Last updated on 2014.02.14
Like Madville Times readers and Independent gubernatorial candidate Mike Myers, the Mitchell Daily Republic is not satisfied with Attorney General Marty Jackley's conclusions that Richard Benda killed himself and that Benda's double-billed travel reimbursements and a diversion of $550,000 from a state grant to unauthorized uses warrant no further action by Jackley's office. In a Friday editorial, the Mitchell paper calls for an independent, bipartisan investigation of the GOED/SDRC/EB-5/Benda affair:
We suggest appointment of a bipartisan panel by the governor — in addition to but independent of the ongoing state and federal investigations — to thoroughly investigate Benda’s death, his conduct regarding the Northern Beef Packers plant both during and after his employment with the state, and any and all related issues. When the investigation is over, a public report should be issued. Benda may be dead, but the public deserves to know what, exactly, he may have done and who else may have been involved.
Because most of the players in this saga are Republicans, there is an appearance of a conflict of interest, and an appearance is all it takes to poison the well. With the trustworthiness of a portion of our state government now openly called into question, we as taxpaying citizens of South Dakota deserve an independent investigation to help root out whatever corruption may exist. And the rooting can’t be done by somebody on the inside [editorial, "Appoint Panel to Investigate Benda Affair," Mitchell Daily Republic, 2013.11.29].
Public trust rests on facts and appearances. The facts we've seen so far are plenty fishy, and the Attorney General's hesitance to act on those facts enhances the appearance that South Dakotans are not getting full accountability for the use and misuse of their money. The Governor is taking positive steps, but South Dakota needs to do more to fully account for the actions of all players in the GOED/SDRC/EB-5/Benda affair.
Answers will not come easily or quickly in this complicated affair. That's all the more reason to put as many eyes as possible on this mess.