Municipal League says public funds not misused on ballot issue supportLeague director cites letter from former attorney general, Larry Long, endorsing practice.
By: Staff reports, The Daily Republic
The South Dakota Municipal League is denying a legislator’s claim that the league used public funds to advocate for a ballot issue.
State Rep. Peggy Gibson, D-Huron, filed a request Thursday with Secretary of State Jason Gant to investigate whether the municipal league is in violation of state law by allegedly using taxpayer dollars to endorse Referred Law 14 in its October monthly magazine.
Specifically, Gibson alleged that the SDML used dues from its member cities to help fund advocacy for Referred Law 14. The cover of the October SDML magazine bears a large “Vote for 14” logo and directs readers to a ballot issues guide inside. A column in the magazine by the organization’s executive director, Yvonne Taylor, says the organization supports passage of the law.
Gibson cites state codified law 12-27-20, which says in part that “The state, an agency of the state, and the governing body of a county, municipality, or other political subdivision of the state may not expend or permit the expenditure of public funds for the purpose of influencing the nomination or election of any candidate, or for the petitioning of a ballot question on the ballot or the adoption or defeat of any ballot question.”
Taylor outlined her denial of the charges in a letter. She said the SDML has publicly supported ballot issues numerous times since 1988.
“I would further add that while our magazine is in no way a profit center, our expenses (printing and mailing) are covered by the advertising revenue, so it is not something that can be said to be paid from any public funds,” she said in the letter.
Taylor also said the issue has been reviewed before.
Former Attorney General Larry Long, now a circuit court judge, provided a letter explaining that.
Long wrote that “it is not illegal for the director of the municipal league to speak out on ballot measures that directly concern and pertain to municipalities. It is her job.”
Taylor said a claim that her organization acts inappropriately is something she takes very seriously.
“We are, and I believe our long record shows we have always been, strictly nonpartisan, and I cannot think of a single issue where any party decision has influenced our own,” she said.