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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Stips Break Law, Township Won't Prosecute

I really need to get rich. Apparently I could then do whatever I want in Lake County.

This week's case in point: the Stip brothers. Lake County land barons Donald and Arthur Stip, evidently not able to make a living on the vasts swaths of Lake County they already own, have been filling ditches and planting crops right out to road's edge.

Reminder: ditches are necessary. They keep roads from flooding. That's why filling or otherwise blocking them is against the law (SDCL 31-21-12 and 31-21-13).

According to Elisa Sand's report in Tuesday's MDL, Craig Johannsen, member of both the Clarno Township Board and Lake County Commission, described for the county commission Tuesday the road repairs the township has had to perform due to the Stips' illegal ditch filling. Johannsen asked that the county join the township in asking for $20,219.24 from Stips to cover the road repairs. The county agreed.

But wait a minute: what's this "asking" business? Stips are breaking the law. If I do damage to public property—drop library books in the lake, knock a bridge down, whatever—Sheriff Hartman and States Attorney Meyer won't come to my door asking anything. They'll break out a can of cuff-'n'-stuff and have Judge Tucker liberate more than a few dollars from my wallet.

So why, as Commission Ron Jorgenson asked at Tuesday's meeting, does the county not order the Stips to clean out those ditches? Wouldn't that solve the problem of having to repair the road all the time?

Johannsen said that issue would have to be pursued at the township level, and he doesn't think it would have the backing of the full board. In addition to the Stip family, he said, three or four other farmers also farm the ditches in Clarno Township [Elisa Sand, "County Seeks Injunction Against Stip Brothers," Madison Daily Leader, 2008.12.02, p. 1].

Ah. So I don't have to be rich to do whatever I want. I just need to get three or four other people to break the law with me, and no one will prosecute. Brilliant.

Bottom line: Stips, pay for the mess you've made, and clean your ditches. And Clarno Township (and everyone else), enforce the law.


  1. Hey, wait. Who's on the Clarno board that wouldn't want to enforce the law?

    Just fill the board with people who farm the ditches and no one will complain?

    If it's a law, enforce it. I don't want my taxpayer dollars paying for road repairs caused by someone breaking the law. The township doesn't have that kind of money.

    Maybe it's time for some different board members. Who is the on Clarno board BTW?

  2. I don't believe the decision to prosecute or not is up to the township

  3. I don't believe the County or township has to "ask" anyone for the money, they can simply assess the damages to the Stip Brother's property, where it will grow with interest until that land changes hands or until Stips pay it. Maybe Stips have to be prosecuted first in order to assess. State's Attorney, Ken Meyer would have those answers.

  4. Citizen's arrest time?

  5. This is not a new thing. Farming up to the edge of the road is a very common practice with many farmers not just the Stip brothers.

    Just east of our home place north of Junius, Randall took out more than half a mile of fence so that he could farm just a little closer to the road. The phone pedestals did make him stay out of the road right of way in a few places.

    It's up each of the township boards whether the offense should be prosecuted or not.

    Being on a township board is a thankless job. Why would they want to go out of their way to piss off their neighbors and friends by pressing criminal charges.

    It's also up to the States Attorney if he wants to spend his time trying to correct the situation. How long has the county been trying to get their way in Winfred or with Dick W?

    While I agree that farming the ditches is a bad thing, it's another thing that isn't important enough to get my shorts in a bind. I can't control it. I can't fix it and it's not going to change.

  6. Charlie johnson12/04/2008 9:03 PM

    Maintaining a proper right of way is not a matter of descretion either by the land owners or the governing board. It is the responsibility of everyone involved to maintain a safe road and ditch right of way especially for traffic safety. To look the other way is only inviting trouble and tragedy to eventually happen. The loss of life is too great a price to pay for not "wanting to bother or confront township neighbors". If the land owners refuse to remedy an unsafe situation they created, then fix the problem and assess the costs aa a lien on their property. township boards have the responsibility and right to do so. With all serious safety matters in consideration, this does not have to be a long drawn-out process. Put safety first and personal feelings, a distant second.

    Charlie Johnson

  7. Citizen's arrest?! I haven't heard that since watching the Dukes of Hazzard when I was little! Yeeha!

    But we'd better not be racing the General Lee by Stips' land: we'll either end up in a washout or get smacked by someone who can't see us coming. Charlie is spot on: enforcing the law may be unpleasant, but it's our duty. Public safety is at stake, and that's more important than a few more bushels of any crop.

  8. It is now official. Given your recent post about how the sheriff and state's attorney will break out a can of cuff-'n'-stuff , and your other comment about how you are now seeking the wisdom of crowds, you are the most entertaining and informative blogger in South Dakota.

    Nice job!

  9. Hey, at least Cory has stopped mentioning Sarah Palin! At least give him credit for that.

  10. [utterly off topic] Now if she'd just stop mentioning herself....

  11. I'm cracking up at "cuff-n-stuff." Great read!


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