Dispute erupts over prosecutor job in Jerauld Co.Losing incumbent files suit to keep office.
By: Anna Jauhola, The Daily Republic
WESSINGTON SPRINGS — The losing incumbent candidate in the Jerauld County state’s attorney race is refusing to leave office, even after the new attorney was sworn in Monday morning.
Casey Bridgman lost the June Republican primary election to Dedrich “Deach” Koch, who was unopposed in the November general election.
Koch also won the state’s attorney position for Buffalo County in November, but he relinquished that position before being sworn in because Bridgman challenged his right to hold two state’s attorney positions, Koch said.
“After consulting with the attorney general’s office, they felt that to be safe I should probably pick one or the other,” Koch said. “Since I ran for Jerauld County first, I resigned from Buffalo County.”
Bridgman supported his argument with South Dakota Codified Law 12-6-3, which says, in part, “No person may be a candidate for nomination or election to more than one public office.”
Holding two state’s attorney positions is not unprecedented. In The Daily Republic’s print circulation area, at least two attorneys hold dual state’s attorney posts — Anita Fuoss serves Jones and Lyman counties, and Alvin Pahlke serves Tripp and Todd counties. Bridgman said Todd County is unincorporated and Pahlke is contracted to serve as an attorney there.
Koch lives in Gann Valley and works in Fort Thompson as a public defender for the Crow Creek tribe. He said South Dakota law is unclear on the Jerauld County situation and can be interpreted several ways.
Bridgman, of Wessington Springs, filed a lawsuit Monday and Koch filed a counter suit, with Koch claiming Bridgman “is usurping and intruding into and unlawfully exercising and carrying over in the office,” Koch said Monday afternoon. Filings in the case were not immediately available to The Daily Republic.
Bridgman said his biggest problem with Koch holding the state’s attorney job in Jerauld County is that he is not a resident of Jerauld County. Koch can legally run for the office from a contiguous county, Bridgman said, but the county’s personnel policy states “its employees should reside within its boundaries.” It continues to say that anyone hired by the county must either reside there or move to the county within 60 days of the first date of employment.
“I’ve had to comply with the law for 30 years. I think he should be able to comply with the law, too,” Bridgman said.
At 3 p.m. Monday, the attorneys attended a hearing at Huron in front of Judge Jon Erickson to plead their cases.
“It’s a civil action by the court,” Koch said. “The court will grant one of us the right to hold the office. Right now the whole county is in limbo.”
Koch said Erickson will make his decision on who has the right to hold the Jerauld County state’s attorney’s office by Thursday.
“I lost the election and if Deach would have complied with the law, he would have had every right to be state’s attorney,” Bridgman said. “But if he can’t comply with the law, he should not be allowed to be state’s attorney.”