In yet another installment of some of the best reportage this state has ever seen, independent reporter Bob Mercer this morning details the latest in a series of eyebrow-raising revelations to emerge from the Northern Beef/EB-5 saga. It turns out the legions of guys with the green eyeshades from outside accounting firms that have been called upon to examine the books connected with this fiasco are hampered by the fact that records of many transactions have gone missing. First off, from the "are you kidding me?" department, it turns out that the South Dakota state auditor's office doesn't have a digital records system, so paper records are still kept in boxes--just the way granny used to do. Those records must be kept for 5 years, so all the transactions that took place before 2009 have to be traced using bank data, a cumbersome and time consuming task indeed. Seems odd, though, that South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley is quoted in Mercer's piece (soon to be available on the Rapid City Journal website, which still doesn't have it up as I write this) as saying that despite the records gap, his office was able to obtain necessary information involving what he recently described as an "improper transfer" of $550 thousand that occurred in 2011. Jackley said he was able to use "other records." What I don't get and what needs to be clarified is why records of transactions that occurred in 2011, well within the the 5-year window during which they're required to be kept, were missing in the first place.
Add that to Jackley's observation that there was an "improper transfer" of state funds, then add those to the as yet publicly undisclosed circumstances of central figure Richard Benda's suicide, and the question of why the Attorney General won't commit the resources of his office to a full-blown investigation into the matter becomes more pertinent than ever. I've already sounded off on Jackley's reluctance to press forward with this, but tiresome as the repetition of it can be, complete explanations haven't been forthcoming. That auditors have to deal with missing records is one thing, that the records which should have been on file were missing in the first place is another.
Meantime, some commentary about this matter, all of which was started and much of which occurred during his administration, seems like a reasonable thing to expect from former Governor Michael Rounds. Republican Rounds is still the candidate I support for the United States Senate seat coming up for a vote in November, but that doesn't mean he can expect a pass on all of this. For that matter it's a bit frustrating to see my candidate put on a disappearing act while all sorts of national issues affecting South Dakota are being hashed out in D.C. We haven't gotten a peep out of Rounds as to how he views or would act on them in recent weeks. This is pretty sorry behavior for a candidate whose claim to the stature of leadership is belied by his reluctance to come out and say something about what's going on. More pertinently at the moment, a fiasco that may or may not erupt into a full-blown scandal has Rounds' imprint all over it and cries out for some explanation of how all this could have occurred during his watch in Pierre. I repeat my call from a recent post: come out, come out, where ever you are, Michael Rounds.