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Rounds Loses SD Money with Inattention to Farm Loan Mediation, Cement Plant Pension

Cole R. Delaune tries really hard to portray GOP Senate candidate M. Michael Rounds as both too soft on abortion and too closely tied to the Todd Akinesque Bill Napoli on abortion. Delaune paints this Janus to justify his claim that "demonstrated pragmatist" Rep. Kristi Noem would be a better Senate candidate.

If we want to jam the Rounds noise machine, let's keep it simple. Let's talk money.

The discussion of Lucas Lentsch's reascension to power in the state agriculture department has reminded us of the mess he and Secretary Walt Bones found when Governor Daugaard brought them to Pierre in 2011. Governor Daugaard canned a lot of Rounds' people, and perhaps for good reason. As director of ag development, Lentsch saw some sloppy-looking bookkeeping. He spent $8,000 on an audit that discovered $17,000 in services unbilled and checks not cashed in the Farm Loan mediation program:

Employees sometimes waited months to cash checks for payment - mediation costs $50 an hour for the first hour and $25 for each additional hour - and at least 157 checks had to be returned, undeposited, because they were more than six months old, the audit showed.

In at least 54 cases, the federal Farm Service Agency, an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, was not billed for mediation services, costing the state $2,700. From fiscal year 2008 to 2011, 120 hours of mediation went unbilled at a cost of more than $3,000.

The haphazard payment documentation "progressively worsened through fiscal years 2010 and 2011," making it hard to determine in some cases whether mediation even occurred, or why some people who had requested mediation did not follow through with it, Bollinger wrote [Cody Winchester, "Ag Loan Board Lost $17,000," that Sioux Falls paper, May 2012].

Secretary Bones didn't catch anyone pocketing state money and didn't publicly call for anyone's head to roll, but Ag Department legal counsel Aubrey Blair Dunn left the office in spring 2012, followed by Lentsch in August 2012.

Similar inattention to fiscal detail appears to have cost South Dakota much more in the state cement plant retirement fund. Governor Bill Janklow sold the state cement plant to a Mexican company in 2001, but the state still held the plant's retirement fund. Coming into office in 2003, Governor M. Michael Rounds forgot about that responsibility:

After the 2001 sale, the cement plant retirement system spent years as a political orphan in state government.

A Gov. Mike Rounds administration official acknowledged that it essentially sat forgotten in a drawer.

While unattended, the cement plant’s system suffered significant losses to its investment portfolio.

With no additional revenue flowing in, and with benefits being paid out, the portfolio hasn’t been able to recover sufficient value to get back in balance [Bob Mercer, "Future for Cement Plant Retirees Uncertain," Aberdeen American News, 2013.04.03].

To make up for Rounds's forgetfulness, the Legislature has had to pump $5 million into the cement plant retirement fund, including $4 million appropriated this year. Mercer reports that the Rounds Administration's lack of attention and foresight now socks us with spend $1.5 million a year for the next 14 years to keep our promise to the cement plant retirees... either that, or coax at least some of those retirees into trading their ongoing pension payments for lump-sum payments now.

Now maybe M. Michael Rounds would do less damage as one of 100 Senators than he did as South Dakota's chief executive. But his people's management of the Farm Loan Mediation program and the cement plant pension send a pretty clear message: hand Rounds your purse strings, and his bumbling will cost you money.

Draft Johnson? Draft Herseth Sandlin? Heck, just draft an accountant.


  1. Jerry 2013.04.05

    You know that this guy inherited his success from a working family that actually did balance the books in their success. Being a conservative is not a dude that builds a castle in a flood plain and then howls at the tide for rising and gets a bailout for his foolish choice.

    Now our state is considering sending this poor excuse of an executive to Washington to do what? It is obvious that he cannot handle a checkbook in a small state, so why give him a bigger checkbook with a bigger pen? Nope, Rounds was a third string player in the state that got elected in the first place because the first rounders were sidelined by self sustaining injuries. Like any tick, once they get their head embedded under the skin, they are hard to dislodge so he won reelection. He has done enough harm to our state and given the chance, would do much harm to our country if we are foolish enough to think he has changed his ways. He is a slick one though, I only need to think of the move, just before reelection he made. He sold the idea of a veterans memorial in the late fall with a parade and extravaganza that was really nothing more than an election ploy. I am a Vietnam veteran and I could see through this cloud of deceit when he first made the call for it. Typical from his sorts though, only use veterans for show pieces and propaganda purposes. In the end, he is an insurance salesman that has nothing to sell.

  2. larry kurtz 2013.04.06

    Cory: does Noem have to leave the House to run in Senate primary?

  3. mike 2013.04.06

    I don't think I could stomach Kristi Noem running for US Senate. Stace Nelson or someone with principles yes. I'd vote for SHS or Brendan or Varilek before I voted for Noem. I'd vote for Rounds before the others. Noem is last on my list.

