SD county group under fire for kitchen appliances

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — The Pennington County Emergency Management Department is under fire for purchasing $3,000 worth of kitchen appliances with state funds designated for preventing swine flu.

The Rapid City Journal reports (http://bit.ly/1ji4smx ) that the department purchased items to create a makeshift kitchen for emergency purposes.

Officials said the department made the purchases without the knowledge of the county commissioners.

“It should have come through to the county commissioners for decision and approval,” Commissioner Ken Davis said.

The purchases also concerned the county auditor’s office.

“We did not feel they were pandemic flu-related expenses,” Auditor Julie Pearson said.

Agency director Dustin Willett said he directed his department to purchase kitchen items in December after his department found that it couldn’t cook food during the October blizzard that crippled the Black Hills.

“I wasn’t trying to sneak anything by,” he said. “I’m not trying to cover anything up. There’s no case of conspiracy.”

He and 20 staff members spent four days working nearly continuously at the courthouse after the blizzard. Because the streets were slogged with snow, they were unable to access hot food and largely lived off sandwiches.

“We were awfully unprepared to be self-sufficient for extended periods of time,” he said. “And it’s kind of odd. We preach preparedness and we weren’t as prepared as we needed to be.”

In a meeting with county officials, Willett said he would to return the kitchen items and make use of the jail cafeteria in the event of another city-crippling emergency.

But Pennington County still faces a $1,000 bill for the return of the items and at least one commissioner said he intends to raise the issue at Tuesday’s commissioner meeting.

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Information from: Rapid City Journal, http://www.rapidcityjournal.com

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