Investigation finds no conflict in Yankton hog farms votes

FF Editor
Farm Forum

YANKTON, S.D. (AP) — An investigation has found that three commissioners didn’t violate South Dakota’s conflict of interest statute by approving several hog operations in a southeastern county.

The Yankton County commissioners themselves asked for the probe following accusations by hog farm opponents, the Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan reported.

Commissioner Ray Epp serves on the Board of Directors for the South Dakota Pork Producers Council. Epp said his involvement with the industry group was questioned as posing a conflict of interest for approving local hog farms.

Yankton County States Attorney Rob Klimisch announced on Jan. 16 that Epp and Commissioners Todd Woods and Don Kettering didn’t have a financial interest or benefit in their votes on hog confinement conditional use permits and variance requests.

Klimisch shared the investigation’s findings during a commission meeting.

Klimisch said all three commissioners complied with his requests for information regarding employment history and organizational involvement. Klimisch also gave the collected information to the attorney general’s office.

“We had considerable discussions with the attorney general’s office,” said Klimisch. “They, too, did not find anything that would cause them concern where they would believe there would be a concern of conflict of interest regarding a direct financial interest.”

Woods serves as chairman of the commission. He said the discussion proves that the commission acted within the law throughout the approval process.

“I understand the law, and what I can and can’t do. The biggest thing about this is that’s been reaffirmed,” said Woods. “We are following the law and making decisions that are all legal.”