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March 16, 2017 02:24 PM

Astronaut Testifies In GEAR UP Hearing

An astronaut who served on the board of AIII testified in the GEAR UP hearing Thursday afternoon.  

Day two of the GEAR UP hearings are underway at the Charles Mix County Courthouse in Lake Andes. 

Timeline: Follow The KELOLAND News GEAR UP Investigation From The Beginning

Astronaut John Herrington, who is an AIII board member, gave testimony over the phone from Idaho.  Herrington became involved in 2007 when he met Jay Roman from Rapid City, who asked him to visit the School of Mines Summer program.  

Herrington testified that AIII's mission was to start a charter school based on the GEAR UP summer program for Native Americans.  

Herrington says AIII's purpose was not to make money, but to build a school.  AIII started raising funds for STEM Native American School in the Black Hills in 2008.

Stacy Phelps and Roman asked Herrington to be the chairman of the board for AIII.   Phelps was Chairman and Scott Westerhuis was the Financial Officer.

Herrington says AIII Board of Directors directed activities.  Phelps ran AIII and answered to the board, while Westerhuis answered to Phelps.

Herrington said board had no idea that AIII was out making money by providing Indian Services through contracts.  Herrington says he told Phelps he couldn't operate AIII in a for-profit manner. 

He says when he asked for receipts and balance sheets after the death of Westerhuis and his family in a fire, Phelps said that Westerhuis had kept those.   

“I was so angry, I was beyond angry. I was taken advantage of; the board was taken advantage of and I was pissed,” Herrington testified.  

KELOLAND's Angela Kennecke is in the courtroom.  Follow her on Twitter and Facebook for the latest developments.

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