Yesterday, when Rapid City Lawyer Pat Duffy spoke his piece about Rounds' false testimony to a legislative hearing last month, I was a little dubious about how far this thing could go. Duffy argued that Rounds, in a written statement denying that he'd been served legal papers regarding the political and economic catastrophe I call Slaughterhouse EB-5, clearly broke the law, felony-style. As it turned out, a tipster quickly presented contradictory information to the Rapid City Journal, which published it on October 2, forcing Rounds to retract his false statement and acknowledge that he had, indeed, been served with papers.
Why was I dubious about Duffy's call for a special investigator to look into the matter? I just figured that Rounds deserved a pass for making an oversight, busy guy that he is, trying to explain away his involvement in the EB-5 imbroglio and all. However, on further reflection and after some information I gleaned from the legal community, I'd have to say that Duffy got it right and that Rounds could be in for a serious brush with the law.
Turns out my instinct about giving Rounds the benefit of the doubt is completely irrelevant to the matter. It's not up to me or any other outside observer to give Rounds a pass. It's up to the criminal justice system. There's no question that Rounds provided false testimony. Rounds conceded as much by sending in a retraction and the correct information--but only after he was caught. What I took to be an oversight might fit with a presumption of innocence, but at this point, now that the event has clearly taken place, it's up to the law to determine intent.
The facts merit investigation. A few days ago in a piece in the Mitchell Daily Republic, reporter Denise Ross wrote that Mike Rounds' brother Dennis managed the state's Risk Management office when (2009) the legal papers were served. Dennis, whose job included "litigation management" told Ross that he "did not recall" the lawsuit related to those papers. Mike Rounds contends that the whole thing was a "clerical, process issue." Considering that the suit was directly connected to an economic development centerpiece of the Rounds administration, that Slaughterhouse EB-5 initiative, you'd have to conclude that this is at best a lackadaisical reaction to the matter. At worst, "did not recall" and "clerical, process issue" come off as pretty lame reactions to an event of some enormity. At issue is whether or not Governor Rounds knew any of the details of the EB-5 fiasco. He says no, but his relentless finger-pointing is being challenged by the facts.
As if blowing it off so blithely isn't a bad enough indictment of Rounds' competence in the statehouse, the whole thing has now erupted in his face with a call for an investigation by legal authorities. That the lawsuit didn't garner much attention from Rounds at the time is one thing. Presenting false testimony about his involvement with it is another. So was it oversight or criminal intent? Like Duffy, I'd like to see it investigated.