What’s going on at SOS?

So the Secretary of State called a last-minute Board of Elections meeting, which will be held at 4 today.

Board members were notified after 5 on Tuesday of the meeting. The agenda online, fails to tell the public where this public meeting is.

FYI: It’s a conference call.

Conference Password:  2373#

The agenda includes proposed changes to election laws. The legislature has been in session for two weeks now.

Secretary Jason Gant’s approach is a departure from former SOS Chris Nelson, who would present the bills to the Board of Elections in the fall to vet and get their approval.

While Gant originally promised to present the bills to board members at previous meetings, he changed his mind and, as a compromise, said on Nov. 29 he would email them. 

Gant waited until after 5 on Tuesday to email all of the seven bills to board members.

(They did see one bill previously)

Then there are the minutes.

On Tuesday, I couldn’t find the Nov. 29 minutes online (where they are usually posted.)

So I called SOS to ask for a copy and staff member Andrew Pietrus said the minutes were not available.

“We don’t have them ready yet,” he said.

State law requires the minutes of a public meeting to be posted online within five days or available in the principal place of business within ten.

Tuesday Gant said the minutes were done and available in the office (he is not sure when), just not posted online. The SOS posted them online late Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Gant calls me to clarify and said the minutes have been available in the office since three days after the November meeting.

He said Pietrus meant that the final draft was not available, but the draft minutes had been completed. The difference between the two, according to Gant: the final version is cleaned up. “Making sure words were in the right order.”

When contacted on Wednesday to clarify his statement, Pietrus declined to comment saying he could no longer speak to the media.


I first paid for court records in Austin, Minn. where I wrote about crime and city government (occasionally, the two beats crossed).

When I wanted a copy of a criminal complaint, the court clerks would charge me $5 to make that copy. It was unfair.

The cost of producing a public record (the…

(via jhult)

Campaign Finance Falls Flat

So I was pumped when Secretary of State Jason Gant launched his campaign finance searchable online database.

I had 21 press releases to remind me it was coming and when it was launched. (ok maybe not 21, but close)

After reading that Madville Times had troubles finding any data, I thought I would give it a whirl.

I searched “Abdallah” and “Nelson” and “Daugaard”. Then I read the instructions and selected “Governor”, a scenario that Gant’s website recommends. All four gave me “No search results”

I sent an email to Pat Powers, the one I believe is in charge of this thing, checking if the office is having issues or if I’m missing something. I will let you know what I hear.

Let me know if you get search results.

UPDATE: My email to PP prompted a quick phone call from the Secretary himself. The online database is for reports going forward, which aren’t due until Feb. 1. (which wasn’t clear in the launch press release below)

"Of course there isn’t, the candidates haven’t submitted it," Gant said.

His office won’t update the old data unless they get a grant to do so. Candidates can still file the same old way-using a paper form. We shall see how many switch over to online in Feb. Gant is sure hoping most do. He said his office will manually enter the data if candidates don’t use the online system.

Secretary of State Jason Gant takes new campaign finance system live;
“This is the most significant development in campaign finance for SD in over a decade”


Today, Secretary of State Jason Gant unveiled his upgrade to South Dakota’s campaign finance reporting system to all of South Dakota, taking the system live less than a year after taking office.


“This is an exciting day for the State of South Dakota,” Gant said.  “For a decade, South Dakota was ranked among the worst states in the nation when it came to campaign finance disclosure, consistently earning “F” grades. With our new system providing access with searchable fields, it’s a great day for open government and transparency in South Dakota.”


The on-line ledger system for candidates, known as the Campaign Accounting Statement History system, or C.A.S.H. system for short, allows candidates to track their campaign receipts and expenditures on-line as an accounting ledger.  “When the candidate is ready to submit their report, they simply hit a button which will automatically populate fields in their report,” Gant said.


With data being entered by candidates on-line, the public, for the first time have the ability to directly search donors and expenditures, as opposed to the old system which only provided access to imaged paper documents.


Gant recently demonstrated the system to legislators, as well as members of the media and the public in Rapid City and Sioux Falls. “We added the suggested changes from those meetings, and were able to finish the system.”


