Blog post courtesy of guest contributor, Tom Kludt.
While making Valhalla available to the public for tours and rentals breaks is a break from the Rounds Administration, Daugaard’s decision is far from transparent and fair. Daugaard first signaled that the historic cabin’s guestbook–long the subject of suspicion and controversy under his former boss–would be available for public viewing. But in a turnabout that should come as a surprise to no one, the first-term governor has pivoted from his original position. South Dakotans will still be able to see the Custer State Park cabin for themselves, but as for the names of the guests? That will be up to Daugaard.
It seems the governor hoped that South Dakotans would stop paying attention to this story after all that talk about free tours. We don’t know if Daugaard’s decision to open Valhalla for public use is merely a case of subterfuge, although the gesture now seems a bit glib. But what is clear is that his administration has been steadfast in its efforts to suppress the calls for disclosure of the guestbook. In Februrary, Dusty Johnson, Daugaard’s Chief of Staff, helped kill legislation that would have required the governor to release the names ofthe guests at Valhalla by offering assurances that information on the cabin will be released periodically. Now, after a long line of equivocation on the matter, the governor has made clear that he won’t be releasing the names of all the guests, only those he deems appropriate for public consumption.
A tepid improvement in transparency does not represent a significant shift from the status quo. So if you thought the Governor was turning a page on Valhalla, turns out the Guestbook is still closed.