Despite calls from his fellow Pennington County commissioners, George Ferebee has "no intention of resigning," according to a letter from his attorney.
R. Shawn Tornow, of Tornow Law Office in Sioux Falls, sent a letter on Wednesday afternoon responding to the Pennington County Commission's official request for Ferebee's resignation, blasting it as "imprudent" and "politically motivated."
Last week, the county commission called for Ferebee's resignation from the board in a formal letter. The commission cited spotty attendance in recent months and speculation that Ferebee violated a state law when he changed his address from Hill City to Rapid City on a voter registration card.
The commission also asked Pennington County State's Attorney Mark Vargo to pursue civil action in circuit court regarding whether Ferebee violated state law and therefore rendered his seat on the commission vacant.
Ferebee is the commissioner for District 1. The address he listed on the voter registration card, 705 South St. in Rapid City, is not in District 1. He later filed another voter registration card changing his address back to 11495 Gillette Prairie Road, Hill City.
The letter from Tornow states, "Obviously, Mr. Ferebee's residence is within District 1 as related to his prior and ongoing service on the Pennington County commission, to which you — and the Pennington County State's Attorney's Office — well know that he was properly and lawfully elected back in 2014."
Tornow describes the commission's Oct. 3 letter as containing "ill-informed allegations," and said "my client neither 'moved' outside his elected district back in August 2018, nor has he 'fail[ed] to attend commission meetings for four (4) consecutive months ... To be clear, Commissioner Ferebee certainly has not 'apparently vacated [his elected] office.'"
He was referencing South Dakota Codified Law 7-8-2, which says that an elected commissioner moving from the district where he or she was elected creates an automatic vacancy. That section also discusses vacancy, saying if a commissioner misses four consecutive months of meetings the seat will be declared vacant.
Ferebee's attendance at its regular meetings — which are held the first and third Tuesdays of the month — started to wobble following his defeat in the June primary election. He was briefly in attendance at the Sept. 4 meeting. On Sept. 18, he left at about 9:30 a.m., returned at 10:32 a.m. and remained until 1:45 p.m. He then left again and did not return. He did not attend the Oct. 9 meeting.
The attorney's letter also called making Ferebee's voter registration information public "contemptible and, very likely, an unlawful act ... " He cited South Dakota Codified Law 12-4-41, which says using voter registration information for non-election purposes is a Class 1 misdemeanor offense.
"As a result, in spite of the wrongfully politically motivated, adversarial and arguably actionable targeting of Commissioner Ferebee, he has no intention of resigning the seat to which he was elected by the clear and express electoral-will of the majority (of over 56%) of District 1 Pennington County voters in 2014," Tornow wrote.
Tornow said in the letter that Ferebee will be at the commission's meeting on Oct. 16.