Saturday, November 15, 2014

Qs Raised By EB-5 About Relationship Between Bollen And SD's University System. Retired NSU Prof David Newquist Lays 'Em Out.

     I pulled this from the comments section at Cory Heidelberger's Madville Times this morning. On element after element (this is just one of many),  MT has done a yeoman's job of sifting through and analyzing  a long and complex exchange that just occurred between the South Dakota State Legislature's Government Operations and Audit Committee and Joop Bollen. Bollen is the central figure in the year-long scandal (now being actively investigated by the FBI) that has been underway regarding the federal "cash for green cards" EB-5 immigration program and how it was operated in South Dakota during Mike Rounds' tenure as governor a few years back.  The committee sent Bollen 75 questions as part of its recent investigation into the matter.  Bollen's written replies merit some close scrutiny. A significant result of the exchange is that more questions are raised, more issues are brought to the surface.  At issue for Mr. Newquist (retired Professor at South Dakota's Northern State University in Aberdeen, where most of Bollen's questionable activities took place) is the relationship between Bollen's agency, The South Dakota International Business Institute (SDIBI), and its overseers in the SD university system, principally the NSU administration and ultimately the South Dakota Board of Regents. Newquist gave me the go-ahead to cut and paste his comments here.  One note:  Northern Beef Packers was the financially ruinous (to the tune of more than $100 million) meat-packing plant in Aberdeen that went under a couple of years ago.  The bankrupt firm was developed by SDIBI and created the interest in and investigation of the EB-5 program.  Newquist's comments:


"From its inception, the SDIBI was a matter of puzzlement and concern throughout the state higher education system. Its purpose seemed to be to offer students a high-powered academic experience in how international business works and is conducted. Some early efforts did make contacts with foreign universities, but they never seemed to produce for students to study, research, and gain knowledge and understanding of how to engage in international business. A clue might be in the fact that the only students in the international business program to be multi-lingual were the foreign students, and their academic experience at NSU did not seem to give them much in the way of an entrance into international business. From the outset, the SDIBI under Bollen tended toward an obsession with making contacts for wheeling and dealing in finances. And that raises the questions about Bollen and the SDIBI that have never been answered:
• When you have provisions in state law that create economic development agencies, why did the Regents get involved in these financing schemes in the first place?
• What role did the raising of EB-5 funds play in providing research and teaching opportunities for professors and study experiences for students?
• When professors and administrators are closely monitored to insure that their work advances the stated mission of the colleges, why was Bollen exempted from the established practices of accountability?
• Who in the Regental system was Bollen’s sponsor so that he was exempted from reporting to the department chair, the dean, and the university president.
It was known throughout the community, that Northern Beef Packers was plagued with bad management and did not establish the most basic measures for accounting and setting priorities. If the SDIBI was part of the university as it got involved with NBP, why wasn’t the expertise of faculty in accounting and management consulted regarding the management of the investments in the plant? Bollen complains that no one at the university or in the Regents office wanted to carry the EB-5 program forward. But there is nothing in the mission of the university or the Board that authorizes higher education to act as an investment procurer or broker. So, how did Bollen get so entrenched that he was exempted from all disciplinary measures so that he could help with a law suit which cost the Regents over a half million in legal fees even though they weren’t held liable?
When the current university president examined the relationship of the SDIBI to the university, he saw the huge discrepancy between what the SDIBI was and what a university program must be to be part of a higher education enterprise. Bollen was totally wrong-headed about the SDIBI and its function as part of a university.
Under whose auspices was he allowed to operate in the way that he did? That question underlies all."

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