Senator Stace Nelson and GOAC: Buffoonery, or leadership? You be the judge.

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 <[email protected]> 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.

Tim Flannery
Legislative Audit

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?

Senator Nelson

(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” <[email protected]>, “Hunhoff, Jean” <[email protected]>, Representative Hunhoff , “Steinhauer, Wayne” <[email protected]>, Representative Steinhauer  “Tieszen, Craig” <[email protected]>, Representative Tieszen , “Wismer, Susan” <[email protected]>, Representative Wismer , Senator Cronin , “Cronin, Justin” <[email protected]>, “Nelson, Stace” <[email protected]>, Senator Peters  “Peters, Deb” <[email protected]>, “Sutton, Billie <[email protected]>, Senator Sutton,  Senator Tapio, “Tapio, Neal” <[email protected]>, “Guindon, Marty” <[email protected]>, Angela Kenneke <[email protected]>, Bob Mercer <[email protected]>, “Ferguson, Dana” <[email protected]>, Brock Greenfield <[email protected]>, Jason Hancock <[email protected]>, Elizabeth May <[email protected]>, Lance Russell <[email protected]>, Todd Epp <[email protected]>, Cory Allen Heidelberger <[email protected]>, Sam Blackstone <[email protected]>, [email protected], Frank Kloucek <[email protected]>
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.
Senator Nelson

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” <[email protected]>,  (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.

Rep. Wismer

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 protected]>
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 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.

Senator Nelson

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.

53 thoughts on “Senator Stace Nelson and GOAC: Buffoonery, or leadership? You be the judge.”

  1. Susan Wismer is an extremely honorable person and politician. You may not always agree with her political point of view but her character and integrity are well known and respected.

    What really has me perplexed though is why on earth would you want the son, who obviously learned the business from his father, to testify on a matter that the father took on as top accountant in the first place?

    Unless Frank wants to have the young Schoenfish obliterated from serving and who better to have accomplish the mission?

  2. Pretty obvious that for Stace, this is all about politics and score-settling and not about getting to the truth. But what else is new?

    Go listen to the GOAC recording – any part of it. He is constantly putting words in people’s mouths and twisting the truth.

  3. “Alcon, articulable.” Impressive.

    Does “contractual subservient” mean the same as “operating under instruction and supervision”? And isn’t “instruction” and “supervision” mean the same thing?

    Maybe not so impressive.

  4. I couldn’t agree more Charlie, Susan is honorable even if we don’t agree on legislative issues. I also was in attendance for the committee hearing and the intent was not to question the final audit of Mid-Central, but to question the audits prior to the State cancelling the contract with Mid-Central. Kyle was the person who performed those audits not his father Randy so obviously Kyle is the one to address the committee questions. What’s the big deal? Kyle never has indicated that he couldn’t or wouldn’t answer any question the committee might have. Matter of fact I think he’s indicated it would be easy to answer any questions and what a great opportunity for him to do so.

    This blog needs to focus on the seriousness of this issue instead of trying to divert the attention away. Senator Nelson or any legislator who’s given attention to this issue has been attacked from all sides and that should be way more concerning than the theatrics surrounding committee process. I hope in the future that you’ll give the $62 million Gear Up debacle the attention it so desperately needs and leave your personal attacks at the door.

    1. Why are you trying to divert attention from Nelson’s negative behaviors and name calling?

    2. So far in the last week, Senator Nelson has openly attacked three of his fellow committee members now. Maybe he could actually accomplish things if he actually focused on the job he was elected to do instead of spending his time attacking people?

  5. Bottom line, Stace is an irrelevant punch line who only takes on a cause he can grandstand on. He has no legit concern with EB5 or gear up. His fake passion is nothing more than self serving political maneuvering.

  6. If he’s an “Irrelevant Punch Line” (Irrelevant being the key word) then I wonder why he continues to be attacked? Usually if someone is attacked personally the one doing the attacking are diverting attention away from the subject at hand. I can assure you, if political maneuvering was the end game, EB-5/Gear-Up wouldn’t be considered “A popular political position.” I suppose one could consider Sec. Schopp, Tamera Darnell, Brinda Kuhn as legitimate though?

    1. Then you can explain why Stace has been attacking other members of the legislature for years. It’s what he does.

      1. other “Republican” members of the Legislature

        He always defends Democrats and attacks Republicans is my observation.

  7. Liz, the bottom line is Stace is bad for South Dakota because he is a bully. People don’t want to run for the legislature because people see no upside to working with a bully. I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. The majority of people serving in the Senate don’t like serving there, not because of the politics, but because of Stace. You are an effective legislator Liz because when you try to persuade your fellow legislators you use truth, or at least your interpretation of the truth, as your sword. Stace uses fear, intimidation and bullying as his sword. How much better would the SD legislature be without Stace? Without Stace, more people would run, more ideas would come forward, greater diversity of opinions would be discussed, and more would get accomplished to benefit South Dakotans. Stace is an ineffective legislator because he lacks the personal tools to accomplish the important work of the people, and he tries to make up for his deficiencies through attacks, intimidation and bullying. The question for you Liz, is why defend a bully?

