During my tenure on the Lake Herman Sanitary District board, our single biggest budget item was our insurance policy through the South Dakota Public Assurance Alliance, a policy that, to my knowledge, the district has never used.
What does Lake Herman get for its money? Harassment of Indian voters. The SDPAA is using Lake Herman taxes and public funds from local governments around the state to punish Indians for fighting for their right to vote. The SDPAA, under the direction of recent Madisonite Judy Payne, is driving the punitive request to make the Indian plaintiffs in the Brooks v. Gant voting rights lawsuit pay $6,328.54 in costs incurred by the defendants.
The SDPAA covered the defendants' costs, including depositions, photocopies, postage, and mileage. According to the bill of costs submitted by defendants' lawyer Sara Frankenstein, photocopying costs include 50 cents for two sheets run on May 3, 2012, and 25 cents for one sheet run on November 14, 2012. (If you're looking for a bargain, Shepherd Reporting in Utica only charges 20 cents per copy.)
According to the plaintiffs' objection and exception filed by attorney Steven Sandven, the SDPAA is much better able to absorb those court costs than the plaintiffs SDPAA wants to punish:
Plaintiff Clarice Mesteth is a single mother who has legal custody of seven children. (Doc. 121, Ex. 3). She is the sole provider for at least five of those children. Id. Plaintiff Edmond Mesteth works part-time for the Oglala Sioux Tribe in its Childcare Program. (Doc. 121, Ex. 4) He shares custody of his fourteen year old daughter. Id. Plaintiff Monette Two Eagle is a single parent with three children and a grandmother under her care. (Doc. 121, Ex. 5) Plaintiff Stacy Two Lance has an eleven year old daughter with special needs. (Doc. 121, Ex. 6) Plaintiff Dawn Black Bull has legal and physical custody of her five children. (Doc, 121, Ex. 7). Coupled with the impoverished state of Shannon County with the individual circumstances of the Plaintiffs, it is clear that imposition of Defendants' legal costs would cause a devastating undue hardship [Steven D. Sandven, Plaintiffs' Objections and Exceptions to Defendants' Bill of Costs, Brooks v. Gant, filed 2013.08.29].
Even split 25 ways, $6,328.54 is a big penalty for these folks. $6,328.54 is peanuts to the SDPAA, which holds assets worth $28.6 million. Covering the legal costs incurred when their members make mistakes is what those millions are there for.
But remember, we're not just talking pocketbook punishment; we're talking civil rights, which the SDPAA's governmental members have a duty to uphold and which SDPAA is trying to quash:
Additionally, an award of costs in this case would not only undermine congressional policy in encouraging this enforcement action but would also have a deterrent effect of future voting-rights litigation. This, as Congress has recognized, would be bad for society at large. The Court should therefore consider the chilling effect of future voting rights litigation when determining whether to impose such costs [Plaintiffs' Objection..., 2013.08.29].
The SDPAA is actively intimidating Indian voters and anyone else who would fight for civil rights in South Dakota. Four Directions, the group fighting for the plaintiffs, is trying to negotiate a reasonable settlement with the SDPAA this long weekend. If I were still on the Lake Herman Sanitary District board, I'd be calling Judy Payne and the SDPAA directors and telling them to stop using our money for voter intimidation.