'They took our money and ran': In Yankton, outgoing GOP executive board withdraws $12K as parting gift

Jan. 30—YANKTON, S.D. — On Jan. 16, the Yankton County Republicans elected new leadership, with wide margins of county delegates favoring newer members in the county party and showing incumbent board members the door.

But, as the incoming executive board began to attempt to take over the county party's basic mechanisms, such as the Facebook page and bank account — a process that newly elected Vice Chair Laura Kotalik said was made extremely difficult by the outgoing leadership — they realized something was missing.

According to

pre-election disclosures from last October,

the county party held $15,530 in net assets, largely earned through small-dollar direct contributions and proceeds from party functions such as the annual Lincoln Day Dinner.

On Dec. 7, Duane "Butch" Becker, the outgoing treasurer, used these assets to write a check for $12,000 to the District 18 Republican Political Action Committee, an

organization formed one week earlier

by three now-former members of the Yankton County GOP's executive board: Becker, Vice Chair Roger Meyer and State Committeeman Greg Adamson.

"We've had no cooperation. They haven't given us anything. They are not giving us past minutes, email addresses, the Facebook account. They're not helping with the transition whatsoever," Stacey Nickels, the newly elected treasurer, told Forum News Service. "They took our money and ran."

According to a Jan. 25


with the secretary of state, the political action committee (PAC) has reported no other income.

Upon discovering the missing reserves, the current Yankton County GOP's executive board wrote a letter to the PAC requesting a return of the funds by Jan. 27. They have not yet received a response, according to Nickels.

"We've done everything we could to talk with them," Nickels said.

Forum News Service offered Becker, Meyer and Adamson opportunities to comment on why that money was transferred and whether it will be returned. All three have not responded.

As it turns out, Jan. 16 was not the first time the delegates of the Yankton County Republican Party held an election for new county leadership during this year's county election cycle.

With radio silence from county leadership after the cancellation of the November monthly meeting and no scheduled meetings in sight, around 30 members of the county party called a session for Dec. 5, 2022.

The plan was to hold the elections for new county leadership, a responsibility that every county party in the state undertakes between Nov. 15 and Jan. 31 after every general election.

Despite electing new leadership — the same set of officials who would end up winning on Jan. 16 — the results were not official, as no members of the current executive board had shown up. Kotalik felt the delay showed the county party's fear of new leadership.

"The ones who have held these offices in Yankton for a long time, it was kind of a closed group. They didn't want other people to be knowledgeable," Kotalik said.

Though Butch Becker, Roger Meyer and Greg Adamson did not attend the December meeting where delegates indicated thier support for new leadership, just two days later, on Dec. 7, Becker signed a check for $12,000 to the PAC that the three had formed only a few days earlier.

While the move does not explicitly break any state election laws, as parties and PACs can transfer

unlimited sums of money

to one another, several members of the county party condemned the move as a moral failing.

"People gave that money to the Yankton County Republican Party to be used for Republican candidates, not for this," said Rep. Julie Auch, a Republican from Yankton and newcomer to the state House.

Incoming Treasurer Stacey Nickels tied the gambit from the outgoing board to a statewide trend of some Republicans in the state resisting changes to the party which have resulted from more widespread participation in local politics among conservatives.

The sea change has taken place in Minnehaha, Pennington and other counties in the state.

"That's exactly what's happening," Nickels said. "We want to stand on the platform, and the current establishment really didn't care about standing on the platform from what we looked at from the outside. And if we're going to be the Republican Party, we need to be standing on our platform."

Auch put it more simply, criticizing the outgoing board's unwillingness to perform their basic responsibility of aiding in the transfer of power: "They're sore losers," she said.

Jason Harward is a

Report for America

corps reporter who writes about state politics in South Dakota. Contact him at