Billing for a state-government logo was from same address as home of a key state official

Capitol News Bureau
KELO South Dakota capitol Pierre legislature

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Facing questions about the design, the head of a South Dakota state government agency has unexpectedly changed course and stopped using a logo that showed a dome resembling the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

The state Bureau of Administration has instead switched to a second new logo that more clearly looks like the South Dakota Capitol dome.

But the logo switch has now prompted deeper questions about payment for the work.

Image on left from Nov. 9, 2020 | Image from right from Dec. 1, 2020

The bureau paid $2,000 to a firm for designing the first version. The additional work that produced the second version was done, for free, by the same firm, DesignWorks, led by Tara Berg of Pierre.

The address on the DesignWorks invoice to the bureau is the same as the home address for Steven Berg. He is head of the bureau’s office of procurement management. They are married.

Questions that KELOLAND News sent last week to Tara Berg and Steven Berg, Commissioner of Administration Scott Bollinger, and deputy commissioner Andy Gerlach haven’t been answered.

KELOLAND News first asked state officials about the D.C.-style logo November 9. Initially the governor’s communications director, Ian Fury, defended it.

“BOA hired a South Dakota firm to design the logo, and we are quite happy with it,” Fury told KELOLAND News on November 12.

Other KELOLAND News questions from November 9 remained unanswered by Fury and Bollinger: Whether a firm had been hired to design a logo, how long the U.S. Capitol-like logo had been on the bureau website, and whether the bureau planned to change it.

On November 14, KELOLAND News discovered that Tara Berg was listed as a presenter on the topic of “BOA Branding” at a BOA managers retreat August 5.

A LinkedIn profile for Berg listed her employment at DesignStrat / Maxwell Strategies, a Pierre firm. Her resume showed 16 years at the South Department of Tourism before going to the private sector.

Presented with that information, Fury confirmed on November 14 for the first time that she was responsible. “Tara Berg did do the work on the logo. No, it is not designed after the US Capitol.”

Other KELOLAND News questions from November 9 still weren’t answered.

None of the names — Tara Berg, Chris Maxwell, DesignWorks, DesignStrat or Maxwell Strategies — came up during KELOLAND News searches of state government’s open.sd.gov site. The “OpenSD” site shows some financial contracts and payments.

On November 16, KELOLAND News turned to state Auditor Rich Sattgast. He reported that a hand search for contracts on file at his office, but not yet put into the system, didn’t find any active contracts for any of those names.

Sattgast said his office had one expired contract for DesignWorks, but it ended in 2011, and three expired contracts for Chris Maxwell that all ended in either 2015 or 2016.

“My office only files consulting contracts and this sounds more like a service contract which would be filed with BOA,” Sattgast said. He added, “When the agency would submit a voucher for payment to that vendor they would reference what service they were paying for.”

Sattgast further noted, “As far as any contract, that will have to come from the agency itself as those are not held in my office.”

The auditor office processes vouchers from state agencies for payments to vendors. On November 18, Sattgast located a voucher dated August 10, 2020, for $2,000 to be paid to DesignWorks for a BOA logo and brand identity.

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Contributed to DocumentCloud by Karen Sherman (KELO-TV) • View document or read text

Attached was an email, also dated August 10, 2020, from a BOA staff member to a state Bureau of Finance and Management accountant. The email said, “We have an invoice from Design Works in the amount of $2,000 to pay for a BOA Logo, this will be reimbursed by NASPO and has been approved by Director Steven Berg, Deputy Commissioner Andy Gerlach and Commissioner Scott Bollinger, what account should this come out of?”

NASPO is a reference to the National Association of State Procurement Officials.

The Legislature in 2016 and 2017 passed a variety of state laws dealing with political corruption and self-dealing, including creation of the State Government Accountability Board, a four-member panel of retired circuit judges and state Supreme Court justices appointed by the governor.

The board is attached to the state attorney general office and is empowered to have the state Division of Criminal Investigation look into reports of government misconduct. The board during 2017-2019 received eight complaints; none, however, led to a public hearing.

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