Showing posts with label local corruption. Show all posts
Showing posts with label local corruption. Show all posts

14 April 2016

If Only We Had LAWS Against This Stuff...

by Eve Fisher

"If only we had LAWS against this stuff..." and other crazy statements:

Okay, a few reminders just to catch everyone up.
    Joop Bollen and then-Governor,
    current SD Senator, Mike Rounds,
    in happier days
    • Back in 2009, Joop Bollen was appointed to run EB-5 - which was a federal program designed to trade green cards to foreign investors for $500,000 a whack - by our former governor, current Senator Mike Rounds, who, when questioned recently about all of this, said, "The state of South Dakota would use different federal programs on a regular basis and you always assume that if the federal program is in place that they have a control process in place. We’re finding in some cases that that is not the case " (Mike Rounds interview).  Like when you put Joop Bollen in charge of that federal program, allowed him to privatize it in SDRC Inc., and told everyone what a great job he was doing?  (I swear to God, you can't make this stuff up... Sadly...)  
    • There's still as much as $120 million missing from the EB-5 program. 
    • For two years, the only person held responsible for any missing funds was Richard Benda, who according to our fearless AG shot himself in the stomach with a shotgun in a field because he'd embezzled $500,000.  
    AND NOW FOR THE LATEST !!!  HEADLINE NEWS !!!

    Image result for eb-5 south dakotaFirst of all, our own Attorney General, Marty ("I'm going to be running for governor in 2018, so I need to get something on paper") Jackley has FINALLY indicted Joop Bollen on five felony counts of violating SDCL 44-1-2, “unauthorized disposal of personal property subject to security interest.” In other words, Bollen used EB-5 money, transferred to his own private corporation, SDRC Inc., for his own personal purchases.   $300,000 here, $96,000 there, to a total of about $1.2 million. He sent some to Pyush Patel of Griffin, Georgia (who owns gas stations and has been participating in Bollen's corporation creationism since 2005), some Bollen just pocketed, and some (and this is my favorite part) Bollen spent on Egyptian artifacts from Christie's and the Harer Family Trust.

    NOTE: Bollen, through his lawyers, claims he's being scapegoated.  Mr. Bollen is also free on an unsecured $2,500 bond. (That should make you spit your coffee out in shock:  let's face facts, you'd have to post a lot more money than that if you'd just robbed a casino and gotten only $200 bucks.)

    NOTE WITH FACEPALM:  Nor has the Dutch born and raised Bollen been asked to surrender his passport.  Jackley said that “at this point” he “did not have concern” about the passport, “as long as we’re made aware of certain travel,” since Bollen has “significant ties financially to this community.” (Bollen Initial Appearance - dakotafreepress.com - once again, thanks Cory Heidelberger for GREAT coverage!)  Again, you'd have a rougher time of it if you'd robbed a casino and gotten only $200 bucks...

    And here's the best part: Right now our fearless AG Jackley - who, as I said, for 2 years has blamed Richard Benda for any and all EB-5 problems - is now blaming the whole mess on (drum roll, please!) a lack of tough laws making conflict of interest a felony! Personally, I would have thought that our laws making embezzlement, fraud, etc., felonies would have been enough, but apparently not.  We need more.  So it's really all the South Dakota legislature's fault...

    Oh, and one quick note about the Gear Up! scandal (6 people dead and counting) and the missing Westerhuis safe (The Chinese Are Coming). “I don’t know where that safe is at,” Jackley said. “I don’t know if it burned in the fire or if Scott Westerhuis took it out and threw it in the Missouri River.” (Jackley Conspiracy Theories, Argus Leader)  Feel free to insert obvious questions here:

     __________________________________________________________________________

    US District Attorney Marty Jackley.png
    Marty Jackley
    Meanwhile, Mr. Jackley, having apparently solved everything about EB-5 and Gear Up! (except that pesky $118.5 million in EB-5 money, the pesky $4 million in Gear Up! money, and the pesky missing Westerhuis safe), is far more interested in investigating the destruction of the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe's marijuana crop in November (some of the burning was shown on television) after the tribe suspended plans to legalize marijuana on its reservation.
    "I don’t think for a minute that they destroyed $1 million worth of marijuana. I don’t know where that went and it’s an open case. We never shut that case," Jackley said in an interview with Argus Leader Media. “We never got an opportunity to check what was destroyed." (Up in Smoke?)  

    Priorities, priorities...

