Sioux Falls, SD
South Dakota got involved with the EB-5 immigrant investor program in 2009 when it entered into an exclusive no-bid contract with Joop Bollen and his firm South Dakota Regional Center Inc.
South Dakota's involvement with EB-5 has come under scrutiny after former South Dakota Tourism Secretary Richard Benda committed suicide last fall.
The state paid Bollen to administer the program and more than a year later, he hired Benda to monitor the loans.
Just in the last few weeks, Attorney General Marty Jackley revealed that investigators were ready to charge Benda with embezzlement as part of his role in administering those EB-5 loans.
Previous Story: AG: Benda Suicide Came Days Prior To Possible Indictment
Documents show during former Governor Mike Rounds' administration, the state got involved with Bollen when it entered into a $45,000 contract with his company. That amount is just under the $50,000 threshold for requiring public bids in South Dakota.
That 2009 contract was signed just a year after Bollen was paid $87,000 a year for doing similar work for the state under the South Dakota Board of Regents.
In a statement to KELOLAND News, Rounds' campaign manager and former chief of staff Rob Skjonsberg said Rounds decided to move Bollen out of the Board of Regents and privatize the EB-5 administration to better compete with other private entities across the country that were doing the same work in other states.
"Over $600 million has been added to the South Dakota economy through federal EB-5 program investments,” Skjonsberg went on to say in defending the state’s EB-5 involvement. “Many of those projects were implemented while Gov. Rounds was in office. Eventually, the Northern Beef plant will also add to the economy; an estimated billion dollars plus per year."
Despite those numbers, the state's involvement in the program is still raising questions and records show it all started with an exclusive, no-bid contract.
South Dakota Democratic leaders plan to hold a news conference Tuesday in Sioux Falls to talk more about the EB-5 program.
Skjonsberg says Democrats want to 'politicize the issue.'
To take a look at the contract the state had with Bollen click the link below: