The California arbitrator, retired judge Robert Baines, signed the final award Oct. 21. He decided none of the sides — Darley International, which brought the breach of contract case; South Dakota International Business Institute, a subdivision of Northern State University and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development; and Hanul law firm, whose James Park worked for years hand in hand with SDIBI’s Joop Bollen — should get one cent from each other in this dispute over Darley’s attempt to work for Hanul as a subcontractor on SDIBI projects. The arbitrator’s decision landed among South Dakota reporters on Thursday night and Friday morning. The state Board of Regents, who defended SDIBI in the case, decided Friday to release all of the documents in the matter (www.sdbor.edu). If you want to read just the arbitrator’s decision, here it is:
Especially worthwhile are some of the arbitrator’s comments near the end on pages 24 and 25. The bottom line, in his view, was that officials for NSU and the regents should have been paying more attention and they weren’t the most transparent in claiming that SDIBI’s relationship with Hanul wasn’t known. He adds, “The fact that the Hanul law firm apparently kept its dealings with SDIBI verbal is interesting, to say the least.” The Darley situation took place in 2007 and early 2008, just as Bollen was establishing his own private business, SDRC Inc., to handle the State of South Dakota’s involvement in the EB-5 program. In 2009 Bollen would leave the university and go full-time with SDRC Inc. His departure was triggered by the Darley lawsuit and the chill he suddenly felt on campus. Eventually it all led to SDRC Inc. involvement in the Northern Beef project, a series of big grants by then-Gov. Mike Rounds to Northern Beef directly and indirectly, and one of his Cabinet members, Richard Benda, taking a job with SDRC Inc. Benda reportedly committed suicide on Oct. 20, 2013, as state Attorney General Marty Jackley was preparing to prosecute Benda over $550,000 of grant money that was diverted from Northern Beef to SDRC Inc. to evidently pay Benda’s salary for two years. Since then we’ve found out some things about the immigrant investor program known as EB-5 in South Dakota. But it seems we have much more to know.