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George Ferebee, Pennngton County Commissioner

George Ferebee, Pennngton County Commissioner

Same prosecutor assigned to local commissioner's trial


Associated Press - March 26, 2018

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — A prosecutor will again handle the case of a Pennington County commissioner accused of violating a county zoning ordinance, despite the defendant's objections.

Commissioner George Ferebee was found guilty in September of maintaining a septic system without an operating permit, which violates a county ordinance. The ordinance requires on-site wastewater treatment systems to be pumped, inspected and issued permits regularly.
Ferebee appealed the conviction and has been given a new trial, which will again be prosecuted by state Assistant Attorney General Robert Haivala.

Defense lawyer Shawn Tornow objected to Haivala serving as the prosecutor again, saying that the South Dakota Attorney General's Office doesn't have jurisdiction over the issue.

The state attorney general's office took over Ferebee's prosecution during the first trial after the county prosecutors' office recused itself, citing conflict of interest prosecuting a commissioner in its own county.

The new trial's presiding judge, John Bastian, denied Tornow's request for a different prosecutor. Bastian said state law and case precedent gave the court authority to appoint an attorney duly licensed in the state, which "certainly includes an assistant attorney general."

Ferebee was charged in October 2015. He has said he's exempt from the septic system ordinance because his land holdings amount to 250 acres, which is greater than the 40 acres required for exemption.
The state says the property is legally made up of four lots and the septic system is on a 12.22-acre lot.
Ferebee was ordered to pay a $200 fine following his conviction.

His new trial is scheduled for May, but he's due in court April 10, 2018. A judge will decide whether to delay the upcoming trial then.



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