Legislators tell S.D. Dept. of Tribal Relations to come back with different goals

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A panel of South Dakota lawmakers wants state Tribal Relations Secretary David Flute to develop different measurements for his department’s performance.

Flute met a mixed reception Thursday when he presented his report to the Legislature’s Government Operations and Audit Committee.

A past chairman of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate Sioux Tribe, Flute said he didn’t find any previous performance records for the department. He has been secretary since January 2019.

Comments from several Republican and Democrat lawmakers indicated they wouldn’t accept his report.

The chair, Senator Kyle Schoenfish, suggested “out of fairness” that the committee could instead defer a decision and have Flute return at the next meeting to more fully explain what his department does.

Schoenfish said Flute had good goals. “We want to make sure they’re actually measurable though,” Schoenfish said.

The committee voted 7-1 to hold off on a decision about the report and let Flute come back August 26. Schoenfish said the department’s new metrics could then be considered in September or October.

“Our Department of Tribal Relations is different than other departments, quite different,” Flute said. Thursday was the first time to his knowledge that the department submitted a report and he said he didn’t have any goals to build on, describing the situation as “very challenging.”

Representative Ernie Otten cast the nay vote. He had served four years on the Legislature’s State-Tribal Relations Committee and asked, out of frustration, to be removed. “It is a different realm, and my outlook was more from that realm,” Otten said.

Schoenfish encouraged the committee members to keep in communication about the performance measures they want to see from the department.

The committee later voted 8-0 to defer approval of the report from the state Department of Veterans Affairs so that adjustments could be made.

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