At the last Pennigton County Commissioners meeting on Oct. 2 the board voted to ask commissioner George Ferebee to resign.
There were two parts to the motion that was voted on. One was to send a letter to ask for his resignation and the other part was to request Pennington County State’s Attorney Mark Vargo to pursue civil action in circuit court regarding whether Ferebee violated state law.
The state law in question is South Dakota Codified Law 7-8-2. On a voter registration card, Ferebee changed his address from Hill City to Rapid City on Aug. 14. He also changed his party affiliation from Republican to the Constitution Party. Three days later he changed his address back to his Hill City residence on a new voter registration card. The county commissioner kept the Constitution Party affiiation on the new card.
Apparently, Ferebee changed his address because he wanted to run for the state Legislature from Rapid City on the Constitution Party ticket.
At the commissioners meeting Vargo said he planned to pursue the civil action, which would ask a circuit court to decide whether Ferebee is still in office, or if his actions rendered the office vacant.
The letter sent to Commissioner George Ferebee from the Board of Commissioners requesting his honorable resignation from his District 1 Commission seat states that he has vacated his office when a new voter registration form was filed with the Pennington County auditor. The last line in the letter states to have Ferebee hand in his resignation via writing to the county auditor as is required by state law.
The commission cited Ferebee’s lack of attendance at its regular meetings as problems. The letter states “your absence from meetings, without explanation, has become a regular course of conduct by you that calls into question your willingness to represent your district or the citizens of Pennington County in general.”
Board Chairman Lloyd LaCroix said that when addresses are changed the commissioner is supposed to resign.
LaCroix spoke about a phone call he had about this issue with Ferebee.
“The judge’s ruling was the next day or something like that and he needed the registration,” LaCroix said.
He told Ferebee to let him know whenever he found out and he talked about the resignation and what would happen if he moved to Rapid City. Under a judge’s ruling the Constitution Party could not be on the ballot.
“He never did call me back and I never did hear from him,” LaCroix said.
LaCroix said that his attendance at the meetings has been sporadic since he lost his bid for re-election in June.
His attendance at meetings has been an issue since this past summer but it wasn’t until the last couple of meetings that the Board of Commissioners decided to take action. LaCroix thinks that it is very important to attend the regular meetings. There have been two cases already where a 2-2 tie happened. The items had to be moved to another meeting due to passionate and heavy discussion. In the letter sent to Ferebee it also states that “ your absence from meetings also reduces the Commission to a four member board which certainly increases the chance of tie votes on regular items and risks not having a quorum for Board of Adjustment items and/or requirement that unanimous decisions must occur to approve variances.”
At one of the meetings Ferebee reportedly wanted to move to address something and put it on the agenda but the commission didn’t allow that to happen. LaCroix said he picked up his stuff and left after that.
Ferebee was succesful at getting the item on the agenda at the next meeting. LaCroix doesn’t remember what it was about. He thought it was along the lines of a MacArthur Foundation grant. Ferebee was at that meeting for part of the time but left once again being absent for the board’s discussion on a point of order item Ferebee specifically wanted to discuss.
At the Oct. 2 meeting LaCroix wanted to give Ferebee the chance to explain what was going on. LaCroix thought that Ferebee would attend the Oct. 2 meeting.
When Ferebee changed his address on a voting card the county auditor called LaCroix and said that a county commissioner moved his address outside of his ward. LaCroix said that the commissioners have an understanding that the change of voter registration was the wrong thing to do. The issue has left them feeling like the only honorable and respectful thing to do is to ask Ferebee to resign.
LaCroix relates what is happening with Ferebee to something the Meade County commissioners went through in 2016 with Alan Aker. It is a little bit different because Aker was suspended as he faced two felonies and a misdemeanor criminal charge related to a dispute over a construction project.
According to the Rapid City Journal, at the Oct. 2 meeting county commissioner Deb Hadcock questioned whether sending a letter would be effective, but she and Buskerud ultimately voted in favor of the motion. Mark DiSanto, who voted against the motion, offered a sustitute motion to formally ask Ferebee by letter to attend the commission’s next meeting and provide an explanation for the meeting voter-registration changes. This motion failed as no one seconded it.
As it stands now, Ferebee will attend the next County Commissioners meeting. There is nothing the commissioners are planning to do on the matter besides the letter. If Ferebee wants to be able to take a few minutes to explain himself LaCroix said that he will be allowed to do so. In a report by Blackhills Fox KEVN, Ferebee’s attorney R. Shawn Tornow stated Ferebee is going to continue to be a commissioner on the Pennington County Commission.
“If the Pennington County State’s Attorney wants to waste the county taxpayer’s time, money and expense of the court trying to pile on this unfair, protracted targeting of George, then we’re more than willing to show up and defend George’s right to continue with his elected term of office,” Tornow said.
The regular Board of County Commissioners meetings are held the first and third Tuesdays of the month.