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Brand Board investigator fired for investigating BB members

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Liberty Belle

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I haven't posted in a long time, but I want to update you on a South Dakota Brand Board issue that is extremely troubling to those of us who ranch in the brand inspection area in western South Dakota.

Here is the story from the Rapid City Journal:

Fired investigator sues state Brand Board
By Andrea J. Cook Journal staff rapidcityjournal.com
Saturday, September 18, 2010


A former criminal investigator for the South Dakota State Brand Board is suing the board, his former boss and two members of the board for three years of back overtime pay and wrongful termination.

Harry Martinez of Custer filed the suit in federal district court last week. Martinez worked for the brand board for three years from April of 2006 until he was fired by the Brand Board in August of 2009.

Named in the suit are Mark Kimball of Platte, chairman of the Brand Board; board member Thomas Conger of Buffalo Gap; and Robert "Shorty" Zilverberg of Highmore, a criminal investigator for the board.

Martinez' complaint alleges that he was fired in 2009 because he discovered that two members of the brand board were violating state brand laws by moving cattle across state lines and branding over existing brands.

Illegally moving cattle across state lines is a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,000 fine.

Branding over existing brands is a Class 5 felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Martinez claims that he discovered the violations early in 2007 and reported them to Zilverberg, who was his supervisor.

"Defendant Zilverberg advised plaintiff that he would investigate the report because it involved members of the defendant Brand Board," the complaint states.

Martinez contends that he continued to press Zilverberg for information on the investigation throughout 2008 and into 2009.

"Plaintiff became more aggressive with his inquiries from defendant Zilverberg as the fall of 2009 approached and finally began to follow up and make inquiries on his own," according to the complaint.

In 2008, the Brand Board lobbied the Legislature for a bill that would have reduced the penalty for moving cattle across state lines to a Class 2 misdemeanor. The bill failed, according to Rep. Betty Olson, R-Prairie City.
Olson believes Martinez was fired for "doing his job too well."

"Instead of arresting the Brand Board members, they fired Martinez without giving him any reason for his termination and without compensating him for the many hours of overtime he had built up...," Olson said.

The state's Bureau of Personnel attempted to settle the overtime dispute by offering him $37,504.77 for overtime due from 2007 to 2009. Martinez declined the offer. A copy of the offer accompanies the lawsuit.

Martinez is seeking all his overtime, compensatory damages for lost wages and benefits, punitive damages, interest and his attorney's fees.

Calls to Martinez and his attorney were not returned.

Pierre attorney Robert Anderson is representing the Brand Board as a special assistant attorney general, according to Attorney General Marty Jackley.

"The matter is being reviewed and an appropriate response will be filed," Jackley said Friday.

Contact Andrea Cook at 394-8423 or [email protected]

http://www.rapidcityjournal.com/news/article_53bc1444-c2df-11df-8852-001cc4c002e0.html
 

Frank in West Dakota

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Just curious, why are there board members from east river?



I'm not sure what could be done, but I think some of the laws are a little antiquated. For example; You get a shippers agreement, which allows me to take those cattle east river, right? Does any inspector look at those cattle? No.
As long as I'm not stopped by a law official, I can take any cattle, any where! And if an HP stops and asks, I show him a shippers agreement, I'm good to go, doesn't matter what's on the paper, or if it even coincides with the cattle, as long as I have a shippers agreement.

Just seems to me there could be some updates to these laws, or maybe I need to updated on the laws. But there seems to be too many loopholes to transport cattle without an inspection.
 

Clarencen

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I am not sure what is really going on. Looks like it might be just back biting. As far as the shippers agreement goes, I believe it always had a destination of where these cattle were to go.

I was never quite satisfied with the brand inspection rules and laws. Most of us here where I live market out cattle through a sale barn in Nebraska. Was always a nuisance to have to get a shippers agreement. Now we have no one here to make them out. We can just call the brand board toll free and they will fax the necessary information to the sale barn to make sure these cattle would be brand inspected. Works a lot better.

I really don't know how the new laws are working, but I do believe having the Stock Growers involved had become outdated. If I had my rathers, I would like to see all of South Dakota and all of Nebraska included as brand inspection areas.
 

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