Dan Guericke received state approval Monday to be a nursing home administrator in White Lake.

Earlier this year, Guericke had pleaded guilty to committing a felony crime.

He back-dated a contract during the state Legislature’s financial investigation into Mid Central Educational Cooperative of Platte.

Guericke was director at Mid Central when the back-dating occurred on a GEAR UP contract that legislative auditors had focused on.

Mid Central managed the GEAR UP program through a subcontract with the state Department of Education.

GEAR UP is a federal program that helps lower-income students be more aware of education opportunities after they graduate high school.

Circuit Judge Bruce Anderson ultimately suspended Guericke’s sentence and ordered Guericke’s criminal record be sealed.

Sioux Falls attorney Mike Butler of Sioux Falls represented Guericke in the criminal matter.

Butler appeared with Guericke again Monday before the state Board of Nursing Facility Administrators.

State board members voted 4-0 to grant a license to Guericke, after listening to him as well as Butler and two witnesses. State board members spent about 20 minutes in executive session privately discussing the matter.

Butler provided the board with copies of two South Dakota laws dealing with suspended impositions and read them aloud. One, according to Butler, meant Guericke could “truthfully” say he wasn’t guilty of a crime. “What that means is Dan was not convicted,” Butler said.

Both witnesses spoke favorably about Guericke’s performance at the nursing facility.

Guericke has worked at Aurora-Brule Care and Rehab center in White Lake under an emergency permit since January 1.

No one testified against Guericke. 

Craig Dodds is chairman of the center’s board. He told the state board the nursing facility became better after Guericke began work.

Dodds said beds that had been hard to fill now have patients and the center is struggling to find space for the demand.

“We’d be blessed to keep him,” Dodds said. “He’s highly respected. He’s loved.”

White Lake is a community with an official population of 372 people along Interstate 90 in Aurora County. The local economic development board owns the nursing facility.

Chad Stroschein of Dell Rapids works for the company that manages White Lake and 11 other nursing centers.

“The facility blossomed under his leadership,” Stroschein told the state board. “It’s hard to get administrators and it’s hard to get good ones.”

Stroschein told the state board it would be “a huge disservice” if Guericke didn’t receive a license.

After entering his guilty plea, Guericke testified against Stacy Phelps at the man’s October trial.

A Minnehaha County jury found Phelps not guilty of falsifying documents.

Phelps ran the GEAR UP program for Mid Central.

A separate jury also found Stephanie Hubers not guilty of accepting money for work she allegedly didn’t perform.

Guericke’s lawyer said state Attorney General Marty Jackley offered to drop other felony charges in trade for Guericke pleading guilty to one felony.

Butler said the attorney general supported the judge’s decision waiving prison time for Guericke and for sealing Guericke’s record after the Phelps verdict.

Legislative auditors determined last year nearly $1.4 million that Mid Central received couldn’t be accounted as money flowed between the co-op and several subcontractors.

The prosecution’s theory was that Scott Westerhuis master-minded the embezzlement. Westerhuis was business manager at Mid Central.

Westerhuis allegedly shot to death his wife, Nicole, and their four children before lighting their rural Platte house on fire and then killing himself.

Mid Central eventually was disbanded by its governing board of member school districts. Most of the districts formed a new cooperative based at Platte that uses the building where Mid Central previously was.

Guericke has lived in White Lake for 39 years, initially as a teacher and eventually as Mid Central director for 22 until he retired in mid-2016.

He told the state board Monday it was somewhat common practice at Mid Central to back-date contracts, sometimes with encouragement from the state Department of Education.

Regarding the GEAR UP contracts, Guericke said he checked whether the cooperative’s board had approved contracts that he was presented.

Guericke said he agreed to those that received approval but refused one that didn’t.

“To me that’s an important distinction,” Guericke said.

Guericke said he was approached several times in 2017 about taking the White Lake nursing-home job and, after initially being reluctant, decided to accept it.

“It’s been very rewarding. I like to believe that things happen for a reason,” Guericke told the state board. “It’s been an opportunity that I cherish.”

One of the state board members, Mark Burket of Platte, abstained from the decision to grant the license to Guericke.

Chairman Bob Stahl of Pierre wished Guericke luck after the vote. There wasn’t any public discussion.

“There are a great deal of challenges that come with that job, one of the toughest jobs there is,” Stahl said.

Neither Guericke nor Butler accepted an invitation to comment on camera afterward. 

You can find Guericke’s application and a email containing his bio in the documents below.