    And now, repeat after me: "Life is always going to be stranger than fiction, because fiction has to be convincing, and life doesn't." Author Neil Gaiman.

    Will keep you posted, from South Dakota, where we talk like Mayberry, act like Goodfellas, and the crazy just keeps on coming.

     

    03 March 2016

    A Sorry State of Affairs...

    by Eve Fisher

    All right, I admit it, I'm running late on this blog, but I've been spending the last two weeks e-mailing my state legislators and governor over a variety of bills that seem to come straight out of the minds of ALEC. (Look it up.  Also, here:  SD Legislators with ALEC ties.) You see, we only have a 2-month legislature, that only sits 38 working days, so if I don't express my opinions now, I won't have time later on. Seriously - the session is going to end March 11. (Veto Day is March 29.)

    First off, South Dakota is still officially missing $120 million dollars in EB-5 fees and investments, $14 million dollars spent (somewhere) of Gear Up! federal money, 7 people dead, cell phones wiped by the managing company the morning after an arson/murders/suicide (maybe), and a safe that had legs like a dog and walked out the door in the middle of the night. So, what's on our legislature's minds? Transgender potties and single women.



    There's also House Joint Resolution 1002, which wants a new Constitutional Convention to propose “amendments to the Constitution of the United States that impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and limit the terms of office for its officials and members of Congress.” That'll fly.

    Meanwhile, we're last in the nation for teacher pay, and our legislature is trying desperately, DESPERATELY to not put into action Governor Daugaard's proposal to increase sales tax by 1/2 of a cent to pay for increases. My favorite excuses are (1) that they haven't had time to read the bill and (2) that they haven't had time to come up with an alternate funding proposal. They've known about this since December. This is called kicking the can so far down the road that maybe it will disappear. At one point the House rejected it. Finally, though, late yesterday, through sheer shaming by most of us citizenry, it passed. We will no longer be 50th.

    Wild Bill Janklow
    There was also HB 1161, which would preemptively render useless an intiative that we the people are planning on voting on in November to rein in payday loans. South Dakota is, in case you don't know it, the usury capital of the country, thanks to the 1978 SCOTUS ruling in Marquette Nat. Bank of Minneapolis v. First of Omaha Service Corp, which (summed up) says that your individual state anti-usury laws cannot be enforced against nationally chartered banks located out of state. Our then governor, "Wild Bill" Janklow, heard that and persuaded the legislature to pass a bill that repealed South Dakota's cap on interest rates. And so Citibank, Wells Fargo, and other institutions moved here and life is sweet.

    My favorite bill was HB 1107, which was "to ensure government nondiscrimination in matters of religious beliefs and moral convictions," as long as their religious beliefs and moral convictions were the following:
    The Compound, West River in Pringle, South Dakota
    1. Marriage is or should only be recognized as the union of one man and one woman;
    2. Sexual relations are properly reserved to marriage; or
    3. The terms male or man and female or woman refer to distinct and immutable biological sexes that are determined by anatomy and genetics by the time of birth.
    (I have yet to determine why we apparently have religious beliefs and moral convictions about sex: what about usury? war? violence? lying? greed?)

    Anyway, one of the great ironies of this bill is that at least one of the sponsors was an unmarried man who posted pictures of himself and his hot girlfriend all over social media. (It's a small state: you can find these things out.) I wrote many of my legislators about this bill, but my first question wasn't the obvious, "And were you a virgin on your wedding night?" Instead, it was, "Does this mean you guys are finally going to take on the polygamous sects living in compounds out West River?" (No one answered that question.) I also pointed out that birth anatomy and birth genetics can be entirely different (I used to work at Medical Genetics - see my blog post here (Medical Genetics). Everyone assured me that this was a non-discriminatory bill, to which I replied, politely, "Bull hockey." This bill has been - thankfully - tabled. Hopefully it will stay that way.
    NEWS FLASH: The feds have actually taken on the polygamous sect led by Warren Jeffs' brother Seth in Pringle, South Dakota over food stamp fraud! Huzzah! Federal Probe Shows Details of Polygamous Sect. BTW, to those who don't know, the way these polygamous sects get around the laws against polygamy is by having "spiritual" marriages, which are not registered anywhere. The women - usually child brides, with no power of refusal - are then registered for food stamps, etc., as single mothers. Sadly, most of their sons are booted out of the compound as soon as they get to puberty, because there aren't enough brides to go around, since the old men are marrying all the daughters as soon as they hit puberty. Now you know why I asked about that...
    But the one that's taken up most of my writing time is the transgender potty bill, which would would prohibit public school students from using a bathroom or locker room for a sex other than theirs at birth. (We really made the national news with that one. Sigh.) It passed the House, it passed the Senate, and now it's on Governor Daugaard's desk. I've been writing him almost every day, with at least one of the following arguments:
    1. Transgender people don't want to do anything but use the bathroom safely. A boy who is transgendering to a girl doesn't want to assault girls, he wants to become one. A girl who is transgendering to a boy doesn't want to assault boys, she wants to become one.
    2. Every student I've talked to doesn't understand what all the fuss is about. They all know some transgender students and have no problem with them using whichever bathroom they're comfortable in. (Bathrooms have stalls, with doors that lock.)
    3. Gender is something that is not obvious, and is not always determined at birth. (See my Medical Genetics article link above.)
    4. There is one bathroom which everyone uses - old and young, straight and gay, male and female, adults and children - and no one is worried about assault or trauma or shock: it's the one in your home. You go in, and shut the door.


