- Associated Press - Friday, September 12, 2014

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - The former director of the state’s federal EB-5 investment program has agreed to answer a legislative panel’s questions as it investigates the program, the committee chairman said Friday.

Sen. Larry Tidemann, who leads the Government Operations and Audit Committee, said he received a letter Friday from Joop Bollen’s attorney indicating that Bollen would not appear at the group’s next meeting on Sept. 24 in Pierre but would provide written answers to their questions.

Tidemann, a Republican from Brookings, earlier asked Bollen to give a chronology of the EB-5 program, which allows foreign investors to pursue citizenship with a $500,000 investment.

Tidemann said he’ll ask members of the committee to submit proposed questions by next Friday, then they’ll discuss them on Sept. 24 and forward the queries to Bollen.

“I think if he’s willing to provide the answers in writing, that is as good as in person,” he said.

But Rep. Susan Wismer, of Britton, a committee member and the Democratic nominee for governor, said that’s not good enough because one question can lead to another.

“South Dakotans have been waiting for answers too long. We need him in person, under oath, on the record,” said Wismer, who tried unsuccessfully at the committee’s July meeting to have Bollen subpoenaed.

South Dakota law does allow legislative committees to summon people to testify under certain circumstances, but they can’t be forced to incriminate themselves, based on their constitutional rights, said Attorney General Marty Jackley.

Bollen declined to comment Friday.

Tidemann said Gov. Dennis Daugaard and former Gov. Mike Rounds, the GOP candidate for U.S. Senate, both indicated that by Wednesday they will provide written responses to the committee’s questions so its members have a week to review the information before the Sept. 24 meeting.

Tidemann said he also heard back from the U.S. attorney’s office, which indicated its policy prevents prosecutor Brendan Johnson from briefing the committee on any federal probe, if there is one.

“I got an email saying he would neither confirm nor deny there’s an investigation,” Tidemann said. “If that’s their policy, that’s what we have to live with.”

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