South Dakota investigators were closing in on former South Dakota Secretary of Tourism and State Development Richard Benda when he committed suicide last October.
Attorney General Marty Jackley gave members of the legislature’s Government Operations and Audit Committee a draft of the criminal charges that were going to be filed against Benda during a meeting in Pierre Tuesday morning.
The committee is looking into the alleged financial impropriety in the South Dakota Tourism and State Development Office that came to light last year.
Jackley says the state started investigating Benda in April 2013 after receiving information from federal authorities. Investigators found that Benda had improperly redirected $550,000 of a state grant to the South Dakota Regional Center for loan monitoring fees just a month after he left office. Benda was working as a loan monitor for SDRC in January of 2011 and state agents believe Benda effectively increased the state grant that paid him that $550,000 in fees in December 2010 just a few weeks before he left his position as the South Dakota Secretary of Tourism and State Development.
Jackley said Tuesday morning that the state was about to charge Benda with alternate counts of embezzlement and grand theft for those alleged actions. A grand jury was scheduled to meet on October 28, 2013 to consider the charges but Benda was discovered dead in Charles Mix County on October 22, 2013. His death was ruled a suicide.
Committee member Susan Wismer, who was the only Democrat on the panel Tuesday morning, made a motion following an executive session with Jackley to subpoena Benda’s former boss Joop Bollen who is the President of SDRC. But, the motion failed because no other member of the committee seconded the motion.