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GALLAGHER: Head Coyote savors Dakota Days swan song

VERMILLION, S.D. | My decades-long immersion into Siouxland culture enjoyed a substantial boost one year ago as I witnessed University of South Dakota President Jim Abbott and his family clapping, dancing and greeting fans and friends outside Abbott's home on East Main Street during the 102nd Dakota Days parade.

It was my favorite sight of the entire autumn, maybe the whole year.

Abbott savors said ritual once more this Saturday, stepping with his daughters from a convertible outside his home as the Sound of USD marching band fires up the fight song. Former football coach Joe Glenn, I assume, will take his position on Abbott's front lawn, leading cheers after bursting from the house just having played the song on Abbott's Steinway piano.

TGallagher / Tim Gallagher, Sioux City Journal 

Members of the Jim and the late Colette Abbott family ride in the 2016 Dakota Days parade on Main Street in Vermillion, South Dakota. From left,  Lyndsey Abbott, Denver, Colorado; Sara Agne, Alexandria, Virginia; Jim Abbott, Vermillion; and Nancy Abbott Khalaf, Worcester, Massachusetts. Jim Abbott said his daughters will join him for the parade on Saturday, his last Dakota Days parade as USD president.

And this will be the last time Jim Abbott enjoys the festivities as sitting president. Abbott, the only Coyote grad to serve as top dog here, announced last week he'll retire in June, closing the books on a 20-year tenure, longest of any of 17 USD presidents.

"I turn 70 in June," Abbott told me this week. "I can't do this forever."

Justin Wan, Sioux City Journal 

University of South Dakota President Jim Abbott, shares a laugh with vice president and dean of students Kimberly Grieve, left, before the two crown the Dakota Days king and queen during the 2016 homecoming football game. This weekend will be Abbott's last homecoming as USD president.

The way USD has grown, there are those who wish he might. Enrollment, perhaps the key metric for any university head, has grown on his watch from 7,448 to 10,261. USD's endowment has ballooned from $45 million to $258 million during his tenure.

The university transitioned to NCAA Division I athletics under Abbott's leadership. And, last year, he dedicated the spectacular $66 million Sanford Coyote Sports Center during a volleyball victory on the Friday night of Dakota Days, then crowned Mr. and Miss South Dakota, as he's always done, at halftime of USD's homecoming triumph, a game enjoyed by nearly 10,000 fans.

Looking back, I asked, what leaves him most satisfied about the past two decades at his alma mater?

"I'm very proud that I'll leave an institution that's stronger from a physical standpoint because nearly every building on campus has either been built new, refurbished or renovated," he said.

And, there's this: "A total of 35,148 diplomas have been issued and signed by me, not counting those coming at graduation this spring," he said. "My favorite day here, by far, is graduation day as every kid -- let's call them graduates -- leaves here armed with a document that allows them to move forward as I did in the spring of 1970."

Back then, Abbott headed from USD to Jackson, Minnesota, where he taught high school government and history for one year.

"I was confident in my knowledge of the subject matter, but I had no idea how to motivate those students who weren't particularly interested in history," he said.

The Yankton, South Dakota, native returned to law school here, eventually went into practice and landed a seat in the South Dakota Legislature. He was working as a local attorney, having lost a primary election for the U.S. House of Representatives 21 years ago, when then-USD student body Brendan Johnson approached him at dinner in downtown Vermillion, asking him to apply for the presidential post.

TGallagher / Tim Gallagher, Sioux City Journal 

Enjoying a short break in the 2016 Dakota Days parade in front of the Abbott residence on Main Street in Vermillion, South Dakota, are Abbott family members, from left: Lyndsey Abbott, Denver, Colorado; Jim Abbott, Vermillion; Nancy Abbott Khalaf, Worcester, Massachusetts; and Max Agne, 2, and Sara Agne, both of Alexandria, Virginia. Tim Gallagher, Sioux City Journal

Jim and his wife, Colette, showed they could motivate folks here and changed USD for the better, spending the final 19 years of their 29-year marriage on the USD sidelines, if not at midfield, in the lab, with alums, at center court, or leading the band. Homecoming was a tough one last year for the president, his first without Colette, who died in May 2016, barely one week after being diagnosed with renal cancer.

The couple had talked about his retirement, focusing on a date toward the end of 2017. Colette's death, however, changed the president's thinking. He didn't make any dramatic life decisions in the months immediately following her death.

"I kept working and I think it was the right move," he said.

This month, he concluded, was the time to make his announcement, one that offers South Dakota's Board of Regents ample time to conduct a national search for his successor. It also gives Abbott and his children time to sort out a household of possessions.

"Colette and I accumulated every stick of furniture in that house, and I don't think any of our daughters want a 9-foot high Eastlake mirror," he said with a laugh.

TGallagher / Tim Gallagher, Sioux City Journal 

Enjoying a short break in the 2016 Dakota Days parade in front of the Abbott residence on Main Street in Vermillion, South Dakota, are Abbott family members, from left: Lyndsey Abbott, Denver, Colorado; Jim Abbott, Vermillion; Nancy Abbott Khalaf, Worcester, Massachusetts; and Max Agne, 2, and Sara Agne, both of Alexandria, Virginia. Tim Gallagher, Sioux City Journal

He'll figure all that out while guiding USD through his swan song, as his trusty canine, McGovern, sits by his side. And then?

He doesn't golf, fish, hunt or boat. He regrets he ever took up bowling. As for hobbies, he travels a bit and dabbles in historic preservation.

