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The Benda Affair: A timeline

By Bob Mercer

Capitol Correspondent

March 18: Federal grand jury serves subpoena on custodian of records for Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s office. Eight sets of records are sought.

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April 8: As result of subpoena, governor via legal counsel Jim Seward sends letter to state Attorney General Marty Jackley requesting investigation. Specific targets are travel vouchers for Dec. 14, 2009, airline ticket to China and March 10, 2010, airline ticket to China. Both involve EB-5 immigrant investments.

Late August: Governor and others receive interim briefing from attorney general about progress of investigation.

Sept. 19: Pat Costello, commissioner of economic development in the Daugaard administration, terminates state contract with SDRC, the Aberdeen-based company that manages EB-5 immigrant investor activities in South Dakota for state government. No reason is given in letter. On Nov. 22, however, governor’s spokesman Tony Venhuizen said August briefing led to the termination.

Oct. 22: The body of Richard Benda is found on a farm near Lake Andes. It is determined he died two days earlier on Oct. 20. He appears to have died from gunshot wound. Benda was secretary of tourism and state development from 2006 through 2010 in then-Gov. Mike Rounds’ administration. Benda wasn’t retained by Daugaard’s new administration in 2011.

Nov. 21: Attorney general announces results of investigation into Benda’s death. Jackley says Benda died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound that is ruled a suicide.

Nov. 21: Jackley sends letter to Daugaard with three major findings from the travel investigation.

Nov. 22: Daugaard releases Jackley letter detailing results from investigation. Jackley says double billing and payment were found regarding two airline tickets to China on Nov. 1, 2009, and Dec. 8, 2009; a third instance of double billing and payment was found regarding an airline ticket to Las Vegas on Jan. 11, 2010; and funds were improperly diverted from a $1 million state Future Fund grant intended for Northern Beef Packers Limited Partnership that was issued in January 2011.