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Republicans Boot Tornberg for Partisan Reasons; Tyler Caucus Job Unconstitutional?

Last updated on 2015.02.15

The Republican majority in the South Dakota Legislature is enjoying its power this week, kicking two Democrats out of Pierre. They've refused to allow the Legislature's Democrats to hire Ann Tornberg as their Senate caucus secretary and Kathy Tyler as their House caucus secretary.

Booting Tornberg is clearly political mischief. Democrats elected her as their party chair last month, so the Republicans are just being mean. The majority leadership has the authority to make or refuse appointments pretty much at its sadistic pleasure.

Booting Tyler is likely a punctuation mark on the vendetta Republicans went on to unseat Tyler from her District 4 House seat last fall after her outspoken resistance to Republican abuses of power like the EB-5 scandal. But instead of just owning this mischief, Republicans are trying to justify their firing as a legal matter. Speaker of the House Dean Wink (R-29/Howes) says he had to fire Tyler because the state constitution says former legislators cannot hold a state job for a year after their terms end.

Well, I'm all about the constitution. Let's review the language in question:

No member of the Legislature shall, during the term for which he was elected, be appointed or elected to any civil office in the state which shall have been created, or the emoluments of which shall have been increased during the term for which he was elected, nor shall any member receive any civil appointment from the Governor, the Governor and senate, or from the Legislature during the term for which he shall have been elected, and all such appointments and all votes given for any such members for any such office or appointment shall be void; nor shall any member of the Legislature during the term for which he shall have been elected, or within one year thereafter, be interested, directly or indirectly, in any contract with the state or any county thereof, authorized by any law passed during the term for which he shall have been elected [South Dakota State Constitution, Article 3, Section 12].

This statute exists to prevent clever legislators from passing a law that would create jobs and perks for themselves. It's a good idea. But read carefully:

  1. Was the office of caucus secretary created during Tyler's term? No.
  2. Was Tyler elected to that office during her term? No: the current legislature, after Tyler left, had to choose her.
  3. Was the contract of the caucus secretary authorized by a law passed during Tyler's term? No... unless the argument is that the caucus secretary's contract is authorized by the FY 2015 General Appropriations Bill passed last year and providing the funds for this year's Legislature.

If Democrats are violating the constitution by hiring Kathy Tyler to a state job, then nuke 'em... just as we should nuke any other former legislators whose organizations or businesses may be engaged in contracts with the state. (Let's all start sorting through contracts involving Russ Olson, Chuck Jones, and any legislative lawyers whose firms do work for the state.) But I'm not convinced the Republicans have constitutional cover for their partisan mischief against Tyler. I am convinced they have no such cover for their partisan mischief against Tornberg.


  1. Bob Mercer 2015.01.17

    The budget for the Legislature for the 2015 session was passed by the Legislature in the 2014 session when Kathy Tyler was a member of the Legislature. The budget is where the one-year ban comes into play on contracts for any legislator.

    The flip side of this is HB 1023 in the 2015 session that would require a one-year waiting period on state contracts that would benefit a former state employee who authorized the contract while a state employee. HB 1023 comes from GOAC's investigation of economic development matters that involved EB-5 and SDRC's hiring of former Secretary of Tourism and State Development Richard Benda, who signed the state contract with SDRC.

    There's nothing that prevents Kathy (or Ann Tornberg) from volunteering to work for Democratic legislators, or being paid by the SDDP or being paid by Democratic legislators to work for them.

  2. JeniW 2015.01.17

    These are the same Republicans who conduct closed door meetings at the state capital building?

    They are definitely are against transparency, open government, and are against democracy.

  3. Jenny 2015.01.17

    Sounds pretty petty to me, especially since the SDGOP does these things all the time. Mike Rounds gave his family members jobs while governor. Then there is Krebs hiring GOPster Williams - is that okay? Double standards as usual.

  4. Tim 2015.01.17

    This is single party rule, we should all be used to it by now, they have been doing this for decades. Only the voters can change it, they don't seem to be interested.

  5. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.01.17

    So the budget is it, Bob? Does the budget have to include a line-item for the job in question, or is the constitutional prohibition triggered by the mere fact that the Legislature is now spending money that Rep. Tyler touched with her vote last year?

  6. jerry 2015.01.17

    Bob Mercer has the right idea regarding these two ladies from still doing their jobs in spite of republican madness. The SDDP could pick up the bill and we could have just poked the tiger into being a pussycat. Spiteful, disobedient children=South Dakota republican legislators.

  7. 96Tears 2015.01.17

    Somebody in the Democrats' House or Senate caucus should have realized the conflict of interest law would have zapped Tyler, and that should have stopped the employment before it got to this point. This is a very well known standard, especially with Democrats who've been in the leggie for a while because there is a long and sordid history of the Attorney General finding fault with Democratic legislators while totally ignoring glaring Republican conflicts.

    Shutting Tornberg, who had done the job before, has zero basis in law and should be exposed as a naked, petty power play. Stupidly shameful for Republicans who continue to shield criminals who swindle millions in their midst.