    The latest one - and I'm about to start writing my legislators on as soon as I finish this blog - is SB 159, which gives insurance companies credits on their premium and annuity taxes for granting “scholarships” for private K-12 school tuition to low-income students. The fun part of this is that the legislator who sponsored this bill is married to (who'd a thunk it?) the founder and owner since 1972 of an insurance company, and was past president of the Sioux Falls Catholic Schools Foundation, and past chairman of Advanced Gifts for the O’Gorman High School Building Funding Drive. Great joy in the morning, who could possibly think there was any conflict of interest?

    What's especially irritating about all of this is that we're a relatively poor state; we are, as I said, ranked last in the nation for teacher pay. Governor Daugaard just refused to expand Medicaid again, after he said he would ONLY if the feds will move all Native American healthcare to their dime. Well, the feds did, and now Daugaard announced today that South Dakota still "can't afford" to expand Medicaid - keep kicking that can. Our infrastructure and roads are constantly crumbling (we have hard winters), and, as I said, we have over $120 million missing in taxpayer funds on scandals and corruption. But, rather than deal with any of these problems, our legislature keeps trying to pass bills that will only lead to lawsuits. Apparently, we have plenty of money for those. Not for investigating things that are really and truly affecting us right now.

    Anyway, that's the latest update from South Dakota, were we talk like Mayberry, act like Goodfellas, and the crazy just keeps on coming.



    NOTE: Huzzah! Daugaard vetoed the transgender potty bill!

    05 November 2015

    Halloween Ain't Over By A Long Shot

    by Eve Fisher

    I know, Halloween is over, but there are some things that just have to be mopped up.

    First up, "verd√Ętre". In the King James Version, Revelations 6:8 reads: "And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth." But, believe it or not, it gets creepier in the French SG21 translation, where that pale horse is "verd√Ętre", or "greenish." Just like pus. Or decay. Or the Frankenstein's monster, which only adds to the oomph, don't you think?

    Except that the Frankenstein's monster was actually yellow in the original. But then, 60% of all newborns get jaundice.

    Secondly, thanks to John Sutherland, who in his collection of literary questions, "Who Betrays Elizabeth Bennet?" raises the best question of all, "Why isn't everyone a vampire?" I'm going to quote Mr. Sutherland here (pp. 239-240):
    "Let us assume that each vampire infects one victim a year, and that this victim dies during the course of the year to become, in turn, a vampire. Since they are immortal, each vampire will form the centre of an annually expanding circle, each of which will become the centre of his or her own circle. The circle will widen at the rate of 2(n-1). In year one (say, 1500) there is one new vampire, in 1501, two, in 1502, 4; in 1503, 8; and so, by the simple process of exponential increase, there will be 1,204 new vampires in 1510. And, since they never die, the numbers are swollen cumulatively. Within thirty-one years the vampire population will have reached 2 billion. By 1897, the presumable date of Stoker's novel, the numbers are incalculably vast. In fact, so vast that they will probably have collapsed to nil. Long since everyone will have been vampirized; there will be no more food-supply... Dracula and his kind will die out. And with them, the human race."
    Going out, we presume, with a whimper of hunger…

    BTW, this idea works perfectly with werewolves, too. After all, if you get scratched/bitten by a werewolf, you become a werewolf, so we should all be werewolves by now, right? And, on top of that, the children of werewolves become werewolves, making (as a friend of mine pointed out) werewolves the original anchor babies!

