Thursday, December 12, 2013

Hey! This Is My Money We're Talking About, Mr. Jackley . . .

    . . . and not only is the money mine, but it jointly belongs to about 800,000 other South Dakotans.  I wish you'd given that some thought before summarily rejecting reporter Bob Mercer's request to look at the investigation that followed the death of Richard Benda,  the South Dakota state official who double-billed the state for travel to the tune of more than $5 thousand and was very involved in the Northern Beef Processors  fiasco. You've already identified some improriety in the transfer of $550 thousand of state-granted money from Northern Beef to a private entity.  Now you've followed your ill-conceived refusal to further pursue this case with a rejection of public inspection of some of its most relevant documents--those that record the details of the month-long investigation of Benda's death--because one of Benda's family members, a teenage daughter, won't grant written permission via her mother, Benda's estranged (via divorce) wife.
     This is baloney.  Apparently, the feelings of one teenager trump the call for full public disclosure of all the circumstances surrounding Benda's death, coming as it did in the midst of an investigation of his role in the financial wreckage of Northern Beef and its concurrent connections to the EB-5 visa program and a private entity called SDRC, Inc.  Sympathetic as I am to the feelings of Benda's daughter, the facts of life for a public official should be clear to all of that official's family--there may come time for public disclosure of many details that are simply uncomfortable or even emotionally unbearable for the immediate family.  This is heart-wrenching stuff, indeed, but at this point it seems clear to me that the needs of South Dakota's citizens to get at the truth of what happened to their money have to take precedence over concerns about the pain that will be inflicted on Benda's daughter. 
     Certainly, this wouldn't be the first time that offspring have been emotionally traumatized when the truth about a parent is revealed.  Fact is, there's still a reasonable chance that the disclosure of the investigation documents will prove to be benign and not worthy of this brouhaha in the first place.  That Jackley and Benda's family are so circumspect about keeping the information  close to their vests  is what makes that likelihood the object of more than morbid curiosity.  Suspicion is reasonably raised, considering both the U.S. Attorney and the FBI are involved in the investigation of the affairs that Benda was so closely connected to.  Now that Attorney General Jackley has decided to blow off any further investigations by his office of what he already called the "improper" handling of the people of South Dakota's money ("improperly diverted" to repeat Jackley's exact phrase), his decision to withhold investigative results of Benda's death are starting to look like a trend toward stonewalling.
     I don't know much about Attorney General Jackley, but I do know this:  He's no crusader.  At this point we might as well give up on him and his efforts to represent the state's interests and hope that the entire legislature can step in and find out just exactly what happened in this imbroglio that almost daily raises more questions than it answers. 

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