UGLY: South Dakota’s EB-5 program continues to generate work — for the legal profession. In the past few weeks, the state has filed a lawsuit against former state employee and EB-5 administrator Joop Bollen, who in turned sued the state for damages. Last week, 35 Chinese nationals who invested $500,000 apiece in the investment-for-visa program sued the state for $18.5 million, claiming they were misled when the state sought their money for the Northern Beef Packers plant, which later filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection with liabilities that exceeded assets by $59.5 million. This all happens as the state tries to persuade the federal government to not terminate its EB-5 program. The reason the state is fighting the termination is to help protect foreign investors, according to Gov. Daugaard. Would these be the same ones who are suing the state? Hard to say as the governor's chief of staff refuses to comment on any of the legal proceedings.
GOOD: Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender is in the process of forming a second task force to figure out what to do with the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center, which is under scrutiny by the Department of Justice for numerous American with Disabilities Act violations. The previous mayor, Sam Kooiker, used those violations as a launching pad for a campaign to spend $180 million to expand and upgrade the civic center, which voters overwhelmingly rejected. Some believe Allender wants to propose a similar project and point to the task forces as evidence. Would these folks rather this was done behind closed doors without any representative of the public involved? The fact is the city must deal with the ADA violations and should look at all possible solutions. For those who are interested in being part of the solution rather than a Monday morning quarterback, you can apply to be on the task force by calling the mayor's office at 394-4110.
BAD: The state's other scandal, the administration of millions of federal dollars for the GEAR UP program, recently provided more insight into how the state oversees our tax dollars. Mid-Central Educational Cooperative hired an auditing firm to review its finances, which included GEAR UP funds it managed before the state terminated that relationship due to poor oversight. Mid-Central pointed to what it called the audit's "positive findings" even though it concluded that there were problems with 140 expenditures totaling more than $90,000. The problems included missing documentation and signatures. It's difficult to imagine what an audit with "negative findings" would look like.
GOOD: We can never have enough soldiers in the battle to stomp out the bullies who entertain themselves as the expense of others they see as easy marks. In the Black Hills, those soldiers include members of Freedom Bikers Against Bullying. The bikers, who also are members of the Freedom Motorcycle Church in Rapid City, are taking their message to local schools, letting students know they don't tolerate bullying and neither should the students. Rather than live with the bullying, the bikers encourage students to report the bad behavior. It's a message that all students should take to heart.
- South Dakota
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