    Meanwhile, back in SD, the dog and pony show continues.

    Attorney General Marty Jackley (remember him?) held a press conference on Tuesday, November 3, 2015, at 1:00 p.m., at the Community Center adjacent to the Platte City Hall building, Platte, S.D, to discuss the investigation in the deaths of the Westerhuis family.
    For the saga to date about the Westerhuises, the federal GEAR UP monies, and a variety of missing funds, see my last SleuthSayers post, "A Little Light Corruption".
    I had already told everyone who expected a great deal of detail, substance, even some actual news, that they should meet outside, later, for a special preview of "Bambi Goes Hunting With an Uzi." Jackley did not disappoint. He announced that it was obvious that Mr. Westerhuis - after hearing that the GEAR UP! grant was being cancelled - shot and killed his wife and his four children, poured [unidentified] accelerant all over the house and then shot himself. Period. This all happened some time around 3 A.M. Apparently the Westerhuises had surveillance cameras, but they recorded nothing, and neither of the two (!) security systems were tripped.

    Two interesting and very understated points:
    1. Someone called Nicole Westerhuis' cell phone from the Westerhuis landline, leaving a voice message, but the message can't be retrieved because the account was cancelled. (Obvious questions:  When were the accounts cancelled?  Who cancelled them?)
    2. The Westerhuis safe is missing. Mr. Jackley asked that if anyone knew anything about the whereabouts of the safe to please call him.  
    Please feel free to comment wildly. I certainly have.

    Meanwhile, a new bit of crazy has arrived in time for Halloween. Now, this is a two-parter:

    An original, handmade South Dakota flag dating back to Deadwood’s Old West days that went missing from former Secretary of State Jason Gant’s office in January has been returned to its home in the state Capitol. Garrett Devries, former employee of former South Dakota Secretary of State Jason Gant, former intern of our own Senator John Thune, and "Republican operative," picked it up and took it with him to Washington because "it was cool." (I suppose he never heard that theft was wrong...) He's being charged with a misdemeanor, and is working on a plea deal. (Funny how we can spend money and manpower tracking down a flag, but not the $147 million lost to the EB-5 program...)
    Jason Gant
    Former Secretary of State Jason Gant,
    looking a little spooked for Halloween.

    Meanwhile, Mr. Gant is accused of being "$43,000 short of what the in-house books said, losing three iPad Minis out of thirty purchased for his over-hyped military voting program, misappropriating tens of thousands of federal Help America Vote Act dollars, failing his statutory duty to print a legislative manual, and letting an employee walk off with a historic state flag." (See above)
    (http://dakotafreepress.com/2015/10/30/gant-admits-but-minimizes-mistakes-krebs-needs-democratic-backup-in-pierre/ - once again, thank you to Cory Heidelberger!)
    Mr. Gant has admitted that he made "mistakes", but also claims that "his people were just too busy with other projects to get to reconciling the bank accounts... or turn in invoices relating to the federal HAVA money." As for the iPads, well, crap happens.

    NOTE:  I love South Dakota: one guy (co-director for Leadership South Dakota) can't remember nine $1000 payments for his consulting services, and another guy (a former Secretary of State) misplaces iPads all over the place and loses an historical, hand-made state flag, not to mention a bunch of bucks...

    And did you know it costs $18,518.51 per overseas soldier to get them to vote? To quote from our own Argus Leader:
    The Secretary of State's office under former secretary Jason Gant used more than $500,000 in federal grant money to help 27 active military members vote last year... "I know that 27 doesn't sound like a wonderful number, but it was a program that 27 people took advantage of," Gant said.... [And he] spent $79,000 on a public relations and marketing firm to publicize the program on a trip to Germany. "The beauty of the system is that if in a few years there were thousands of South Dakotans overseas, they could be using it," said Gant.
    Honey, there's only 853,000 people in the entire state - how many thousands are heading overseas? Is this something we should be worried about? Aware of? Prepared for? Pack our bags?

    Here’re a few hints, Mr. Gant:
    (1) Start smartening up your explanations/excuses/reasons/justifications.
    (2) Watch the Maltese Falcon and think about the character of Wilmer, the fall guy.
    (3) Don't go hunting alone.
    (4) Keep your doors locked at night.  Maybe get a dog.