    1. First my apologies to PP for going slightly off topic.

      Senator Nelson is passionate about rooting out corruption. While not a bad thing, some of the Senator techniques have ruffled more than a few feathers. The public perception of the EB-5 and Gear-up scandals has everyone in the state government corrupt, or at least being an enabler. With that perception, Senator Nelson will follow the evidence; interrogate suspects, whatever it takes to identify all the evil doers and their co-conspirators and make sure justice is served. He is like a bull, fixated on the target. He will go after it, and doesn’t care who he runs over together there. I don’t blame him, his father was in law enforcement, and the Senator followed in his footsteps, kind of. It is who he is.

      There are a couple of reasons why good people don’t run for office. First is the pay. Legislator get paid 6,000 per year. There hasn’t been a pay increase since 1998; yet their work load while in session and out of session has increased dramatically. By the time, you add all the time legislators put in to doing their job. They are paid less than those working at a fast food restaurant. Second is the EB-5 and Gear-up scandals, that lead up to the IM-22 mess. Those that follow the issues, know EB-5 and Gear-up deal with the Executive Branch. The Legislative Branch had very little if anything to do with these scandals; however, the public perception is everyone at the capitol was mix up in the scandals. Thirdly, is decorum, or rather the lack of it. Outside political circles, there is very little respect for those that serve in public office, more often than not there is disdain, and distrust. Those that serve do so selflessly, instead of berating them we should be thanking them

      1. Yes MC thank you for not speaking out against Gear-Up, Mid Central, and EB-5. At least Nelson is representing the taxpayers who have been scammed out of millions.

        1. Did anyone read the Special Review of Mid Central Educational Cooperative from May 19th?

          There is enough blame to go around. From the Department of Education to MCEC to Scott and Nicole Westerhuis. There were problems with the entire program from the get go.

          It is not the responsibility of the legislature, or GOAC to enforce the law, that job rests with the executive branch specifically, the Attorney General. I know there is a call from transparency, and people want to know what happen, and why.
          There is a time and a place for everything. The GOAC committee is not a courtroom. It is not the place to accuse people of wrongdoing; it is not the place to interrogate witnesses; it is not the place to convict, or to sentence. The GOAC is supposed to be looking at the operations, and determine if additional laws or additional controls need to be place then submit those bills through the process of becoming law. To that end the GOAC has every right and responsibility to look at what happen and why. The report issued by the report issued by the Auditor General lays out pretty clear where all the issues were at.

          Lastly, just because someone breaks a law doesn’t mean the law itself is broken, it means someone broke the law.

          1. You are so correct MC, it is the responsibility of the executive branch and the AG, but they aren’t getting the job done because to many conflicts of interest……well somebody needs to Man-up. One Legislator that has the experience and background is NCIS Marine Stace Nelson. There are many more that will come forward in time.

    2. Anon 7:16 that pretty much sums up what the large majority of people having served with Rep. & Sen. Nelson think me included.

      I don’t care who you are; you are never always right!!

  8. Liz, Stace operates two ways: if you disagree with him on something, he attacks you, acuses you of criminal behavior, corruption, or just calls you a rhino. He will attempt to destroy your reputation.
    If you agree with him on something, he uses you and then throws you under the bus. We saw what he did to Dan Willard and Gary Dykstra. Don’t let him do it to you.

  9. “Usually if someone is attacked personally the one doing the attacking are diverting attention away from the subject at hand.”

    And the subject at hand is a Republican legislator involved in the Gear Up scandal. Why not call both accountants to the table? Lets have a thorough investigation instead of liberals covering up a scandal involving a liberal federal program as it involves the Democrats’ multicultural agenda in partnership with their propaganda disguised as “public education”. Sad that so much taxpayers’ money are wasted on crap, all in the name of education.

    You can go ahead and use the word “bully” to refer to someone who refuses to back down when confronting a multi-million dollar act of corruption. Sad that the Establishment’s agenda is to excuse the actions, or lack thereof, of a Secretary of Education and the accountants who were responsible for the audits. It is even more sad that the continuing Establishment’s attack on Senator Nelson is the distraction of choice on this issue.

      1. No, the majority of people aren’t on his side. That’s why his nickname is “third place Stace.”

  10. Nelson is getting close to the heart of the matter. Otherwise, the personal attacks on Nelson would not be so pointed here on WarCollege. Keep up the good work, Mr. Nelson. Something stinks in Pierre and you are the only one with the courage to take it on. I wish more had the courage to address the obvious problems in Pierre.

