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State board members wonder whether conflict waivers can become permanent

PIERRE--During a brief meeting Monday regarding a federal fruits and vegetables grant for Meade School District, several members of the state Board of Education suggested that permanent waivers become an option under South Dakota's financial conf...

PIERRE-During a brief meeting Monday regarding a federal fruits and vegetables grant for Meade School District, several members of the state Board of Education suggested that permanent waivers become an option under South Dakota's financial conflicts law.

The board voted 7-0 to grant a waiver for president Don Kirkegaard, of Sturgis. He is the Meade district's superintendent. He abstained from the vote.

After the roll call, vice chairwoman, Deb Shephard of Watertown, observed there were four state Department of Education staff members gathered for the meeting in Pierre and the eight board members who participated would receive meeting pay.

The teleconference lasted about 10 minutes.

Shephard asked that some consideration be given to making waivers permanent rather than annual. The school-lunch grant is annual.

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Kirkegaard said he agreed with her.

In his waiver application, Kirkegaard said neither he nor the Meade district was receiving any special benefit from the school lunch grants because all school districts can apply.

"The purpose of all these funds is to provide food to students, so they are obviously in the public interest. The South Dakota Board of Educations has no oversight of this funding," the waiver said.

A state law took effect July 1 in the wake of the EB-5 and GEAR UP controversies that were uncovered in the past three years.

The law says:

"No elected or appointed member of a state authority, board, or commission may have an interest in any contract or derive a direct benefit from any contract with the state which is within the jurisdiction or relates to the subject matter of the state authority, board or commission or with a political subdivision of the state if the political subdivision administers or executes similar subject matter programs as the state authority, board or commission, nor may the member have an interest in any contract or derive a direct benefit from any contract for one year after the end of the member's term on the authority, board, or commission except as provided in §§ 3-23-3 and 3-23-4."

Those legal citations refer to exemptions.

Two members of the state Board of Education resigned this summer in regard to the new law. They were Terry Sabers, of Mitchell, and Julie Mathiesen, of Sturgis.

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There are 22 state boards, commissions and authorities that fall under the new law. They include:

• South Dakota Building Authority;

(2) Board of Economic Development;

(3) South Dakota Housing Development Authority;

(4) South Dakota Health and Education Facilities Authority;

(5) Science and Technology Authority Board of Directors;

(6) South Dakota Ellsworth Development Authority;

(7) South Dakota Commission on Gaming;

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(8) South Dakota Lottery Commission;

(9) State Brand Board;

(10) Game, Fish and Parks Commission;

(11) Banking Commission;

(12) Board of Trustees of the South Dakota Retirement System;

(13) Aeronautics Commission;

(14) South Dakota State Railroad Board;

(15) Transportation Commission;

(16) South Dakota Board of Education;

(17) Board of Regents;

(18) Board of Pardons and Paroles;

(19) Board of Minerals and Environment;

(20) Board of Water and Natural Resources;

(21) South Dakota Railroad Authority; and

(22) Board of Water Management.

The law also applies to local public education entities. That section says:

"No board member, fiscal agent, officer, or executive of a local service agency, school district, cooperative education service unit, education service agency, nonprofit education service agency, or jointly governed education service entity that receives money from or through the state may have an interest in a contract nor receive a direct benefit from a contract that the local service agency, school district, cooperative education service unit, education service agency, nonprofit education service agency, or jointly governed education service entity is a party to the contract except as provided in § 3-23-8."

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