    27 August 2014

    The Law & Tommy Rodella

    by David Edgerley Gates

    I've written more than a few stories about the political climate in New Mexico, and in particular about Rio Arriba county. Rio Arriba translates to 'upriver,' just as Rio Abajo translates to 'downriver,' and back in the day of the Spanish conquest, that was all there was. These days, New Mexico comprises 33 counties, with Rio Arriba one of the largest in area, but lightest in population density, and it has a troubled history.

    In living memory, there's the Tierra Amarilla courthouse siege, which I used in a Benny Salvador story. And there are other examples. Rio Arriba is a poster child, not for corruption, per se, but for a New Mexico habit of mind, the hand-in-glove, where Who You Know counts for everything.

    Which brings us to Tommy Rodella, the current sheriff of Rio Arriba, and a disgrace to his office. I might have to tell this story back-asswards, so bear with me. It's an uneasy narrative, without a through-line. In other words, you have to fill in the gaps. Tommy's a slippery guy. His record shifts, like a prism, when you hold it up to the light, and it reflects the eye of the beholder. Whose ox is being gored? I don't have a dog in the fight, but Tommy Rodella's dirty. I don't have a problem saying that.

    Okay. Tommy and his son just got busted by the FBI, in relation to a road-rage incident, and abuse of office. Ran a guy off the road, shoved a gun in his face, put him in handcuffs, and lied on the police report. Two sides to every story. Maybe the guy lipped off. He says he asked to see some ID, and Tommy punched him in the head with his badge. "Don't you know who I am?" Now, if it were me, I wouldn't give mouth to Tommy Rodella. I'd lose whatever teeth I had left. He's a loose cannon. Don't you know who I am? Kiss of death.

    Sounds like some crazy-ass noir plot from the 1940's - cop with a hair across his ass busts a drifter climbing off a freight train - or FIRST BLOOD, drop some long-hair in the tank, and live to regret it. But unhappily for Tommy, this is the last in a long line.

    Let's go back, as I said. BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK. No joke. Tommy Rodella's a once-upon-a-time state cop. Later, he gets appointed as a magistrate by former governor Bill Richardson. A pal of Tommy's gets busted for DWI. Tommy goes up to Tierra Amarilla - on a weekend, mind - and bonds the guy out. This raises some questions. Richardson, who has his own issues (pay-to-play crashes his hopes of a cabinet post with Obama), calls Tommy on it. Tommy figures he can bluff it out. The gov fires him, anyway. State supreme court backs the gov, rules Tommy is ineligible to hold office as a judge again, but then Tommy wins the primary, and gets elected sheriff. Nothing the governor can do about this, although it must chafe his ass. Richardson is trying to mend fences with the Clinton camp, and Obama. Tommy Rodella is the least of his problems. Is it even on his radar?

    I grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts. North Cambridge, Tip O'Neill's old district. All politics is local, he famously said. Really? You look at Boston, or Baltimore. Chicago. Machine politics. THE LAST HURRAH. 

    New Mexico is the back of beyond. It's a Third World country. Tommy Rodella's wife, Debbie Rodella, is a state legislator. Cheap shot, maybe, but it points up the intersection of family, and influence, and inertia.  We had a mayor, she appointed her brother to the post of city manager. The new guy on the city council called her on it, and she told him, "Oh, you just got off the bus."

    It's not that it's only us. That's not what I'm saying. And it's nothing new, either. It's as old as the pyramids. You know those contractors padded their invoices. Old stone, fresh slaves. Tommy's small change. Every guy like this, every cheap asshole like him, whether it's Iraq or Rio Arriba, trades on lives. No joke. The illegals in Espanola, the cartels in Mexico, the migra - all that crap? You gonna tell me we have no responsibility. Right.

    Every dirty cop. Not that it's common. Like a slippery priest, not that common, either. But it gives you pause, a guy like Tommy Rodella. You know what it is? No accountability. He imagines it slides off a duck's back. Typical of New Mexico. He's a dirty secret. The back side of the so-called Land of Enchantment. 

    Pull up your big boy underpants. We're not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy. It's all about the shoes. I'm going to post this, and will Tommy Rodella come after me? He in fact might, the kind of guy who carries a grudge, if I even care. He can kiss my ass. 

    There's a long game.

    We win. They lose. Doesn't seem like it, I know. Feels as if the bastards wear us down, over time. In the end, it ain't true.

    They sell despair, our percentage is hope. All those Tommy Rodellas? We'll beat the ticket.