SD Legislators Respond to Denial of Information

I received an email just a few minutes ago from South Dakota Rep. Stace Nelson with a letter sent by himself and three other legislators to Rep. Charles Turbiville, Chairman of the South Dakota Legislative Executive board.

The letter concerns allegations that confidentiality may have been violated concerning legislative bill research when Republican members of South Dakota’s House leadership are said to have pressured members of the Legislative Research Council staff for the information.

This is the text of the letter sent today:

December 23, 2011
Charles M. Turbiville, Chairman
South Dakota Legislative Executive Board
500 East Capitol Ave.
Pierre, SD 57501

Re: December 10, 2011, Letter-Denial of Request for Information and Records

Chairman Turbiville:

We are in receipt of your above-referenced letter, and appreciate the opportunity to respond. We respectfully disagree with your denial and renew our requests for several reasons.

South Dakota’s Legislative Research Council (LRC) and Director Fry are accountable to each of the 105 legislators and, as such, the LRC is to serve each legislator impartially. Any determination to the contrary promotes the very circumstances that have been exploited that led to the conduct in question. The behavior alluded to in our initial letter has been notorious within the House Republican Caucus, in detail, for months. In fact, detailed complaints of this conduct were made known to you and House leadership months ago, by email and personal discussions, with no discernable actions undertaken to rectify the conduct or the reported ongoing obstruction of legislators’ services by the LRC pursuant to your order. In your letter, you request specificity of the facts already known to us.

A recap of factual information previously reported:

  • Director Fry confirmed, in writing, that Representative Turbiville ordered Representative Nelson’s bill research, on placing cumulative voting records online, withheld.
  • An LRC staff attorney reported Representatives Lust, Rausch, and Cronin met with Director Fry early during the 2011 legislative session and chastised Director Fry for the subject matter of bills being brought by legislators and allegedly demanded access to legislators’ bill research.
    • Representative Lust and others confirmed that the above-referenced meeting with Director Fry did, in fact, occur.
    • An LRC attorney reported being required to violate the confidentiality of legislators and confirmed providing Representative Lust with Representatives Steele’s, Hubbel’s, and another legislator’s confidential bill research and interacting with Representative Lust on the information.

We appreciate your recent decision to recuse yourself from participating in the investigation of this matter as a result of the above-mentioned facts. Similarly, all special investigative committee members should be impartial and should have not pre-judged the matters charged to investigate. Unfortunately, Senator Joni Cutler, who you have appointed, has made statements to the media wherein she stated that “*t+here’s nothing secret that anybody could do with the information they would gain about a bill draft in the first place.” Senator Cutler is also attributed with the statement that the request for information about violation of legislators’ confidentiality is confidential. On the face, it appears that Senator Cutler believes that the only potential violation of confidentiality here is the confidentiality of the conduct by legislators who violated the confidentiality of LRC and of their legislative colleagues. Senator Cutler’s statements are prejudicial and demonstrate an obvious bias toward the matter to be investigated by the committee. As such, she should recuse herself from serving on this subcommittee.

We respectfully request that: (1) the full executive board determine if it has the authority to investigate this matter, and (2) if it determines that it has the authority and willingness to investigate this matter, the entire executive board, itself, should appoint a truly fair and impartial membership of said committee to investigate this matter.

Thank you in advance for your thoughtful consideration of our requests.

(Digitally Signed)

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