    1. All Stace is going to accomplish is getting himself kicked off the committee. His behavior is unacceptable. Any disagreements he has with how the committee is conducting business should be discussed with other members of the committee during a meeting of that committee, not blasted out to the public.

      1. What you are saying is true if the committee is part of the shadow government that is protecting the interests of the Oligarchy.

        1. Stace is on the committee, Steve. If they don’t find anything actionable beyond what the AG’s office is investigating, it will mean Stace is part of the cover-up.
          The only way he will be able to explain that to his fans is if he gets the boot.

          1. Not if preventing the Senator from questioning Republican officials under oath is the cover up.

      2. Just what he wants so he can cry like the democrat he is and play the victim…he tried all spring to get thrown out of the caucus again.

        1. They should keep him on the committee then, let his behavior escalate until he drops his pants and moons everybody.

  11. Total bufoonery. Now Mr. Nelson can add young Ms. Wismer to the long list of lawmakers who have schooled him.

  12. The “shadow government that is protecting the interests of the oligarchy” Sibby mentioned is a secret cabal of Freemasons and Bilderbergers who have learned that ancient alien astronauts have mastered time travel and are amassing an invasion force on the dark side of the moon.

    The money that disappeared in EB-5 and Gear-Up was used to build and equip a huge bunker inside a mountain near Davos, Switzerland. That’s why the oligarchs have meetings there. They’re preparing to hide. It costs a lot of money to build a bunker.

    Stace has almost all the names of the people involved and will expose them all very soon. He was in NCIS you know. It’s a TV show.

    1. You are one reason why corruption goes on unchecked in Pierre. You don’t want the public to know that the committee hearings in Pierre are staged ahead of time. Anybody that is not part of the agenda is a bully and needs to be shamed, which serves as a distraction. Too it takes dead people to put the focus back on where it belongs…big government plus big business equals corruption.

      1. The committee meetings are “staged” so that people know when to show up.
        They need to know in advance if they will be testifying under oath so they can bring their lawyers with them.

        Nobody with an ounce of sense would testify about anything, even what they had for breakfast, under oath, without an attorney present. It is hoped that our government officials and representatives have more than an ounce of sense. Maybe two ounces.

        Stace’s histrionic diatribe about who would represent an accounting firm indicates he has gone into panic mode. He promised his fans he would root out corruption at all levels and so far he can’t find any.
        Except maybe in the fourteen school districts which took money for software licenses and diverted the funds to something else and are now getting sued to return it.
        Maybe the real crooks all live in his district.
        Why don’t you go look for them?

        1. “Nobody with an ounce of sense would testify about anything, even what they had for breakfast, under oath, without an attorney present.”

          People do it all the time. But they are usually innocent, whose testimony is to provide a jury with facts. If the auditors did nothing wrong, then they should have no problem providing the facts.

      2. Steve “staged” is a little extreme. Committee Chairs ask members how they are going to vote on any incredible piece of legislation and in fact have discussions with the other party’s leadership in order to get a pulse on the bill. In no way shape or form during my six years in the House was I strong armed to vote one way or another. In fact many times a committee would vote opposite of the wishes of the Governor. I’d call this good government not corruption but if the pulpit is where some thrive spewing unfactual innuendos so be it I guess.

        1. You may be right. Perhaps I should have used “orchestrated”. There was a vehicle bill that was amended at the beginning of a committee hearing and eleven special interests groups spoke in favor of the amendment. The general public did not have access to the content of the amendment before the hearing started. So staged may not be the correct term for that corrupted process.

  13. “He promised his fans he would root out corruption at all levels and so far he can’t find any.”

    Just because the legislative process has legalized corruption doesn’t mean we have to now accept it, nor should we deny its existence.

  14. What Stace doesn’t get is no one trusts HIM.

    it is clear even if Stace is right on an issue, he can’t work with anyone because of all the bridges he has burned.

    totally 100% ineffective!

    1. “What Stace doesn’t get is no one trusts HIM.”

      That is because he refuses to work with the “Good Old Boys” and help with their agenda. So Senator Nelson being “100% ineffective” is the goal of the Oligarchy.

      1. So, absolutely EVERYONE in the legislature and state government, except for Stace is a “Good Old Boy” & a part of the corrupt Oligarchy.


        That makes sense to you?

        1. That is not what I said. Why do you people insist on painting extreme on anything you don’t agree with?

          1. It is weird.

            Like when “troy jones” begins his rants by painting anonymous posters as some how less insightful.

            As if “troy jones” is not anonymous! I’ve found 249 of them in SD by google!

            Why can’t folks just read & respond without the histrionics or personal crap?

  15. Stace did a nice job on the Greg Belfrege show this morning. I am a little disappointed Greg didn’t allow call in’s. He kept the interview short. Just curious why he didn’t let people call in with questions?

  16. Maybe Patrick Lalley from KSOO will have him on his show and allow people to call in.

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