SIOUX FALLS | A former South Dakota prison official recently fired by Gov. Kristi Noem said Tuesday that she wasn't told why she was dismissed.
Jennifer Dreiske, the former deputy warden at the State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls, had worked at the Department of Corrections for 19 years until Noem announced Thursday that she was being fired along with the prison's warden, Darin Young.
The Department of Human Services had been investigating an anonymous complaint that alleged that supervising corrections officers regularly sexually harassed their colleagues, that employee morale was low, and that promotions were plagued by nepotism.
Dreiske said in a statement on Facebook that she “never wavered” in her duties but that she was fired without an explanation.
“My priorities have always been to promote the safety of our staff and the rehabilitation of our incarcerated population,” she wrote.
Noem also suspended her Cabinet secretary who oversees the state's prisons and the director of a prison work program. The governor has declined to comment on the investigation beyond issuing two statements and releasing the anonymous complaint.
The complaint alleges that attempts to report sexual harassment from supervising corrections officers were ignored and that schedules at the prison were adjusted so the officers could “work in the same vicinities" as the victims. It further alleges that employee morale was low, with wages that lag behind those in other industries, that corrections officers don't have tactical equipment that is “up to standards,” and that promotions have been based on personal connections.
The organization representing state employees, the South Dakota State Employees Organization, has said that many complaints surfaced in the spring about low morale and high employee turnover.
Dreiske said, “I hope attention shifts to improving conditions for the staff and those who are incarcerated."
Capt. Matt Cale watched F-16 flyovers growing up in Arizona, which changed his dream of wanting to be a race car driver to being a pilot.
In January 2019, he was assigned to Ellsworth Air Force Base as a B-1B Lancer pilot, his top choice for planes.
“I get giddy a lot of times when I get to go fly,” Cale said Tuesday at Combat Raider Media Day. “Usually right when you take off and the wheels are starting to come up.”
Cale is with the 34th Bomb Squadron that is participating in the Combat Raider exercise conducted on the Powder River Training Complex, the largest military air space in the continental United States. The annual training focuses on large scale exercises to train air crews on combat capabilities and lasts from July 19-23.
B-52 Stratofortress, F-15E Strike Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-35 Lightning II, E-3 Sentry, E-8 Joint Stars, RC-135 Rivet Joint, KC-135 Stratotankers and KC-46 Pegasus aircraft also are participating in the exercise. Only a handful will take off from Ellsworth Air Force Base. Others will launch from their home stations and integrate with other aircraft during the training.
Lt. Col. Kristina Ellis, commander of the 28th Operations Support Squadron, said the training is a balance between quality and quantity for the aircrews. She said the air space at Powder River allows crews ample room to train.
Capt. Taylor Hiester, 114th Operations Group Fighting Falcon pilot with the South Dakota Air National Guard, said the exercise brings multiple weapons systems and puts them in the same piece of sky, which is a logistical challenge.
“One of the reasons the American military is the best fighting force in the world is there’s a lot of different people who’ve never met each other prior to the mission planning or never seen each other until they’re in the air,” he said. “They fly within 1,000 feet of one another and still execute the mission flawlessly without any losses.”
Hiester said it takes thousands of people to get one airplane in the air. It involves support from aircraft maintainers, airfield management, munitions and others. He said there’s a lot of trust involved.
B-1B aircraft maintenance crew chiefs Senior Airmen Seth Parries and Charlie Alevras said trust also comes from training each other like a second family.
“The crew’s trusting us with their life when they get in the air, so I know I can trust that guy to do the inspection upstairs while I’m doing downstairs,” Alevras said.
Conventional munitions Staff Sgt. Taylor Holt said there’s communication with munitions as well to make sure all of the assets are in the right buildings. He said his crew builds and does system checks to make sure ammo gets to the aircraft on time.
Hiester said the Air National Guard will specifically focus on what it takes to bring a small number of airplanes into operation with the minimum amount of equipment and personnel.
“There’s a lot of ways and kinks to work out in the plan,” Hiester said. “This is the way of the future, the way we’re looking to deploy in the future. … We’re looking to find our weaknesses there and exploit them and fix them.”
