The latest Madville Times poll finds reader confidence in the South Dakota Attorney General's office about as high as public confidence in Congress. Last week, AG Marty Jackley declared that former Governor's Office of Economic Development chief Richard Benda committed suicide, and that a six-month investigation into financial misconduct in the GOED uncovered nothing more than $5,559.80 worth of plane tickets double-billed by Benda in 2009 and 2010. You, dear readers, mostly said, "Horsehockey!"
Do you believe Attorney General Marty Jackley's conclusion that Richard Benda committed suicide?
- Yes: 26% (66 votes)
- No: 70% (178)
- Other: 5% (12)
Do you believe Attorney General Marty Jackley's conclusion that Richard Benda acted alone in mishandling state economic development funds?
- Yes: 9% (21)
- No: 90% (210)
- Other: 1% (3)
Poll responses given Saturday morning, November 23, through Tuesday morning, November 26, 2013.
Your doubts mirror mine. Richard Benda's suicide seems unlikely (shotgun to the abdomen: 17th in lethality among common suicide methods, not terribly common, excruciatingly painful), but it is not implausible. Suicide, like other acts of violence, is often unexpected, an act out of character that friends don't see coming.
It seems far more unlikely that the Attorney General's six-month investigation into an office of a former governor now running for Senate would find that the only financial misconduct was carried out by one man who is now dead and cannot defend himself. That answer apparently feels too pat for 90% of you... and from everything I've read, you 90% are right to be so suspicious.
Now we all could still be wrong. But that this many people reject the conclusions of the state's top law enforcement officer in two publicly important investigations shows that the Benda/GOED story won't fade away in the tryptophanic haze of the coming holiday. These poll results also suggest that AG Jackley could be causing a Jason Gant-like erosion of public trust in a South Dakota state office.