  8. Kathy Tyler 2015.01.17

    Another question may be about legislators who are members of the medical community who accept any sort of state funds for payment or legislators who are on the state retirement system. Just asking...not stating opinion or facts.

  9. Roger Elgersma 2015.01.17

    Kathy Tyler was the type of legislator who dared to tell the truth about EB-5. This is scary to a Republican. When I got in a discussion about EB-5 with then Rep. Manny Steele and proved that it was not a suicide, he said to the person across the table that if I showed up dead that it will have been to "SHUT ME UP". So I replied, 'then it may not have been the Chinese mafia but instead the South Dakota Republican party leadership that killed Benda. So to change the subject he started to make false accusations about me and since he had just been such a bully I just decided not to argue with his false accusations. He had accused me of cheating on my wife and the person across the table who is one of the most promiscuous people I have ever met looked Manny in the eye and said that I have a lot clearer voice than Manny does. So realizing that I had lots better morals than he did, he got mad and walked off.
    When Kathy Tyler came to Democratic forum to talk about EB-5 she was very concerned about massive amounts of money that disappeared and other concerns. This puzzled me since I had seen a letter from her and Larry Lucas in the previous week in the Brookings paper that congratulated Tiedeman for doing such a good job leading the committee to investigate EB-5 of which all three were on the committee and all three were from Brookings. So when she was adamantly concerned about the problems and Tiedeman would not supeona key people or have them ask questions that were not pre approved, I knew something was wrong. So after the meeting I told her about Manny Steele threatening my life for proving them wrong, She immediately emphatically said, 'he would do that'. Anyone still wondering why Betty Olson wanted to carry a gun in the legislature last year?
    Republicans learned from Janklow that bullys get by with it. This is not democracy or even a republic type of government.

  10. jerry 2015.01.17

    Conflicts of interest? Could that possibly be in the good ole boy network of corrupted politics in South Dakota's one party system? That kind of full disclosure would certainly be helpful in seeing the pattern of their voting records.

  11. Lee Schoenbeck 2015.01.17

    Cory, I can recall two legislators - both Republicans - that had to quit for the same reason. One was a senator from Sioux Falls, I think he worked for the henry Carlson company. the other was Carol Pitts from Brookings, who I think changed jobs while a legislator and then ran afoul of the general appropriations bill she voted for. Those are two I can recall on short notice..... likely there are others.

  12. Roger Elgersma 2015.01.17

    Tornberg is a good enough person that she will keep doing good for the party and for government in general. Bad mouthing a good person will not do good in the long run. When the republicans start knocking down good people who do not cooperate, whether it is Tornberg of Stace Nelson, they just make themselves look bad.

  13. CLCJM 2015.01.17

    And the Republicans don't need any help looking bad!But appearances don't seem to bother them at all. Power is everything no matter appearances!

  14. Kathy Tyler 2015.01.17

    The letter in the Brookings paper was not from me. Carol Pitts was working at SDSU while a legislator. And I can understand the business contract.

  15. Nick Nemec 2015.01.17

    In 1993 Dorothy Kellog served as the sergeant-at-arms of the SD Senate. It was the first year after she had served as a state legislator.

  16. lee schoenbeck 2015.01.17

    Nick, you're right. Democrats controlled the senate those two years and did that. It was apparently wrong then, but I can't think of any other instances of legislators trying to serve as paid state staff. In 1995 Paul Symens was there watching me many days, but all on his own dime.

  17. Nick Nemec 2015.01.17

    Did any number of legislators, from either party, who were educators (either teachers or administrators) violate their oath by serving as legislators and concurrently having a job as an educator?

  18. lee schoenbeck 2015.01.17

    Nick, excellent question. You could add city employees and employees of medical organizations, both of whom likely receive dollars from the state.

    PS I don't get any government money :)

  19. Moses 2015.01.17

    Hey republicans lets talk about that tax increase to fix roads.Heaven forbid when the dems wanted to do intrastructure it was bad.Dems wanted to fix the teacher shortage.Republicans against that.Raise vechlie taxes a second time republicans get the front stage for this.Tax increase, sounds like Photo op who wants a big farm bill themn says hes fiscal.

  20. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.01.18

    I am surprised that the conflict-of-interest clause only covers state and county contracts. Why do we not include contracts with all municipalities in this ban?

  21. Nick Nemec 2015.01.18

    Lee, does your position as a state legislator get you out of being a court appointed lawyer for criminal indigents? Does the state even appoint lawyers for those who can't afford them, or is that something only seen on Law and Order?

  22. Tom 2015.01.18

    If you want to know what makes her tick, spend some time in Milbank and talk to people who know her. . What animates Tyler is her arrogant belief that she is always right, no matter what. She wants you to believe she is the most important person in any conversation or in any room . No matter the subject, she has researched it and is the self-claimed expert at it – EB5 is just the most recent example. There are many more. She’s had her time in Pierre. People now see her for who she is. She single-handedly turned Milbank into the laughing-stock community of South Dakota. Most people in the community now recognize her shortcomings, and it’s the reason so many rejected her at election-time. The feeling in the community toward her now is mostly either pity or indifference.

