Commission Candidate Challenges Argus Leader and SDPB Reporting

The Argus Leader’s October 19, 2010 cover story dedicated almost half of the Heidepriem-Daugaard Gubernatorial debate story to a 10-second exchange that occurred between our Lt. Governor and myself. Even then, the story failed to get the facts in the correct order. They wrongly reported that I verbally interrupted the Lt. Governor. Watch the clip on my FACEBOOK page and you too will see what actually happened.

SDPB radio news was no better. After the Argus coverage appeared, Gary Ellenbolt of South Dakota Public Radio called me to request a phone interview.  In it, I made it clear that the Argus had inaccurately detailed the timeline of the event. He ignored this. He also ignored the Lt. Governor’s stunning statement that the Valhalla excesses were “not on my watch!”

“Not on my watch!”

I admit it. When Lt. Gov. Dennis Daugaard used these words to defend the policy of the Rounds/Daugaard administration’s management of the Governor’s private Valhalla retreat, I gasped at his audacity.

Lt. Governor Daugaard then pointed at me and asked, “Reynold do you have something to say?” It was then that I said, in answer to a direct question, “I’m sorry. You’ve been Lt. Governor for the last 8 years.”

That got me escorted out of the debate. Because I am a candidate for Minnehaha County Commission, the Argus Leader put my name on the front page of the paper. Ellenbolt followed and put the story on the top of the news hour that evening.

What I most deeply regret about this event is that my remark drew attention from this important Gubernatorial debate and race. This exchange is part of a longer history.

In 2006 I led the successful ballot issue to stop Gov. Mike Rounds’ abuse of our state airplanes for his family’s and friends’ entertainment.

Back then there was no public reporting of who was on board, why the trip was being made, or how much each trip cost us—the taxpayers. Only through the persistent inquiries and reporting by the Argus Leader and then by our successful Initiated Measure #5 campaign did the Governor change. He finally realized the public would no longer tolerate his using of our assets for his personal benefit. This was not a one-time event. The Rounds/Daugaard administration has a pattern of self-serving behavior.

For instance, for most of the Daugaard and Rounds administration, the press has reported on:

  • Rounds family members receiving state jobs and contracts;
  • Special favor legislation given to Rounds’ family members for a vodka distillery;
  • A new $3 million governor’s mansion funded by a secret list of friends who may or may not be calling for favors;
  • No bid contracts for campaign buddies, including the exclusive no-bid contract for $11 million to Lawrence & Schiller; (We also learned that Daugaard’s daughter worked for L&S while the public learned of the under-the-table wheeling and dealing in the Governor’s office.)
  • The Governor’s Club scandal and secret invitation lists for the Governor’s Annual Pheasant Hunt;
  • Blocking attempts to force state government to open up public records, and allowing only a watered down version of an open government bill to become law;
  • Rounds/ Daugaard administration’s using of the historic Valhalla retreat as an exclusive get-away for pals and family.

Gov. Peter Norbeck built Valhalla in the Black Hills. It is funded by the State Game Department. The Governor’s decision to remodel it prompted Republican former State Senator, Jerry Apa of Lead, to write a letter to the editor at the Rapid City Journal on Sept. 3. He reported that he and other members of the Appropriations Committee were kept in the dark about Valhalla despite hundreds of thousands of dollars funding it.

At every step of the way, the Rounds/Daugaard administration has conducted itself as an exclusive club designed to benefit family and friends while excluding South Dakota’s taxpayers, citizens and when necessary the Appropriations Committee.

My surprise at Lt. Governor Daugaard’s remark during the debate, then, was well-earned.

All of the events listed above irrefutably occurred on Dennis Daugaard’s watch. He was and still is on the state payroll as our Lt. Governor. His friend and political ally Governor Rounds endorsed Daugaard three years ago at the start of his campaign.

The entire audience was engaged Monday evening during the debate. While I regret that above all other claps and hollers—many of them from Tea Party members themselves—my personal gasp caught the Lt. Governor’s attention. However, I do not apologize for answering a question posed directly to me. I simply reminded our Lt. Governor that he was elected eight years ago to serve the people of South Dakota as the number two man in the Rounds/Daugaard administration. If it weren’t his watch, then what was he doing on our payroll for the last 8 years?

Daugaard can’t have it both ways: he can’t point to his past experience as Lt. Governor as a qualification for his candidacy, and at the same time declare that the troubled politics and policies of the last eight years were “Not on my watch!”


#1 Working Families on 10.21.10 at 2:59 pm

Dear Dr. Nesiba,
You provide a lot of background regarding the Valhalla retreat. Unfortunately, that is not why you made the news. The Gubernatorial debate was lively, the moderator had warned the crowd twice not to interfere as the candidates were responding. Daugaard supporters were cheering, Heideprim supporters were shaking the cowbells- and that was O.K. They were allowed to stay throughout the duration, because the supporters cheering from both sides of the aisle were not interferring as candidates were speaking. Reynold, you were there when the moderator warned the crowd two times earlier not to interfere with the candidates, yet you continued to disrupt anyway.
We all remember the kid in Grade School who was disrupting the class. The teacher would say “excuse me, Johnny, do you have something you’d like to say?” Usually, Johnny was wise enough to be quiet and not continue. Unfortunately, Reynold, you continued to cause disruption.

#2 Andrew on 10.21.10 at 3:06 pm

Mr. Nesiba,

As Lieutenant Governor of South Dakota, what authority did Mr. Daugaard have to stop the work at Valhalla if he wished to?

Also, what obligations are there on the Governor to include the Lt. Gov. or the legislature on his decision to remodel Valhalla?

Thank you in advance for your response.


Andrew T.

#3 concernedliberal on 10.21.10 at 5:58 pm

I am confused. Is Nesiba running for the county commission or for governor?

#4 Mike C on 10.21.10 at 6:39 pm

I wondered why the Argus Leader gave so coverage to what should have been a brief exchange in what is normally an hour program

While trying to piece together all the pieces of media about what happened there it sounds more like a bar room brawl than a debate.

#5 DDC on 10.21.10 at 6:39 pm

I’m still really curious to hear the rest of the debate from the camera that the Heidepriem team was using. It would have been pretty close to where Nesiba was sitting and would clear things up pretty easily.

The snippet that Nesiba put on his Facbook page is pretty tough to hear, especially over the snicker of the person that was doing the recording. I’m also curious as to whether or not there were previous things that happened that may have led to him being asked to leave.

I have no idea what happened, but it would be pretty easy to see if Team Heidepriem would put the entire debate on their youtube channel (like they have in the past).

#6 l3wis on 10.21.10 at 7:45 pm

DDC – I agree. I would like to hear the entire debate.

#7 Kevin on 10.31.10 at 4:39 pm

If Daugaard has no authority as Lt. Governor, then why do we have one?

#8 l3wis on 10.31.10 at 7:46 pm

Breaks tie votes.