“C.A.S.H. will make it far easier for the public to see who is giving to candidates, as well as where they are spending their campaign dollars. The same applies for Political Action Committees (PAC’s) and political parties,” Gant said.   


“2011 year-end reports are due for all candidates, political parties, political action committees by February 1, 2012,” Gant said.

Find the Fake

So your doctor wants to perform surgery in his barn….time to check out if he is licensed.

Yes, a dramatic example, but not unheard of. A Miami woman posing as a doctor, approached a woman in a parking lot offering to make her butt look better. This “doctor” was not injecting silicone or Botox, but super glue and Fix-a-Flat spray, according to Miami Herald.

Yeah. So the barn scenario seems pretty tame now, right?

Back to South Dakota. The State Board of Medical & Osteopathic Examiners handles the licensing, complaints and discipline actions of doctors and EMT employees.

Click here and type in part or all of your doc’s name. It will show you if the license is current and when it expires. There is also a tab called “Board Action”. It will show you if the board has sanctioned or reprimanded your doctor.

Doctors have been disciplined for a variety of reasons including malpractice, driving drunk and threatening statements.

But you will find most have a clean record. If you have questions on the board actions, make sure you call the state board for more detail.

Who are the farmers?

Farm subsidies. I’m sure you have heard about them in the news. Congress might take away in $5 billion worth of direct payments each year, according to the Associated Press

South Dakota farmers have received nearly $10 billion in farm subsidy payments since 1995. But not all recipients live on the farm. Some live in NYC. Others are business owners with hunting land. 

A non-profit called Environmental Working Group has a nifty searchable database of farm subsidies dating back to 1995.

Check your family. Check your neighbor. Check your boss. We have Chicago Bulls legend Scottie Pippen and media mogul Ted Turner. Churches and prisons are also on the list.

Nearly half a million went to “farmers” living in a Manhattan NYC zip code located right next to Central Park. 

I recommend under the state tab to scroll down and choose “National Search” at the bottom.

Pierre and Sioux Falls switch places

When I joined Argus Leader in 2009, I was warned that it was extremely difficult to get public records or information from state government and much easier to obtain records from Sioux Falls government.

Clearly, roles have reversed. In my experience as a reporter who covered the City of Sioux Falls and now covering Pierre, the state has been more accessible. Credit is due to the new administration. Gov. Daugaard time and time again has made it clear he wants a more transparent state government by releasing lists of attendees to his events and encouraging his agencies to comply with open records request. His predecessor not so much. Public records requests that were denied under the Rounds’ administration, have now been fulfilled this year. There have been a few hiccups and information being withheld this year, but they are released after pushing from the administration.

Now to Sioux Falls. Mayor Huether, who loves to use the word transparent (I have quoted him many of times), has declined some open records requests including Power Point presentation on the events center he showed leaders and city councilors behind closed doors.

Now Pam Homan and the Sioux Falls School District is refusing to release her contract stating it’s not public record.

Interesting that Gov. Daugaard tweeted today: “Every public employee contract should be an open record, and I would sign legislation to make that very clear.”

Also interesting: Daugaard is a Republican. Homan is a registered Independent. Huether a Democrat.

Which Restaurants made the list

I got the list of restaurants from the state that have had their food license suspended or revoked from 2005 to present. I think you will be (unpleasantly) surprised. Although no one should be shocked that a restaurant named “Roadkill Cafe” in Sturgis lost their license.

Note: Restaurants with suspended licenses in the past have passed follow up inspections if they are currently open. And they could be under new ownership. If you have further questions, such as why they were suspended, contact the State Department of Health.

