Auditor says state government lacks ability to monitor for legislative conflicts
Legislature's Executive Board wants clear-cut policy for lawmakers entering state contracts
PIERRE – Contracts between the state and entities associated with South Dakota legislators are again in the spotlight as top lawmakers this week raised questions about inconsistent enforcement of the constitutional prohibition.
Members of the South Dakota Legislature’s Executive Board on Tuesday, during a review of state contract procedures, voiced frustrations around uncertain conflict of interest standards for lawmakers and how state finance officers monitor potential violations.
“One of these people had to resign and pay half a million dollars back, and the other person didn’t have to do anything,” Senate President Pro Tempore Lee Schoenbeck said, referring to state contracts bearing the names of former Sen. Jessica Castleberry and Rep. Kevin Jensen. “There has to be a consistent approach otherwise it looks like we are shoveling things under the rug.”
In August, Castleberry resigned her legislative seat after settling a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office. Her daycare business had illegally accepted more than $600,000 in stimulus funds appropriated by the state Legislature. Meanwhile, potential financial conflicts like Jensen’s — who has been listed on contracts between the state and his wife’s chemical dependency counseling company — and at least a dozen others have gone unchecked by state authorities.
In a call with The Dakota Scout following the meeting, Jensen took issue with the comparison made by Schoenbeck, saying he’s never taken financial compensation from any entities who’ve received state funds.
“I have never received a penny of compensation … while serving in office,” he said, characterizing any services he’s provided to Prairie Prevention Services and Dakota Drug and Alcohol Prevention as volunteer work.
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