Confusion over whether the South Dakota High School Activities Association is a public or private entity put the group's executive director before lawmakers Tuesday. Even though the Association is supported in part by taxpayer dollars, its lawyer, Lindsey Riter-Rapp, is unsure whether it has to follow the same open meetings and records laws as other state organizations.
The South Dakota Activities Association is a non-profit which oversees activities, including high school athletics, for more than 180 member schools; mostly public, some private. Leading the association is an eight-member board of directors made up of South Dakota educators. The board meets six times a year and publishes its agenda a week before those meetings, it also posts meeting minutes online.
The association is subject to an audit every year and reports annual revenue of $2.2 million dollars. Most of that money comes from state tournaments and TV deals, with just 5-percent from dues paid by schools. A part of that funding comes through local tax dollars, which is why some state lawmakers feel the Association should be considered a public entity and subject to the state's open records rules. After all, they argue, the SDHSAA was created by the legislature and employees take part in the state's retirement system.
But the group's lawyer isn't sure the open records laws apply to the association. Legislative proposals are expected in the coming days to help clearly define whether the SDHSAA is public, or whether it's private. Executive Director Wayne Carney says the association tries to be as transparent as possible with its records, but new legislation could make that mandatory moving forward.
Carney is hoping whatever happens in the legislature helps the SDHSAA erase all doubt about its openness.