YANKTON, S.D. (KELO) — The South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation is investigating the Yankton County Department of Equalization.

This information comes following a release from the Yankton County Commission, sent out after confidential information from an executive session of the commission was leaked to the public on a Yankton area Facebook page.

According to the release sent out by the commission, an issue of possible unethical and/or illegal activities by past and present members of the County Department of Equalization, within the Office of the Director of Equalization, was brought to the attention of the County Commission during an executive session.

The charge brought to the Commission and laid out in the release was that both a current employee of the Office of the Director of Equalization, as well as a former Director, may have “wrongfully participated in reducing the real estate and/or personal property tax obligations they owed to Yankton County.”

The release goes on to state that the Commission, “Due to the seriousness of the allegations and because it involved Yankton County employees, both past and present, and to avoid the appearance of favoritism, leniency or conflicts of interest,” referred the matter out of the county to the South Dakota Attorney General’s office. An investigation by the DCI is underway.

The information above was not supposed to be known to the public. During the executive session of the Commission where it was decided to refer the matter to the AG’s office, it was also decided that the matter should “be kept confidential while the investigation was ongoing until the investigation was completed. That would allow the DCI (Division of Criminal Investigation) to perform their job as efficiently as possible.”

This, however, was not what happened. Included in the release is another allegation, this time of an unauthorized publication of information “downloaded” from county computers. The release alleges that the leak was carried out by someone with access to the Office of the Director of Equalization’s computers.

“That incident, or incidents, will now also have to be investigated as either potentially unethical or illegal. Needless to say, contrary to the Facebook release; this entire matter is, and has been, under investigation by out of county investigators,” reads the release. That Facebook post has since been deleted.

Release from the County Commission

Commission Chair Joe Healy addressed the leak in the Commission’s Oct. 4 meeting, noting that the Facebook post also included a letter of resignation from a former county employee that had expressed concerns in her exit interview.

“Somebody took it upon themselves to put that letter out on the internet and jeopardize many different things in the county,” said Healy in the meeting.

“I’m gonna use the word coward,” Healy said, discussing the person who shared the information. “They did not sign this. They put a letter out there that in their recollection recapped what was discussed in the executive session.”

Healy noted that the letter alleged that Healy and co-commissioner Cheri Loest were attempting to sweep the potential illegal behavior under the rug. Healy said that no such attempt was made, and that five of the six commission members (including himself) signed a letter he wrote saying that the anonymous letter shared on Facebook did not reflect what happened in the executive session.