An audit commissioned by Mid Central came back this week showing that Mid Central had documentation of expenses for GEAR UP that it turned into the state. But it didn't show how massive amounts of grant money were actually being spent. A list of people and organizations that got $4.5 million over a nearly two-year period includes consultants and a couple of non-profits started by Scott Westerhuis.
The millions flowed in and out of Mid Central for several grants, but the biggest were GEAR UP, Teacher Quality and College Access. And at least one person was getting funds from all three: Brinda Kuhn.
The Eide Bailly audit shows that BC Kuhn Evaluation received $161,000 in GEAR UP money for a two-year period.
Kuhn, of Rapid City, runs a consulting business. On her website it says she provides services in the education field. Those services include evaluating programs and grant writing.
In one month alone, July of 2015, Mid Central paid Kuhn nearly $13,000 for work on three grants: GEAR UP, College Access and Teach Quality. But in January of 2012, Kuhn was paid nearly $30,000 by Mid Central for College Access and GEAR UP. If you go back and add up all the money paid out to Kuhn since June of 2011, it adds up to well over $1 million.
But this isn't Kuhn's only business and Mid Central has also paid out a lot for some of her other endeavors. Kuhn also has several other limited liability corporations registered with the Secretary of State, including Fly Fast, Pixie Air and Hardrocker Aeronautics. Mid Central paid Hardrocker Aeronautics $10,000 both in July of 2014 and July of 2013. Her other company, Pixie Air, was paid $10,000 in July of this year. An article in Lakota Times from 2012 reports that Kuhn taught aviation classes to reservation students for GEAR UP and took the students on a short plane ride.
We repeatedly tried to reach Kuhn to find out what kind of work she was doing on all those grants. We emailed, called and even went to two address she has on file with the Secretary of State's office for her companies, but she wasn't occupying either and people in one of the buildings told us she hasn't been there in a couple of years.
Kuhn also did assessments on GEAR UP, but never had to report how many students actually went to college because of the program.
We asked Mid Central about all the money spent on airplane rides and were referred back to Kuhn.
A couple of other out-of-state groups, The Past Foundation and Learning Solutions, each got half a million dollars over that two year period of the latest audit.
We called both groups to find out how the money was spent and we haven't heard back from them yet, but we'll let you know when we do.
There were also some of Stacy Phelps' relatives getting a lot in GEAR UP funds. Phelps, who was head of American Indian Institute for Innovation, which got $853,000 in that two-year span, was also on the list at $77,000. Korinna and Debra Phelps each got more than $100,000 in that time frame as well.