  23. larry kurtz 2015.01.18

    Taking a shot at a legislator from anonymity: how conservative. Milbank is a hole.

  24. Tom 2015.01.18

    larry what town are you from? what makes milbank a hole? and who said i was from milbank?

  25. larry kurtz 2015.01.18

    Tom, what grade school do you attend and why should we care what you think?

  26. JeniW 2015.01.18

    Tom, to whom has Milbank become a "laughing-stock?"

    There are a lot of people who think they are knowledgeable and have strong opinions.

    But, as like everyone of us, no matter what we do, or do not do, say or do not say, there will always be people who do not like us.

  27. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.01.18

    An arrogant belief that she is always right? What rot, Tom! We all act with conviction in our beliefs. We could just as easily dismiss you by saying you seem quite "arrogantly" convinced that you are right about Kathy Tyler.

    One man's arrogance is another woman's confidence.

    And wow, she does her research, comes to the table with lots of facts about EB-5, more than most people have ever mustered, and that's a reason to criticize her? That argument makes no sense unless you're trying to convince people that they shouldn't pay attention to facts... which is exactly what the big dairies and cheese factories and others benefiting from the EB-5 scandal need South Dakotans to do.

  28. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.01.18

    I agree, JeniW: Tom appears to be throwing words together just to convince himself and others that it's o.k. to insult Kathy Tyler for being smart and strong. I welcome anyone to provide evidence that there is any statewide laughter at Milbank and that Kathy Tyler had anything to do with arousing such laughter.

  29. Bob Klein 2015.01.18

    The easiest way to prove someone is wrong is to check the facts. In November in Grant County, Kathy Tyler won or placed second in every precinct. Perhaps that's "rejection" but I think not.

  30. 96Tears 2015.01.18

    Um, why does Kathy Tyler have to research the criminality of the Rounds and Daugaard (worst of all Jackley!) administrations in the first place, Tom? Other than Kathy, who was doing that? The Attorney General? The Legislature's Government Operations & Audit Committee? The veto-proof GOP majorities in the House and Senate or any of their leadership? Anybody with any power in Pierre? Believe it or not, Tom, that was their job and they refused to do it. They still refuse to do it.

    Kathy Tyler had been out there as our state's whistleblower of the biggest scam in the history of South Dakota. Others joined the chorus.

    If simpletons in Milbank think that makes a woman shrill, hard to like and unelectable for sticking up against racketeering in the highest offices of our state and infecting our state university system, that's their right. They can help the racketeers and their protectors by electing dullards who will help cover it all up.

    But it also says something very significant about the people of Milbank and what kind of town it is.

  31. larry kurtz 2015.01.18

    'Tom' posted an identical comment at DWC anonymously suggesting that PP is up to his old tricks and feigning relevance.

  32. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.01.18

    Bob, you obviously have an arrogant sense of being right. Shame on you. ;-)

  33. Bill Fleming 2015.01.18

    "an arrogant sense of being right."

    Like the cowgirl says, "If you've done it, it ain't braggin'."

  34. mike from iowa 2015.01.18

    Would that cowgirl be Rodeo Drivel Barbie -aka Noem?

  35. Bill Fleming 2015.01.18

    D'pends on what she done and what she ain't, Mike. ;-)

  36. Disgusted Dakotan 2015.01.18

    This is so petty. This where a stronger SDDP could take legal action. Additionally, what about the Republicans that are engaged in contracts with the state and others that serve in other positions in local government. This appears to be more selective enforcement.

    It's amazing how they are willing to cite the SD Constitution when it suits them, and ignore it when it inconveniences them politically.

  37. leslie 2015.01.18

    i remember what a rotten teacher kathy was said to be, going back twenty or more years, according to somebody on this blog. maybe nearer election time when EB5 got as hot as it got. who was that, tom, you remember??

  38. tara volesky 2015.01.18

    Of course Leslie, it was probably a Republican. They don't like Kathy because she is a Woman of Independent means that won't back down.

  39. Curt 2015.01.18

    What about Sen Solano? He serves as an administrator with Behavior Mgmt Systems, which receives a large amount of its revenue thru state contracts.

  40. leslie 2015.01.18

    DD, the party in office employs and/or contracts private lawyers with taxpayer money to sue on issues it doesn't like. SDDP with 175,000 voters rarely will be able to sue as u suggest. grass roots organization must be the key.

  41. grudznick 2015.01.18

    Ms. Volesky, why is it you always think that people don't respect Ms. ____ because she is a woman, and that you cannot come to grips with the reality of uninsantiy that not all women are competent? It's not because Ms. Tyler is a woman that people are saying she is incompetent. It is because she is incompetent that people are saying that. Let us all agree that Ms. Tyler is as androgynous as any.

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