The allegations of ethics violations by the South Dakota House Republican leadership receive their first official hearing on Tuesday, January 3, as a subcommittee of the Legislature's Executive Board meets to hear testimony "in Regard to Legislative Research Council Work Product." Despite a request from the complainants for her recusal, Republican Senator Joni Cutler has accepted Executive Board Chairman Rep. Charles Turbiville's appointment to chair this subcommittee. Democratic Representative Larry Lucas (D and Republican Senator Tom Nelson will round out the subcommittee.

This subcommittee hearing was supposed to happen a week earlier, on Tuesday, December 27. Sen. Cutler announced the Dec. 27 meeting in an e-mail sent out Friday, December 23, at 3:53 p.m. (From the documents available, I am unable to determine whether that's Central or Mountain Time.) Given such short notice on the eve of a holiday weekend, Rep. Lance Russell requested a continuance and proposed five dates when he would be available to testify shortly after January 1. Sen. Cutler moved the hearing back one week, to January 3. Sen. Cutler also responded to other concerns raised by Rep. Russell in a Dec. 27 letter, in which Sen. Cutler states the following:

  1. The Jan. 3 hearing in Room 413 of the Capitol will be open and the audio archived online along with other Executive Board minutes from this interim.
  2. Sen. Cutler is not recusing herself because Rep. Turbiville has told her he does not want her to recuse herself. Sen. Cutler feels her public statements on South Dakota's legislative process do not compromise her ability to chair the subcommittee hearing, gather information, and report that information to the Executive Board for its action at its January 10 meeting, hours before the noon opening of the 2012 Legislature.
  3. Rep. Russell questions whether the subcommittee is acting under proper authority by Executive Board motion and action. Sen. Cutler responds that the Legislature's joint rules and Mason's (easy, Sibby) Manual of Legislative Procedure empower a committee chair to appoint a subcommittee without formal action by the full committee.
  4. Sen. Cutler does not intend to swear witnesses at the hearing. Anticipating testimony primarily from legislators, Sen. Cutler feels their oath of office serves as sufficient guarantee of their veracity.

Rep. Russell may be satisfied with the extra week to prep, but he wants to ensure the hearing is more than simply a gripe session with him and his fellow complainants. Rep. Russell has moved for the board to invoke its subpoena powers and issue subpoenas duces tecum (that's Latin for "Come talk to us, and bring your papers!") to three members of the LRC staff. Rep. Russell submitted this motion on Tuesday; I haven't heard yet whether the executive board has taken action on it. But in her preceding communications, Sen. Cutler indicated that the subcommittee "may" call LRC staff to testify, depending on the testimony presented and evidence required.

Sen. Cutler says the subcommittee stands ready to take testimony all day long (starting at 10 a.m.) and into the evening. Mr. Mercer may wish this hearing was being held online. Pack a sandwich!