The whole point of free speech is not to make ideas exempt from criticism but to expose them to it.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Grand jury indicts seven men for garbage fraud

A Pennington County grand jury has indicted seven people for conspiring to cheat the Rapid City Landfill out of more than $100,000 in tipping fees over seven years. The indictments were handed down Thursday.

Read the story here.

The exposure of this fraud was the precipitating event that led the Rapid City Council to censure member Sam Kooiker. It is likely that the fraud would be ongoing today had it not been for Kooiker.


Anonymous said...

You are confusing coincidence with causation. There is nothing to indicate the fraud and conspiracy would go on forever. Crimes rarely do.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Sanborn confused anything. This fraud went on for, at least, seven years. Sam demanded an investigation (not the one day investigation that Ellis conducted) and within months the fraud was palable even to the Mayor who, according to Alderman Weifenbach, told the Mayor about the fraud over two years ago.

Bill Fleming said...

Anon, 3:14 March 7. (Boy it would be nice if you folks would use at least a pseudonym. This place is starting to look like SDWC with all the "Anonymouses.)

Anyway... I don't understand what your post is saying.

First, note that the post is Newland's not Sanborn's. Next, who told whom what two years ago?

Can you please clarify?

taco said...

Fleming, ok, I'll be "taco" from here on out. My bad on getting the authors of the posts mixed up.

Those who actually watched the hearing know that Alderman Weifenbach (sp. ?) said, at the hearing, that two years ago, he, Weifenbach, told Hanks that he, Weifenbach, heard fraud was being committed at the landfill.

Hanks, in a later article in the Journal, claims that he doesn't recall Weifenbach telling him about Weifenbach's tip that something was amiss at the landfill.

Does Hanks really not recall the above described conversation? Is Alerman Weifenbach lying? I don't have the answers, but it sounds like we either have an Alderman who is lying or a Mayor who is, at best, negligently forgetful or, at worst, involved in some sort of cover up.

Bill Fleming said...

Okay, taco, thanks.

That's what I thought you were saying, I just wanted to be sure. I get that you're saying that it wasn't Sam who uncovered this after all. It was Weifenbach.

Is that your claim?

Do you know how Weifenbach would know? What his evidence was?

taco said...

Bill, ask Weifenbach why he called the Mayor two years ago to talk about concerns at the landfill - the Alderman didn't elaborate at the hearing.

Weifenbach maintains that it was Sam's persistence that uncovered the shady dealings at the landfill - I read that in the same article in which the Mayor said he didn't recall Weifenbach calling him with concerns about the landfill.

Michael Sanborn said...

Weifenbach, acting on a constituent's concern, personally brought the matter to the attention of the mayor two years ago. He was told nothing was wrong at the landfill.

This year, Kooiker, acting on a constituent's concern, via email brought the matter to the attention of the Public Works Director, who conducted a half fast investigation, at which time, Kooiker and Weifenbach forced the issue and got the real investigation which has SO FAR resulted in seven indictments.

Bill Fleming said...

Okay, so Kookier didn't uncover anything, is that correct? And what evidence did Weifenbach present other than heresay?

Michael Sanborn said...

Gee Bill, you working for Alan again...and so soon?

Kooiker's persistence is what got the landfill fraud uncovered. Was he the prime investigator? No. Was he the primary reason the real investigation took place? Without question.

Can't you accept that Hanks and his boys simply dropped the ball on this one? The evidence in the record is quite clear. Hanks and his public works director botched at least one investigation, and were obviously negligent when Weifenbach brought it up years prior.

Seems to me that when sitting aldermen (no matter how much you don't like them) bring to your attention (from separate sources) potential fraud, that the matter deserves more concern than patting said aldermen on the head and telling them to go away and mind their own business.

Bill, you know this is politically very bad for Hanks. That doesn't mean that the correct position is to continue to try to smear the guy who did his job well, does it? Bad, bad policy. You can try, as it was tried, to smear Kooiker, but the guy is about as squeaky clean as it gets and everybody – including most of the voters in this town – knows it.

If you're working for Hanks, advising him to continue attacking the guy who has clearly become the most popular public servant in Rapid City, is folly and will be done at his political peril.

I believe the next election will verify that position. Mayoral elections are more than a year away. That's a lot of time. And, Kooiker has made no indication that he's even iterested in running.

But, even you have to admit Bill, that if the election were held tomorrow, Kooiker walks away with it.

Bill Fleming said...

No, I'm not working for Hanks.

Not even sure when the next mayors race might be.

Just trying to separate opinion from fact and by extension, heat from light, Mike.

So far your posts seem long on the former and short on the latter.

Hey, somebody's gotta tell ya, man. Get us the facts, bro, that's what reporters are for, right?

Michael Sanborn said...

It is not my opinion that Weifenbach and Kooiker brought problems at the landfill to the attention of city administrators, including Hanks.

It is not my opinion that the initial investigations at the landfill were botched. That's part of the record. And is available at the Journal, and I've posted the emails that made it clear, right here on the forum.

Obviously, I don't have time to be a full-time reporter. But, I've provided the facts, mon. So has the Journal. You appear to want to believe the facts are not the facts.

All perception and spinning aside. The fact is that were it not for Weifenbach and Kooiker, the corruption that has been going on at the landfill for years, would still be going on.

