South Dakota Government Releases EB-5 Report. Their Conclusion – The Dead Guy Did It!
"The GOAC believes the events... concerning the GOED... were the result of inappropriate actions taken by former State Official Richard Benda."
That sentence in the report to the Legislature about the GOED/EB-5 issue in South Dakota says it all.
Let me help with the acronyms: GOED is the Governor's Office of Economic Development; EB-5 is a Federal Program enticing foreign investment into this country, requiring a minimum of $500,000 in cash, for which the investor will get a green card; GOAC is a legislative committee titled Government Operations and Audit Committee.
After months of investigation and testimony, they blamed the dead guy. Also it should be noted many of the inappropriate actions alluded to were allegedly done by Benda while he was still a state official.
The cover letter, list of committee members, and Summary of the Report can be read here.
The full report of the Committee can be found on the South Dakota Legislative Research Council Website.
The committee chose not to issue subpoenas, although they had the authority. They took the easy path and sent questions to some people of interest. Those questions were answered, but there was no opportunity for follow-up. One person had to change some written answers after it became known they were not accurate.
It amazes those of us who pay attention to the governance of our state that after all the investigations and testimony, no person accepts any responsibility for the actions or in-actions of current or former state employees. Nobody was providing detailed oversight, either inside the Executive Branch, The Board of Regents, or at Northern State University.
At the risk of offending somebody take a look at the three monkeys - "hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil." Not to suggest that evil was done, but clearly moral, ethical, and apparently legal issues were involved.
The Committee doing the investigation was controlled by Republicans. No surprise, because that party has the most legislators in Pierre. There were only two Democrats.
In my opinion the party make up of the committee should not have mattered, but apparently it did. I am not convinced the committee did their due diligence.
The full legislature will no doubt accept the GOAC Report, thank the members and might enact a recommendation or two. Everybody will feel good that they did something.
Without proper checks and balances some good people can turn bad, and bad people will find a way to take advantage of the voids.
While Joop Bollen, and some of the people who assisted him, may not have broken any South Dakota Laws, in most people's minds their choices were not grounded in the public interest, but in self interest, with greed thrown in.
There are lessons to be learned from this experience. I grew up in Chicago with one party rule for decades. "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely," a quote from John Dalberg in 1887 fit the Windy City.
I hope it does not become common place here.