Poli Sci Profs: Corruption Scandals Prompt Questions On Oversight
Investigations into three separate corruption scandals involving state government are now underway in South Dakota.
They include EB-5, Gear Up, and alleged missing state funds along with items from the Secretary of State’s office.
These scandals have lead some in South Dakota to question the level of oversight in state programs.
The three scandals include a lack of oversight in the secretary of state’s office under then Secretary of State Jason Gant. One report shows thousands of dollars in missing funds, missing tablet computers and the original state flag that stolen and has since been returned. The Government Operations and Audit Committee is investigating.
The Federal Government recently terminated South Dakota’s EB-5 immigrant investor visa program—citing a lack of trust in the state’s ability to administer federal funds. One former state employee, Richard Benda, killed himself after allegations of financial management surfaced in 2013.
And after audits of state administered federal education funding Scott Westerhuis who is an employee of Mid Central Education Corporative that oversaw the Gear-Up program allegedly shot himself after killing his wife and four children.
For Northern State Political Science Professor Jon Schaff these three scandals can be looked at in two ways, either purely coincidental or as a pattern showing a lack of oversight in state government.
“Sometimes bad things happen next to each other as mere happenstance, and there is no relationship between them. And so the fact that two particularly tragic scandals, or scandals with tragic outcomes, have happened to occur within the last year to a year and a half doesn’t necessarily mean that there is pattern. But I think we’d be fools not to look into that,” says Schaff.
Another Political Science Professor Michael Card with the University of South Dakota agrees that a look into more oversight is needed. But he cautions against a knee-jerk reaction.
“You know I think of Watergate where Sam Ervin deliberately, painstakingly started at the bottom and worked his way to the top. And I think the Sam Ervin approach is best. You know, if there is a real problem we will eventually uncover it,” says Card.
Federal and state investigators are now working to see what they can uncover. The State Auditor General says he is following the money in the Gear-Up case. State officials are asking the federal government to reinstate EB-5. And state officials say they are continuing to look into money that went missing from the Secretary of State’s office.