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Republicans Silent At Attempt To Subpoena Testimony On EB-5

South Dakota Republicans have blown an opportunity to show signs of true transparency when keeping track of our tax money.

The Government Operations and Audit Committee of the Legislature was given the responsibility to investigate issues and actions surrounding possible law violations in the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and administration of the Federal EB-5 program. Tuesday they met with Attorney General Marty Jackley and current GOED commissioner Pat Costello. Costello reported on fixing internal procedures as a result of three audits. Attorney General Jackley disclosed an arrest warrant he was preparing days before former GOED commissioner Richard Benda committed suicide. The latter information was news to the committee and the public.

After those reports, State Representative Susan Wismer, a democrat, offered a motion to subpoena Joop Bollen, a former GOED employee and current owner of a company which had been under contract with the state to administer portions of the EB-5 program.

I interviewed Rep. Wismer on Viewpoint after the committee adjourned on Tuesday. I asked her why she wanted Mr. Bollen to appear before the committee. She said that Mr. Bollen in his role as a state employee and adminstrator of the EB-5 program should be questioned about how the program worked from both the state and private sector side, and his role when he was a state employee and later when his company had a state contract to run the program. Keep in mind there is still nearly $500,000 of tax money still unaccounted for. The man who was directly handling that money is dead. Mr. Bollen’s company was going to be the recipient of those dollars to then be paid to Mr. Benda.

The motion offered by Ms. Wismer to subpoena Bollen died due to lack of a second. Ms. Wismer was the only democrat at the meeting. All others were Republican.

In a Wednesday radio interview with Senator Larry Tiedemann, chair of the legislative committee, I stated that I would have seconded Wismer’s motion, so a discussion on the merits of the subpoena could be held. His first response seemed to blame Wismer for not having a second lined up.(Senator Lucas, the only other democrat on the committee, was not in attendance).Sen. Tiedemann’s next response was “as chair, I can’t second motions.” The implication was, his hands were tied. Although according to the rules, he could have handed the gavel to another member for a moment and seconded the subpoena motion.

Bottom line, the Republican dominated committee had a chance to appear interested in obtaining more information for themselves and the public on the thorny and complex  EB-5 issue. They chose to do nothing.

In my opinion, not a smart move.

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