And now he is claiming the committee changed their minds after the fact.
Nelson has been on a rant/attacking one of his fellow legislators from his District, Rep. Kyle Schoenfish, which he’s done regularly in a political context for several years now, but over the course of the last year, it was because Schoenfish’s father’s firm was hired to do the audits for Mid Central Coop. Nelson has been using that fact to try to attack Kyle, and demanding that he answer his questions, appear before the committee, etc.
The latest drama all started with a note from a member of the Legislative audit, as you can follow along from some of the e-mails that flew back and forth this past week. (my emphasis has been added in places to highlight important points)…
On Jul 28, 2017, at 13:31, Flannery, Tim <Tim.Flannery@state.sd.us> wrote:
Honorable Committee Members – as was approved at this week’s GOAC meeting, members will prepare and send questions to staff for inclusion in letters to the following individuals:
- Melody Schopp – Secretary, Department of Education
- Tamara Darnall – Finance Officer, Department of Education
- Randy Schoenfish – Schoenfish & Co., Inc. (my emphasis – pp)
- Brinda Kuhn – BC Kuhn LLC
The Committee letters to these individuals will be approved and signed by both the House and Senate GOAC Chairs. In addition to requesting that these individuals provide written answers to GOAC in advance of the August 29th meeting, the letters will also invite them to attend the meeting. The letters will ask that they inform the Committee whether or not they will attend by August 21st (to facilitate the preparation of the final agenda).
The questions for Darin Bergquist, Secretary, Department of Transportation have already been approved by the Committee and this letter will also be approved and signed by both Chairs.
I would ask that you have your questions emailed to me by 5:00 p.m. next Tuesday, August 1st. Thank you.
Seeing who was being asked to respond from Schoenfish & co was not his regular target, Senator Nelson was unhappy, and made no bones about it.
On 7/28/2017 1:40 PM, S. Nelson wrote:
The committee voted and approved the calling of Representative Kyle Schoenfish, NOT Randy. It was explicitly discussed and decided on in an official motion and a unanimous recorded vote of the GOAC . Who has instructed you to change what was officially decided by the GOAC?
(Uh oh… ) Of course, Mr. Flannery responded,
On Tue, Aug 1, 2017 at 2:02 PM, Flannery, Tim <> wrote:
Committee Members – with regard to the follow-up survey I asked of the
Committee on Friday afternoon, regarding the letter to the audit firm of Mid Central Educational Cooperative, the majority of members present at the meeting on July 25, 2017 stated they wanted the letter to be addressed to the responsible person for the audit or the partner in charge of the audit. Based upon the wishes of the majority of the Committee, the letter will be addressed to Randy Schoenfish (partner in charge of the audit of Mid Central Educational Cooperative). Thank you for your clarification of this question.
Of course, Nelson wanted to attack Kyle Schoenfish, not his dad. And was not happy with this decision by the committee, causing him to fire off a message to anyone (everyone) he might get to care:
From: Stace Nelson
Date: August 1, 2017 at 3:10:46 PM CDT
To: “Flannery, Tim”
Cc: Representative Anderson , “Anderson, David” <David.Anderson@sdlegislature.gov>, “Hunhoff, Jean” <Jean.Hunhoff@sdlegislature.gov>, Representative Hunhoff , “Steinhauer, Wayne” <Wayne.Steinhauer@sdlegislature.gov>, Representative Steinhauer “Tieszen, Craig” <Craig.Tieszen@sdlegislature.gov>, Representative Tieszen , “Wismer, Susan” <Susan.Wismer@sdlegislature.gov>, Representative Wismer , Senator Cronin , “Cronin, Justin” <Justin.Cronin@sdlegislature.gov>, “Nelson, Stace” <Stace.Nelson@sdlegislature.gov>, Senator Peters “Peters, Deb” <Deb.Peters@sdlegislature.gov>, “Sutton, Billie <Billie.Sutton@sdlegislature.gov>, Senator Sutton, Senator Tapio, “Tapio, Neal” <Neal.Tapio@sdlegislature.gov>, “Guindon, Marty” <Marty.Guindon@state.sd.us>, Angela Kenneke <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Bob Mercer <email@example.com>, “Ferguson, Dana” <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Brock Greenfield <email@example.com>, Jason Hancock <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Elizabeth May <email@example.com>, Lance Russell <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Todd Epp <email@example.com>, Cory Allen Heidelberger <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Sam Blackstone <email@example.com>, firstname.lastname@example.org, Frank Kloucek <email@example.com>
Subject: Violation of SD Constitution, Open Meeting laws, and SD Legislature Joint Rules
This inappropriate and illegal retroactive substitution of an admitted witness explicitly called by name via an official public vote of the GOAC (and reported by the press), by a secret unrecorded and unreported vote of unidentified members out of session, is a violation of our SD Constitution
, SD’s open meeting laws, and SD Joint Legislative rules.Mr. Flannery, for the record, provide the names of those instructing the substitution of Representative Kyle Schoenfish, an admitted witness with apparent specific knowledge of the MidCentral audits, for his father who is reputed to have general information of his employee’s audits. Our legislative rules require such votes be made public, regardless that this substitution is outside of the law and rules.Mr Guindon & Mr Hancock,
Please advise what your offices are doing to address this abuse of the committee process.
As you can tell, this e-mail from the LRC staffer did not make Senator Nelson happy, so he went howling to several members of the media, as well as a Democrat blog, and former Democrat legislator Frank Kloucek. Because…..
