County commissioner urged to resign
Commissioner allegedly moved out of district and failed to attend meetings.
RAPID CITY, S.D. – A Pennington County commissioner is facing scrutiny regarding his legal eligibility to represent his district.
According to voter records, George Ferebee, commissioner for the county’s first district, officially changed his residency from Hill City to an address in Rapid City for three days in August.
The Rapid City address did not fall within the boundaries of the first district.
According to sources familiar with the situation, Ferebee changed his residency on Aug. 14 to pursue another office with a different party. He changed his residency back to Hill City on Aug. 17 after that plan fell through.
According to South Dakota state law (SDCL 7-8-2), that immediately vacated the District 1 seat.
“He stated under oath and under the pains and penalties of perjury that he is not a resident of District 1 of Pennington County,” said Mark Vargo, Pennington County State’s Attorney. “At that moment, he becomes ineligible to serve as the District 1 commissioner. Just like a Senator, if you move to California, you can’t be the South Dakota Senator.”
In a 3-1 vote on Tuesday, the Pennington County Board of Commissioners voted to request that Vargo file a civil suit in the South Dakota Seventh Circuit Court to get formal recognition of the vacancy of the first district seat. Vargo emphasized that the legal action was not a criminal suit, and that Ferebee is not facing any legal penalties.
“We will file what is called a quo warranto action,” Vargo said. “That will request that the Circuit Court determine whether or not he is eligible to hold the office. It is not something that comes along with a series of penalties, nor is it a criminal action. It is simply a civil action [to determine] eligibility to sit.”
In addition to the political aspect of Ferebee’s actions in August, he was also absent from numerous meetings, which hampered the commission’s ability to get its work done.
The Pennington County Board of Commissioners voted 3-1 on Tuesday to request Ferebee’s resignation as well. The request to resign is seen by the other commissioners as a way for Ferebee to leave honorably.
“They put their trust in you to do your job that you’re doing and to do it,” said Lloyd Lacroix, chairman of the Pennington County Board of Commissioners. “And it shouldn’t be for the benefit of the official. I just think it’s the honorable thing to do if you’re not going to participate and do what the people ask, that you resign.”
NewsCenter1 has reached out to George Ferebee for his side of the story. Ferebee has not yet decided whether or not to participate.