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September 13, 2017 06:09 PM

Preview: The Twisted Money Trail

Sioux Falls

The “Hand in Hand” telethon, which ran across all three major networks, last night, raised some $44 million dollars in donations for hurricane victims.

KELOLAND-TV held its own telethon nearly two decades ago for storm victims, after the Spencer tornado flattened the town.

Donors always hope that all of the money is used as intended to help victims. But is that always the case?

KELOLAND's Angela Kennecke joins us now with a preview of an investigation which follows the twisted money trail.

If you've lived in KELOLAND for any length of time, you no doubt remember the telethon put on by KELOLAND-TV to raise money for Spencer tornado victims.  Angela was actually one of the hosts. 

We all were amazed by the generosity of our viewers as well as people from all over who donated to a special fund. But despite all the good intentions, did the money go directly to the victims as we all believed it would?

Just a few days after the tornado wiped out Spencer, KELOLAND-TV took to the air for a four-hour telethon to raise money for victims.  

Steve Hemmingsen: "The money raised tonight is from South Dakotans, to South Dakotans, not to agencies but to people, isn't that correct, Gov. Janklow?"

Bill Janklow: "That is correct."

The telethon itself raised three-quarters of a million dollars. When all was said and done, the fund for victims contained $1 million.

The late Governor Janklow appointed a committee to decide how to give out the funds.

“I don't want this fund to be sitting here on a bunch of money when we've got people out there who need it," a SARIN committee member said in 1998.  

Former KELOLAND News Director Mark Millage was on that committee. 

"To the best of my recollection, we'd look at the case specifically; individually--these were people impacted by the tornado," Millage said. 

Millage says the committee met for several months and reimbursed victims for things they needed when they supplied receipts, after they had used all their insurance money. Eventually the committee felt it had done its job and disbanded. 

"Once we hit that point where we felt the funds were allocated, there's always that possibility a project here, a project there, not all the funds we might have allocated were spent," Millage said.

So was there money left over and if so what happened to it?  That's what Spencer tornado victims Dave and Mary Twedt want to know.

"Where did this money actually go?  How did it get used? How much went to the victims. How much went into the town of Spencer itself for rebuilding its infrastructure and stuff?  Bill Janklow on your telethon said not a dime would go into the infrastructure.  That was the state and city's responsibility," Dave Twedt said.

It turns out there was money left that was supposed to go to tornado victims.  Coming up Wednesday at ten on EYE On KELOLAND, we begin the first of a two-part investigation as we follow the twisted money trail and you'll be surprised by what we uncovered actually happened to some of the money, nearly 20 years later. 

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