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Hunhoff: Open Gov Laws Require EB-5 File Release

A state legislative leader says decisions surrounding economic development in South Dakota go against recent open government commitments. Five years ago, lawmakers passed legislation that says South Dakota documents are assumed public unless they fit into a list of exceptions. But one legislator says the way the state is handling questions about the EB-5 program goes against those rules. 

Newspaper reports this week reveal more about how the EB-5 program in South Dakota shifted from a public operation to a privately-run business. They stem from a deposition by the man in charge of the private company, Joop Bollen. He also worked for the South Dakota Board of Regents.

Primary offices – including the Board of Regents and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development – decline to release paperwork involved in a lawsuit that’s now over.

Democratic State Representative Bernie Hunhoff is the House Minority Leader. He says exemptions in South Dakota’s open government laws…don’t apply and require speedy release of documents.

"You know, so many of us worked so hard in 2009 to put these open government statutes together, and here we are at the first real test of these statutes, and they’re just being blown off," Hunhoff says.

Hunhoff says questions surrounding the application of the federal immigrant visa program in South Dakota pit the Board of Regents against the Governor’s office. He calls the EB-5 situation a major scandal for South Dakota.

Hunhoff says releasing files could resolve suspicions that state government leaders participated in illegal activities.

Kealey Bultena grew up in South Dakota, where her grandparents took advantage of the state’s agriculture at nap time, tricking her into car rides to “go see cows.” Rarely did she stay awake long enough to see the livestock, but now she writes stories about the animals – and the legislature and education and much more. Kealey worked in television for four years while attending the University of South Dakota. She started interning with South Dakota Public Broadcasting in September 2010 and accepted a position with television in 2011. Now Kealey is the radio news producer stationed in Sioux Falls. As a multi-media journalist, Kealey prides herself on the diversity of the stories she tells and the impact her work has on people across the state. Kealey is always searching for new ideas. Let her know of a great story! Find her on Facebook and twitter (@KealeySDPB).