  4. rorschach 2013.04.07

    Speaking of Rounds & veterans, Jerry. Every time Rounds gave a speech anywhere he pandered to veterans by asking them to stand and be recognized so he could bask in their glory. And you know, that non-veteran Rounds never sat his arse down when he asked veterans to stand! That always galled me with him going around giving the false impression he was a veteran by standing with them.

  5. Bill Dithmer 2013.04.07

    I'm not going to get long winded today about Mike Rounds. I just have a couple of questions, and then I'm gone.

    What has Mike Rounds done for South Dakota while governor?

    Has he brought economic prosperity to our state?

    Has he inspired transparence in government?

    Has he in anyway improved our states standings in any category while he was governor?

    Did he govern for all the people of this state, or did he lean toward the rich while leaving the middle class behind? What exactly did he do to enhance the chance of success for small business in South Dakota?

    Did he actually build in a flood plain and then cry about being flooded out while all the time participating in an insurance business? WTF

    One last question and then I'm through. Is our state in better shape today then it was when he won the race for governor because Secretariat and War Admiral were to busy fighting each other and let him slip through on the inside?

    Do we really need a man like that in DC?

    Like my almost three year old grandson Stinky would say, "THATS BULLSHIT." Nuff Said.

    The Blindman

  6. Old guy 2013.04.07

    Guys it is find to disagree with Rounds but get your facts straight. He did not build in a flood plain. His elevation is 1432 the corp says you can't build under 1424 or 1426. I know because I live down the street.

  7. Jana 2013.04.07

    Old Guy...Good old Smiling Mike living on the edge.

    So I'm guessing if we obtain all of Governor Round's emails to the Corp of Engineers, we will see how he was secure in investing his money backed by taxpayer subsidized flood insurance to build this river paradise.

  8. grudznick 2013.04.07

    Ms. Jana, you should obtain those emails and have Mr. H post all of them.

  9. larry kurtz 2013.04.08

    Montgomery is reporting that Sen. Johnson has announced support for marriage equality.

  10. Jerry 2013.04.08

    Old guy, I saw a couple of backhoes and trucks and stuff around the Rounds place during that flood time. Did you both pay for them yourselves?

  11. Rorschach 2013.04.08

    Well Old Guy, you and Mike Rounds both built by a river and you both got flooded. Surprise, surprise!? You needed sandbags, berms and public assistance to literally bail you out for building your luxury homes in harm's way. And is Marion Mike Rounds the developer of all of those low-lying "Marion's" developments on the Ft. Pierre side of the river?

    I really have no problem with the government helping to put food on poor people's tables (e.g. "necessities of life"), but people with means ought to take personal responsibility for their luxuries rather than expecting taxpayers to pay for them.

  12. Bill Dithmer 2013.04.08

    What do these two numbers represent? The first is the elevation of the Oahe dam at the face. The second is the elevation "as per Old Guy" at Mike Rounds house built directly below the dam.

    164.5 feet is the difference between the face of the dam and the people that built their homes on the river bottom. Were they in the flood plain? It depends on what you want to use for statistics on that one.

    Now I don't know how the Corp figured this out because traditionally the flood plain below a dam was the same as the high water mark before the river was dammed in the first place. If you can find historical photographs pre sixty you will see flooding that reached well above the 1,432 level, as proven by the streets that were flooded in Ft. Pierre. Common sense dictates that no building of any kind should have been allowed in that area in the first place.

    It might be interesting to know what the relationship was between the developer of that land and the people that were in charge of the Corp at that time. Stranger things have happened.

    History will repeat itself, its only a matter of time until Big Muddy gets mad again. Will we still be alive when it happens? Who knows. The old saying about people living in glass houses not throwing rocks comes to mind here. The difference is that people that build on a river bottom shouldn't complain when their homes get flooded because they didn't use common sense in the first place.

    Again, if you have to tilt your head up to look at the water that is upstream from your house, you built in the wrong damn place and have nobody to blame but yourself. You can go ahead and pay the bills that are incurred when something bad happens.

    The Blindman

  13. grudznick 2013.04.08

    Mr. Blindman.

    To your post I say "Indeed" and I nod my head in agreement.
    Then I add, "and if you build below sea level in a town plagued by hurricanes, or in a forest poorly managed and ready to burn, or in a baked, barren, drought infested desert that is all on you as well."

    Live where it is safe. That's what most of the Libbies do. Live in Sioux Falls, and rewild the rest of the state for me an Mr. Kurtz.

  14. Bill Dithmer 2013.04.08

    Grudz yup I agree with it all.

    The Blindman

  15. Winston 2013.04.08

    Let's keep softening Rounds and encouraging Noem to run for the Senate!!

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