Hiester said it was his childhood dream to fly F-16s and loves that it has one seat.
“I can never repay the country or the South Dakota Guard for the opportunities I’ve been given,” he said.
Strider Sports International, Inc. of Rapid City and city officials will gather at 10 a.m. Saturday to cut the ribbon on the new Robbinsdale Park Bicycle Playground.
Officials broke ground in December on the playground at Robbinsdale Park, east of Fire Station 4 by the Rapid City BMX track and the Robbinsdale Dog Park.
The public is invited to the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Strider Sports is providing lemonade and cookies from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Parking is available at the Harney Little League and BMX track parking lots.
Features of the Robbinsdale Park Bicycle Playground include a concrete Pump Track designed for younger riders and a natural-surface trail with skills development features such as tunnels, ramps, cones, rollers and "skinnies," which are elevated narrow wooden trails. according to a press release from the city.
Strider Sports made a $100,000 donation to the city in December for development of the bicycle playground. City officials, including Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender and Parks and Recreation Director Jeff Biegler, and staff joined Strider’s founder and CEO Ryan McFarland at the ground-breaking ceremonies.
“We’re really excited to see this project come to completion,” said McFarland. “The crew at Progressive Bike Ramp company did a great job with the construction, and this pump track is currently a one-of-a-kind design built specifically for young kids and entry-level riders at our request.”
City Parks officials expect the bicycle playground to get a lot of use.
“The bicycle playground is a great addition to Robbinsdale Park,” said Jeff Biegler, City Parks and Recreation Department director. “There are some great features that will appeal to young riders and to those who are just learning to ride. We expect the playground to get a lot of attention from young kids and families.”
For more information, contact Joshua Rundell at email@example.com or 342-0266 and Melissa Petersen with City Parks and Recreation Department at 394-4175.
Six additional video lottery licenses will be available after the Rapid City Council unanimously voted to release them Monday night.
The licenses are the first to become available in many years. Finance Director Pauline Sumption said she's never seen it happen before.
There are currently 69 licenses issued to businesses with malt beverage licenses, although four are inactive. Sumption said it’s fairly typical for those licensed to hold licenses until they use or sell them.
During Monday’s meeting, Mayor Steve Allender broke the tie vote in favor of tabling discussion on the first responder COVID-19 hazard pay to the next council working session, approved authorization for staff to apply for the 2022 Bridge Improvement Grant funds for preliminary engineering for work on the Chapel Lane bridge, and moved the second first reading of an ordinance on pets to the Aug. 2 meeting.
Sumption said each malt beverage video lottery license allows a business owner to have up to 10 machines per alcohol license per building.
“Many of the owners have multiple licenses, but they are required to have separate entrance doors, much like Deadwood where they are limited to 30 devices per building but the buildings are open to each other as long as they have separate entrances,” Sumption said in an email to the Journal.
She also said video lottery licenses are also available for establishments with on-sale liquor licenses, so it’s not limited to the 69 license-holders with a malt beverage license.
The number of licenses available is based on each 843 in the city’s population. Licenses have to be renewed every year along with the alcohol license.
In 2019, the city saw $49,800 in video lottery revenue. In 2020, it received $32,450 and year-to-date in 2021, the city has received $30,650. The annual average is about $40,000 to $45,000.
The council also voted to form a committee to reconsider the video lottery license ordinance.
“We should look at this ordinance, we should rewrite it to today, not 30-25 years ago,” Council member John Roberts said.
Council member Pat Jones suggested giving the licenses an expiration date if they’re not used.
Council member Bill Evans made the motion to table the COVID-19 hazard pay for police and firefighters.
“I don’t believe we addressed this particular issue at the last work session, but I believe it deserves a lot of discussion,” he said.
Council members Jason Salamun, Ritchie Nordstrom, Ron Weifenbach, Roberts and Jones voted against tabling it to the working session while Council members Lance Lehmann, Darla Drew, Greg Strommen, Laura Armstrong and Evans voted to table it.
The working session will be July 28.