Champ’s Bar & Grill in White-Revoked in 2005

Guadalajara Mexican Restaurant in Watertown-Suspended in 2006

Mazatlan Mexican Restaurant in Huron-Suspended in 2006

Casa Blanca in Murdo-Suspended in 2007

China Buffett in Sturgis-Revoked in 2007

Darlene’s at the Airport in Rapid City-Revoked in 2007

Chef Louie’s in Mitchell-Suspended in 2008

Paulmart in Rosebud-Suspended in 2008

Dittie’s Diner in Kimball-Suspended in 2008

Nicki’s La Mexican Restaurant in Huron-Suspended in 2008

Chute Roosters in Hill City- Revoked in 2008

Chubby’s in Ethan-Revoked in 2008

Medicine Rock in Gettysburg-Revoked in 2008

What’s Cooking Mama in Sturgis-Revoked in 2009

Roadkill Cafe in Sturgis-Revoked in 2009

Lennox Bakery in Lennox-Revoked in 2010

Coldstone Creamery in Rapid City-Revoked in 2010

Mocha Moose in Wall-Revoked in 2011

Pistol Pete’s in Rapid City-Revoked in 2011

Crazy Buffet in Pierre-Revoked in 2011

Herdings Pastry in Parker-Revoked in 2011

Natalia’s Mexican Restaurant in Huron-Revoked in 2011

Quick background: restaurant in Mitchell (Signatures) self-suspended its food license after failing two health inspections. State refused to name restaurant. I requested the names of restaurants that had their food license suspended/revoked from 2005 to present and state promptly provided.

How we found Kip Gearey

We would have never found Kip Gearey and his 18 accidents without the help of a public database kept by the Department of Public Safety. His story illustrates the need to get such databases. Getting it wasn’t that easy.
The department denied my first request in February with a laundry list of reasons: database was too big and complex for me, proprietary information, etc. However, the department, to its credit, was willing to work with me and allow me to sit in their office and look at the data. Both parties realized it wasn’t feasible and eventually the 120,000 accident records were sent to me.

So far the database has produced Kip’s story and the story about 1 in 5 children in accidents are not restrained. There promises to be much more.

What the data does tell me is more about Kip Gearey. Unfortunately, he wouldn’t talk to me beyond saying that his vehicles get hit a lot. 

Side note: Kip agreed to chat with me at his house. When I showed up, he had to take his child to the doctor and promised to call me after that. I never heard from him again and he did not return my follow-up phone calls.

Check public records before you get your hair & nails did

Ever see a license stuck to the mirror of your favorite salon? Well, you should.

Those who do hair, nail and skin care are required to be licensed by the state. (This is to prevent the awful bowl cut that frugal mothers everywhere have attempted at least once. Although, a licensed stylist once shaved the sides of my head, left my top longer and permed it when I was in 3rd grade. I was scarred when an arcade worker called me mushroom top. Two decades later, my man saw my school photo and thought it was my brother. He promises to run the pic in the newspaper when I turn 40.)

Your hair stylist, skin specialist and nail manicurist are also inspected-unannounced. The four part-time inspectors in the state check for several things including good ventilation, clean equipment and license properly displayed.

This is to avoid things like head lice. (Which is a pain. I got it once while at Spanish camp in MN in 5th grade. -thankfully not in school, which would be uber embarrassing. That was reserved for when I was in 7th grade. I arrived at middle school-on my birthday-with my brand-new outfit and a black tick on my neck. I was so mortified that I wouldn’t even see the school nurse. I called my mom, who showed up in her robe with matches and burned the tick off in her sedan.)

Way off. Back to the important info. Check out the links below. The SD Cosmetology Commission, which is part of the Department of Labor, regulates such stylists. Barbers have their own regulator: Board of Barber Examiners.

So look-up your stylist or nail technician before you book your next appointment. You can check if they have a valid license. Suspension or revocation of a license is harder to check. They put that information out once a year in a newsletter-last year they suspended one nail salon and revoked one hair salon-both in Watertown.

I would recommend just calling and seeing if your stylist or nail technician has ever been suspended or had their license revoked. Also ask for the inspection reports. They are public records as well.

If you have an issue, you can also file a complaint. Check it.

Good News Sioux Falls eaters

Word is that no restaurants or food stores in Sioux Falls are currently suspended.

The State Department of Health also tells me none have had their food license suspended in 2011.

But, as you know, the story is not over. (see previous post)

Copyright © 2011 www.argusleader.com. All rights reserved.
Users of this site agree to the Terms of Service, Privacy Notice/Your California Privacy Rights, and Ad Choices