David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.” 1 Samuel 17:45
We’ve all experienced people in our lives who like to throw their weight around, put down others, and enjoy power trips in order to achieve their personal goals of success. We know how they work and it seems their “MO” is to get to the top at the expense of others, no matter the cost.
Cassie, our former State’s Attorney for Butte County, asked to speak with me after questions were raised about why she was leaving Butte County. After spending 10 months of trusting people and then realizing my trust was misplaced to a degree, it was such a nice break to be able to have a candid and open conversation with someone of her caliber, education, and experience. She spoke to me like we were equals, despite my immense lack of knowledge. She was straight with me all the way through, showing me the other side of the aisle as a public servant, while not coming from a place of the “public elite” mentality.
While we covered a wide range of issues, the main concern was getting the word out about one of the main “Goliaths” in our government(In my opinion, anyway): Marty Jackley.
How It Started
Cassie started in the office under Heather Plunkett and knew what was going on concerning the drug issues. She asked Jackley for help and he ignored it, and didn’t take any steps towards investigation for months.
Cassie was then appointed as interim and later officially as our State’s Attorney after Plunkett was arrested. During her time as State’s Attorney, she begged for help and was ignored by Jackley and declined funding by the Commission for her office so she can hire more help in order to efficiently handle the caseload and new regulations that caused more work for them, despite her cutting approximately $6,000 from their supplies budget alone in order to manage their budget better.
She went into various stories of times she stood up for the law despite intense pressure and bullying from people and the Commission to try to make her find ways to get around or manipulate the law in order for them to get what they want, instead of abiding by the law and set processes for the sake of the citizens and proper management and use of their tax dollars.
The Straw That Broke the Camel’s Back
Wendt is the type of person where you know where you stand with her. With Jackley, it was no different. She told him personally that she won’t vote for him or support him due to his actions and she backs her words up with action. When she, as Chairman for Butte County, went with 5 other people from Butte County to the SD Republican Party State Convention earlier this year, four (She included) went that all shared the belief that we needed fresh minds in politics who do what The People want instead of career politicians. When the time came to vote, two voted for Jackley and the other four did not. Due to who was there to represent Butte County, it was pretty obvious who voted which way, despite the votes being private.
By the next day, she got calls from other attorneys asking her why Jackley was trying to recruit them to take her place as State’s Attorney for Butte County and bad-mouthing her behind her back.
Jackley’s sudden interest in Butte County didn’t stop there. Not only was he trying to impact the reputation of the Butte County State’s Attorney’s Office, he was also trying to replace her with a State’s Attorney that he preferred. He also began involving himself with our County Commission, calling them to influence their decisions with his advice. Why? After he refused to support the State’s Attorney’s Office or assist Butte County in the past?
It’s All About Me
There’s two very opposite sides battling right now on a national level. This battle is also at the state and local level. To me, rather than Democrat vs Republican, it looks like “the establishment” is fighting to keep power against those who truly want to serve The People. I see this very clearly between Wendt and Jackley. Reading up on his political career, it has tones that back up what Ms. Wendt told me of her experiences with him. His actions, choices and how he treats people point to him making everything about himself, and retaliating against those that don’t go along with him the way he wants. “Retaliation” came up not only in how Ms. Wendt described his actions, but others as well. Wendt noted, in her opinion, that he’s the type of person to do and say whatever it takes to benefit himself; it’s 100% political and has nothing to do about what’s best for The People.
Doing a quick search about Jackley’s career lead me to draw some eye-brow-raising conclusions. While speaking to Cassie, I asked her what her thoughts were on the reasons why Jackley would behave in such a way. What was his end goals? Her opinion was that it was all about getting the needed support in order for him to win his run for Attorney General in 2022, which was once again backed up in what I read. He seems to have a decent law career despite some losses, had a good run as Attorney General already, and a failed run for Governor. For whatever reason, he’s wanting to ensure his successful run for Attorney General again. In my opinion, it seems like rather than do the real work to gain true support by truly serving The People, he’ll threaten, manipulate and involve himself where he shouldn’t to make sure he, again, gets what he wants.
What’s so concerning is that Ms. Wendt spent 10 years using the office of the Butte County State’s Attorney to truly serve the people by establishing drug and alcohol treatment programs in Belle Fourche as well as mental health treatment. She said, “Without addressing people’s behaviors and then requiring those kinds of treatments, there’s not going to be anyone going to those treatments…” In her opinion, He (Jackley) is undermining 10 years of her work and what she did to set it up for the future all for his own gain…”If this office goes back to just being a political office, we lose all the ground we made.” Not only is it worrisome to learn of what could happen with this office becoming only political again when it comes to drug and alcohol issues, she also said the sex crimes in Butte County are higher than Huron, Canton, and Brookings.
Do we really want someone like Jackley becoming our Attorney General again (all for his goal to achieve his unrealized dreams) at the cost of an amazing State’s Attorney, 10 years of her work to help our community, and the loss of a strong and working State’s Attorney office that helped protect us from the already high level of crime in our county? What will happen if the right people aren’t in that office who want to serve The People but, instead, serve themselves? What will happen when a solely political office is coupled with the current county commission we have representing us?
How Low Do We Go?
Retaliation. I’ve seen it and experienced it so many times in less than a year. Ms. Wendt, as one of our county representatives, voted a certain way that didn’t please someone “in power” (but pleased The People), and due to how she voted, she had to experience retaliatory actions against her. Not only her, but the others who voted the same way she did also faced serious retaliatory actions against them. She commented, “How low do we go? I voiced my free opinion and now there’s consequences for that? We’re being harassed for a vote we made.”
So, what it looks like to me, is these four people didn’t vote in favor of Jackley and they’re suffering consequences, harassment and retaliation; the Butte County State’s Attorney’s office’s reputation is negatively impacted and Jackley, a current state’s attorney, actively worked to recruit other attorneys to take her place in Butte County and personally calls our county commission to tell them what to do over our own state’s attorney’s advice?
This truly blew my mind. We should be free to vote any way we want without fear of retaliation from anyone, shouldn’t we? Our vote is one form of our voice being heard. In this particular instance, 6 people went to represent us and four voted in a way that others didn’t like, so they’re bullied and harassed and undermined? I thought this kind of retaliatory action only happens in places like China? What does this say about OUR votes? OUR voice? To me, this is just an extension of the local government dismissing us. In this instance, our voice didn’t matter through those representing us.
In America, our vote matters, our voice matters, it’s one way to guide and manage our government. We have Constitutionally protected rights in place in order to ensure The People never lose that power. So tell me what happens when our rights are violated by someone like Jackley undermining our voice through our vote by harassing and retaliating against those who represented us? Are you ok with someone abusing their power by undermining The People’s voice?
She concluded by saying, “I love what I do, I love being involved, I love this community, and I’m so disappointed at how things are going. And the sad part is that most of the community doesn’t even know it’s happening.”
She left Butte County due to family needs, after losing her brother at age 38, she was called on to return home to help run their family owned farm and ranch. She loves this community. She loved her job. She voiced often her open door policy.
These are troubling times and we lost a someone who gave her best for us for 10 years. But, in the end, it boils down to the tax paying voters to stand up, get involved and wield the power we’ve always held but given up to the government. We’ll have no one to blame but ourselves for not standing up when it mattered most. As she said near the end of our chat,
“Until somebody stands up and does something, nothing changes.”
Have faith in yourself to get involved and run for seats on the school board, city council, or county commission. Join a committee, vote, and be heard. We all have a lot to learn, but if we approach it with the mindset of a public servant here to do the will of the people, we can’t fail.