Minutes before leaving for a Board of Regents meeting, the USD homecoming parade leader clasped his hands behind his head and leaned back in his chair, briefly pondering a life without work.

"I plan to take five or six months off to figure that out," he said with a content smile. "I have options. I don't think I'll flunk retirement."


Tim Hynds, Sioux City Journal 

University of South Dakota President Jim Abbott is shown in his office on the Vermillion, South Dakota, campus in 2014. This week will be the last time Abbott, the 17th president of USD, will enjoy homecoming festivities as sitting president. The only USD grad to serve in that role, he will retire in June, ending a 20-year tenure, longest of any of the college's 17 presidents.


Crime-and-courts
Badgerow developer's bankruptcy case dismissed

SIOUX CITY | A bankruptcy petition filed by the California-based developer of the Badgerow Building has been dismissed, paving the way for foreclosure proceedings on the historic downtown Sioux City office building to resume.

Judge Louise DeCarl Adler issued the ruling late Wednesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in San Diego, granting Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Bank and Trust's motion to dismiss the case.

The bank had argued in court filings that Carlsbad, California-based Mako One Corp. had missed deadlines to close certain bank accounts and open new ones, file a 90-day cash-flow budget and file other legal documents and reports with the court. Adler said in her ruling that Mako One also had not explained the unauthorized use of cash collateral.

The bank had argued that Mako One's June filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection was a "delay tactic" to put off adjudication of the foreclosure proceeding in U.S. District Court in Sioux City. Mako One has no ongoing business to reorganize and practically no income, the bank's lawyers argued. It appeared the company had only $2,043 on hand when it filed and, after inappropriately using cash collateral, now appears to have $1,641, according to court filings.

Cedar Rapids Bank and Trust filed for foreclosure on the Badgerow in April, saying Mako One, its managing partner Bruce DeBolt and two associated limited liability corporations defaulted on a $6 million bond agreement to help finance work to renovate and redevelop the 12-story structure. At the time, the bank said it was owed more than $4.4 million in principal, interest and advances.

The bank had filed a motion for appointment of a receiver to take charge of the property at 622 Fourth St., but a hearing on the matter was cancelled after Mako One filed for bankruptcy, leading to a stay of the Sioux City court's proceedings.

With Wednesday's ruling in hand, the bank could file a request to have that hearing rescheduled. By late Thursday, the stay had yet to be terminated in the Sioux City federal court. A hearing on DeBolt's motion to dismiss the foreclosure case -- a request he filed a week before the bankruptcy filing -- is scheduled for Oct. 19.

DeBolt bought the 12-story Badgerow, which had fallen into disrepair and had been red-tagged as unfit for occupation, for $440,000 in 2007 and announced a $10 million plan to renovate the building to attract corporate data centers, restaurants, professional offices and other businesses.

DeBolt entered into a development agreement with the city and received a tax increment financed $800,000 loan, which he repaid. In 2013, DeBolt agreed to forgo the remaining $1.2 million of a city loan, telling the City Council at the time he had spent about $6 million on renovations and had bonded for an additional $6 million. Cedar Rapids Bank and Trust issued the historic tax credit revenue bonds to Mako One and DeBolt in August 2013.

Later that year, DeBolt announced he had leased the Badgerow's fourth floor for use as a high-tech data center, but did not identify the company, citing confidentiality and security reasons. It's unclear if the data center ever located there and, if it did, if it is still inside the building.

Also unclear is how much progress has been made in renovations to the building, built in 1933 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a prime example of the art deco style of architecture.


Justin Wan, Sioux City Journal 

University of South Dakota President Jim Abbott, shares a laugh with vice president and dean of students Kimberly Grieve, left, before the two crown the Dakota Days king and queen during the 2016 homecoming football game. This weekend will be Abbott's last homecoming as USD president.


Jim Lee, Sioux City Journal 

Le Mars' Haylee Cooper bumps the ball during volleyball action against Cherokee in Le Mars Thursday.


Jim Lee, Sioux City Journal file 

A federal judge on Friday appointed a receiver to manage the Badgerow Building while a foreclosure case against the building's owner and developer proceeds. A Cedar Rapids, Iowa, bank says the owner and other partners owe some $4.7 million in unpaid bonds and interest they received to remodel and redevelop the downtown Sioux City building.


Crime-and-courts
Authorities investigating Westfield city finances

WESTFIELD, Iowa | Plymouth County authorities are investigating a complaint from Westfield city officials about the possible misappropriation of city funds.

Westfield Mayor Mike Tadlock confirmed that an arrest warrant has been issued for former city clerk Angela Sorensen.

Tadlock said Sorensen resigned in August. He declined further comment, saying the city's attorney had advised him not to share any other information.

The Plymouth County Sheriff's Office received the complaint Sept. 7 and is investigating, Sheriff Mike Van Otterloo said in a news release issued Thursday. Van Otterloo said no further information would be released because the investigation is not complete.

The city's attorney, Jessica Noll, of Sioux City, said she could not comment because the investigation is ongoing.

Jennifer Campbell of the Iowa State Auditor's office said the agency is currently "conducting some procedures" and reviewing the city's financial activities.

Tadlock said his small town of 131, located 21 miles northwest of Sioux City, has hired a new clerk, who will begin work next week.

The city of Westfield's budget estimates total expenditures of $195,100 for the fiscal year that began July 1.