(Ok, I have no idea why Frank’s in on this, unless he somehow takes his marching orders from Frank, or something.)
In response to this rant, it wasn’t the chair, or a staff member who pointed out the error of Senator nelson’s recollections, it was State Representative Susan Wismer:
From: Susan Wismer <>
Date: July 28, 2017 at 2:27:14 PM CDT
To: “S. Nelson” <firstname.lastname@example.org>, (and everyone on Stace’s list – PP)
Subject: Re: Committee questions
I was afraid this would be an issue with you. I was sorry to see that the news picked up that it was going to be Kyle–but remember that Angela wasn’t there that day, so her source of information may well have only been your mention of Kyle’s name, as opposed to the full discussion. You mentioned Kyle in your request. At that point I remember quite distinctly that Auditor General Guindon responded to a committee question regarding who the appropriate party was to call. He was in the corner of the room, not at the microphone. Since both you and Bob Mercer were sitting with your backs to Marty, (Bob not facing him, as I was) you may not have noted his response. Marty indicated that the accounting firm signed the report, and the partner in charge speaks for the firm. Kyle’s father, Randy, is the partner in charge. At that point I expressed some concern about asking either to appear, to which Justin responded. I was satisfied at the end of the discussion that the committee understood that the partner in charge of the audit would be contacted. Kyle may very well know as much about the issue as his father; on the other hand he may not. Randy was the one present in Lake Andes at the initial hearing. It’s important for everyone that the same person speak for the firm on all inquiries. We also don’t know for sure whose name is on the E&O insurance policy that I hope they have–because no matter if they are found to have erred or not, their legal bills are probably going to be staggering for such a small firm.
As was noted to me, the fact that Susan Wismer is even trying to make sure he understands is a pretty good illustration of what the committee actually discussed. Of course, pointing out what everyone else in the room understood as to how they would be proceeding did not generate a similar understanding on Senator Nelson’s part. Just another cranky e-mail blast:
From: Stace Nelson <email@example.com>
Date: July 28, 2017 at 4:14:13 PM CDT
To: Susan Wismer <s>
Cc: (everyone else that Nelson had been blasting e-mails out to – pp)
Subject: Re: Committee questions
I would encourage you all to go to the official recording of the meeting as it should be listed on the Jul 25th GOAC meeting site, interesting enough it is not listed as of the time of sending this
http://www.sdlegislature.gov/Interim/Documents.aspx?Committee=172&MeetingDate=07-25-2017&Session=2017 even though the 24th does have it’s listed.
Fortunately, I was able to track the audio down and have copied it in case it disappears. I called twice for Rep Kyle Schoenfish to be called during the hearing as he has indicated that he has answers (see email chain below) to the questions I have adopted as my own that constituents and the media has for him regarding his knowledge of these issues that two of his constituent school districts are now being sued for. You are all in receipt of that January official email request for him to answer the questions which Ms. Angela Kennecke also posed of Rep Kyle Schoenfish specifically in this news story:
The GOAC discussed my specific request for Rep Kyle Schoenfish to be called to answer these questions. We only considered 3 stated names in the initial motion to invite persons to be called as witnesses: Melody Schopp, Brenda Kuhn, and Rep Kyle Schoenfish Time stamp 3:11:50
Randy Schoenfish was never named as a substitution to the witness I specifically cited and justified being called. Randy’s name was never discussed, and never approved to be called as a witness. Members questions about the matter did not change my request and did not substitute another person.
Tami Darnell was added as a witness after further debate at time stamp 3:22:00.
I categorically reject Rep. Tiezen’s inappropriate comments. Rep Kyle Schoenfish being a fellow liberal with Rep Tiezen is beside the point. I point out to my colleague with less operational investigative experience that ” The right person” to call is one who has already indicated that it is “fairly easy” for them to address the questions, as Rep Kyle Schoenfish has already explicitly acknowledged as indicated in his February 4th response below. I have two school districts being sued for this corruption on top of the deaths of the family and overall corruption of the program. They have a right to know what their elected representative explicitly knew about these crimes and what he did to protect their interests.
If others wish to call Mr Randy Schoenfish in front of the GOAC, they need to bring his name before the GOAC and provide specific basis for calling him as a witness. These proceedings should only be calling witnesses with an articulable reason that would show their testimony advances the understanding of the weaknesses of DOE (& contractual subservient MEC grant partner operating under DOE’s instruction & supervision) in regards to their phases of operation & fiscal affairs so the GOAC can recommend changes to statute and state employee ethic rules.
Conjecture and opinions at this point are moot. The audio record shows that Melody Schopp, Brenda Kuhn, Rep Kyle Schoenfish, and Tami Darnell are the only names requested, discussed, and approved.
Wait, what? “Rep Kyle Schoenfish being a fellow liberal with Rep Tiezen is beside the point?”
That might be the most telling statement in Nelson’s entire rant. As opposed to following along what the committee was actually doing, it’s about Nelson lashing out because he missed it, and specifically attacking Rep. Schoenfish and Rep. Tieszen as “being liberals” in a committee setting?
Disagreeing with one’s views has a place in the political arena. But when discussing procedure and business in a committee setting, what on earth does it have to do with anything?
As opposed to keeping things professional and attempting to resolve what Nelson has been pressing as some sort of crisis, Senator Nelson resolves to his default response of name-calling in a discussion of legislative business? Instead of admitting he missed something, he chooses to start with the name calling.
That should give the people who elected Nelson pause.
Great pause, because it seems more illustrative of buffoonery. Moreso than leadership.
But you be the judge.