No heat. Just light. It's all been posted and published. More will likely come out in the trials of the Sanitary (Landfill) Seven.

In spite of what you may believe, reporters, no matter how aggressive are not privy to DCI investigations or grand jury deliberations.

We'll have to wait for the long had of the law to run its course to get a clearer story. What is clear, is that the reason we're going to find out anything is due to the Weifenbach's and Kooiker's persistence.

Bill Fleming said...

Whatever, Mike. I know what has been written in the papers and on this Blog. No need to review that with me here.

But I trust you understand the law.

No evidence, no indictment.

So again, what evidence did Weifenbach — and later Kookier — present other than here say?

Is it that you don't know?

Or that you know and can't say?

Bill Fleming said...

Not sure if you've read this article, Mike:

Accusing someone of a crime is serious business, Mike. So is accusing someone of criminal negligence.

Bill Fleming said...

There's also this article:


"The city has stayed largely quiet on the criminal investigation, but Mayor Alan Hanks said that isn't because they were not being responsive. Until the indictments came down, there was little the city could say without jeopardizing the ongoing investigation, he said.

"There have been some people making suggestions that we haven't been diligent in prosecuting it, but that's the furthest thing from the truth. We've been working very hard, and the outcome of that is there are criminal indictments," Hanks said. "It's our intent as a city to prosecute them to the full extent of the law and make sure any monies due to the city of Rapid City are fully recovered."

Hanks said credit was due to the city attorney's office, the Rapid City Police Department and South Dakota Legislative Audit, which assisted in comparing Fish's records to those of the former Merillat particleboard plant, for working quickly to build a case against the now-defunct commercial hauler."

Michael Sanborn said...

Nobody is accusing anyone of being criminally negligent. I'm accusing people of not taking seriously information given to them by two different elected officials at two different times. That is negligent.

Whether or not it rises to criminal negligence is up to grand juries and prosecutors, and apparently from the indictments, it does not.

Negligence that might make a voter consider an alternative the next time they are in the voting booth, is quite another thing, isn't it?

I'm really good at cherry-picking quotes from Journal articles, too.

What surprises me, Bill, is that the truth about much of this is quite obvious. Why, unless you're getting paid to do so, would you try to obscure the truth here?

Bill Fleming said...

Because I don't see it the way you do, Michael. I think you're letting your emotions drive your reasoning.

Think about what you're saying here. By your logic, if this has been going on as long as you say, EVERYONE on the council and EVERY mayor has been negligent here and deserves to get the boot, not just the ones you don't care for.

What you are doing in essence, it seems to me, is blaming the victims to suit your political purposes.

It's an intellectually untenable position.

Suppose you had an employee who embezzled from you. Would it be fare for me to say, well Mike, it's been going on for years right under your nose. Something must be wrong with you for not catching it. I wouldn't say that. And I wouldn't even think it.

Michael Sanborn said...

I didn't say that every mayor and every council was negligent...especially the councils.

Look. As the chief executive of a municipal corporation, the mayor has the responsibility. It is clear from the indictments that this has been going on since prior to Hanks' administration.

So, yes I am saying that the mayors involved allowed this to happen, through bad management and poor choices in who they had overseeing the cookie jar.

But, no, I am not saying a single council person is responsible or negligent. I am saying that once the matter was discovered, it should not have been dismissed out of hand, as it was for Mr. Weifenbach. And, I'm saying that it should not be so difficult to have city staff take matters of fraud more seriously than they obviously did.

City staff had to be pushed into a real investigation of these matters.

Bill Fleming said...

Suit yourself, Mike.

I will tell you one more time in closing, that I am not being paid nor even encouraged by anyone to speak my mind on this issue. My thoughts are completely my own.

And in this instance, I KNOW precisely what the truth of my statement is, in spite of your opinions and cynical suspicions to the contrary.

It is for this very reason that I submit you are being irrational here, both you and Bob — sadly to the point of being outright abusive.

I'm extremely disappointed in both of you.

Good luck in finding a replacement for me here.

Please don't refer anyone to me for a positive reference.

Grendel said...

Gee whiz, Mr. Fleming, I have watched this conversation over the course of several topic strings on this blog.

I am a pyschological professional, and it seems to me that you exhibit exceptionally strong strains of passivity/aggressivity.

All my friends have no problem ascertaining that, given the central facts as reported by the newspaper and Mr. Sanborn, most members of the City Council were overboard in their censure vote, and that several highly placed city executives and management personnel were derelict in their duties.

John Jameson said...

I think Fleming has quite a little nerve calling other people abusive.

Bill Fleming said...

That's interesting, Grendel. Most of my friends who practice psychology have taken the time to learn how to spell the name of their discipline.

Seen Beowulf lately? Got any more tall tales? ;^)

Bill Fleming said...

Side note: I guess I kind of resent Grendel's classification of me as "passive aggressive." I've always thought of myself as more of an "activist." Oh well, I am getting older, I suppose.

Michael Sanborn said...

I don't get where either Bob or I have been abusive. Certainly not my intention.

I'm apparently not making myself clear. And, I can't understand, in light of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, how you've come to some of your conclusions. It isn't like you.

And, yes we're having difficulty finding someone of your caliber to take your place on the left.

That does not diminish my desire to have the left represented here. Makes for spirited debate, which is what I thought we were having.

Sorry you confused it for abuse.