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August 29, 2017 10:00 PM

Former Education Official Warned State Had Lied To Feds In GEAR UP Performance Reports

Pierre, SD

​Originally Published at 10:45 a.m. 

The South Dakota Department of Education has now released the emails of a second former Director of Indian Education, whom it calls more "credible" than LuAnn Werdel.

The emails from Roger Campbell also warn the department in 2012 about problems with the GEAR UP grant that had existed since its start in South Dakota.  And it appears from an email that Secretary Melody Schopp didn't like the fact that Campbell repeated his warnings more than once. 

Campbell was Director of Indian Education from 2011-2012.  He replaced Werdel who had also warned the state about problems with Mid Central, GEAR UP and College Access grants.  


In his clearly outlined emails in April of 2012 to Schopp, Campbell is critical of the job Dan Guericke, Stacy Phelps and Scott Westerhuis were doing at Mid Central with the GEAR UP grant.  Campbell complained as project director of the grant, he wasn't being included in management decision and oversight.  He pointed out that evaluator Brinda Kuhn had conflicts because she also collected the data on GEAR UP and said that her reports were inaccurate about the actual progress of the GEAR UP program. 

Campbell also said the State had lied to the federal government in GEAR UP performance reports about "certain activities that had taken place when they had not."

Campbell says accountability of the first GEAR UP program was "nonexistent," since it started in 2005.  He also said there had been no audits of the federal program for the seven years it had been running up until the time he became Director of Indian Education.

Campbell called for a line-by-line audit especially of personnel, supplies, equipment and travel for the program.   Campbell pointed out that those at Mid-Central were spending money without having contracts in place. He also finds many of the same problems with the College Access Grant. 

Campbell even pointed out the lack of checks and balances and multiple roles Scott Westerhuis held, including Chief Financial Officer of the organization that took grant money, The American Indian Institute for Innovation. 

Campbell writes in an email that he is accused of being misguided and ill-intentioned by pointing out all these problems, but that he was acting in the best interests of the South Dakota Department of Education to improve transparency, accountability and clarity of the grants. 

Campbell resent all his same concerns to Secretary Schopp in an August 1, 2012 email, in which she replied:

"Roger--We need to stop doing this back and forth.  I don't know where this is going and it seems all this is going to do is further the issues. This was April. It is useless at this point to address the issues again.  Can we simply move forward?  Melody"


An attorney for the state says actions were taken by the Department of Education to address Campbell's concerns and that the audits of Mid-Central found unauthorized withdrawals from Mid Central's bank account, not missing GEAR UP funds. 

On July 24, 2017 when testifying before GOAC, Secretary Schopp told legislators: "There was an email that went back and forth with Mr. Campbell that explains some of his concerns."

She went onto say that that's why they were documenting things to see if it was a concern. 

But a short time later when Schopp was pressed by Senator Stace Nelson for Campbell's emails Schopp said:

“I’m not sure exactly what you're asking and what that document would be. I don't have a specific email exchange.  There were conversations that went on between the two of us. And I'd have to find something very specific because I can't remember specifically to the level of detail you're asking about."  

Our recent calls to Campbell, who now works for the U.S. Department of the Interior in Kansas, have not been returned.  He told KELOLAND News in March of 2016 that he left the Department of Indian Education by his own accord and could not help regarding issues with the GEAR UP grant during his time in office. 

See our exclusive interview with LuAnn Werdel here



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