Group Calls For Chavis' Resignation At Public Meeting BY TERA BODEN Prompted by the recent arrest of Yankton County Planning Commission Chair Karl Schenk, a group of approximately 65 concerned citizens met Thursday night to discuss State's Attorney Bob Chavis and to plan a petition asking him to resign from office.
They will also ask the Yankton County Commission to send a copy of the petition to the governor and the attorney general for their consideration.
County Commissioner Marian Gunderson said she also hopes the petition can be presented to the Legislature which will require a delegation of Yankton residents to travel to Pierre concerning the issue.
Although the document, as written, is not a legal petition, Gunderson and others hope to collect 1,000 signatures of support.
A man from the audience stood and said, "This (Schenk's arrest) is going to affect Yankton County for a long time, adversely. How would you like to be a county commissioner and have to ask someone to be on a committee, to give of your time and serve this county? If someone asked me I think I'd say, ?Just a minute, I don't like to be arrested, I don't like having my name on the line.' I think it's time we stood up."
Gunderson suggested compiling a list and documenting every instance that the group believes Chavis has acted outside of ethics or the law.
"Sign your name and show that you are in support of somehow reining in the illegalities that I think Bob Chavis is committing," Gunderson said. "For one thing, he is violating a court order to conduct the mental health hearings. The Circuit Court judge told him to do the hearings and he requested a stay so that he could appeal to the State Supreme Court. He was told that there would be no stay. That was October, a year ago, and he still is not doing the hearings."
Many in attendance wondered what action could be taken to have Chavis removed from office. Gunderson said there is nothing in the law that says the state's attorney can be removed by anyone.
"We have tried the Bar Association, but they need specific evidence, which we haven't had time to gather," she said. "The County Commission can have a hearing to remove a county commissioner. There are reasons a county commissioner can be removed but there is nothing that allows the removal of a state's attorney."
The possibility of a recall election was discussed and dismissed.
Gunderson noted that in another South Dakota county, a former state's attorney was arrested and jailed for selling drugs.
"The County Commission called a recall election and the guy in jail won," she said. "So this is a very serious situation we find ourselves in."
A handful of participants stepped forward to head a committee to further research the issue and determine the group's next steps. Committee members include Brenda Palmer, Kris Hacecky and John Gunderson. Other members would not give their names.
Attempts to reach Chavis Thursday night were unsuccessful.
To contact Tera Boden, e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.