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Judge to decide Buffalo Chip’s fate

August 2, 2018

STURGIS — Lawyers for the town of Buffalo Chip argued Tuesday the state has no legal basis for wanting to dissolve their incorporated community.

“You can’t annul a municipality,” Buffalo Chip attorney John Dorsey told Judge Gordon D. Swanson in Fourth Circuit Court in Sturgis.

Dorsey cited state law which allows action to vacate a corporate charter or articles of incorporation. But it expressly states, “for annulling the existence of corporations other than municipal.”

The law goes on to state the conditions for annulling or vacating the corporation which includes that violating laws creating, altering, or renewing such corporation.

He said the town has made a good and fair effort to establish itself and has done everything by the book.

“First you argued that only the state could bring a challenge to the incorporation and now you’re saying the state can’t question the incorporation?” Swanson asked Dorsey.

Dorsey said the state is the only entity that can inquire, but asking to annul the incorporated town is beyond the even the state’s powers.

“You can’t grant the relief they are requesting,” Dorsey told Swanson.

The state, through its special assistant attorney general James Moore, said that the South Dakota Supreme Court decision on the incorporation clearly states the state can bring action against the incorporation.

And if the judge interprets that the state cannot sue the incorporated township then the state would bring suit against individual trustees, Moore said.

“At that point they would no longer be able to act as a municipality and would cease to operate,” he said.

Simply put, Moore said the state could revoke a charter that it had granted.

The hearing Tuesday was a bench trial before Swanson. It is not known when he will issue his opinion on the motion to dismiss the state’s case against Buffalo Chip.

Legal battles as to the incorporation of Buffalo Chip have ensued since a vote on the incorporation was scheduled by the Meade County Commission in May 2015. Despite opposition to the incorporation and a legal challenge from several Meade County residents and the city of Sturgis, the election was held, and a majority voted to incorporate Buffalo Chip.

Legal challenges have continued since, all the way to the state Supreme Court which on Jan. 25, 2018, ruled in favor of those seeking the incorporation, saying that any action challenging the incorporation of the town must be brought by the state.

Under state law, the state’s first step in the process was to seek permission from the State Supreme Court to intervene in the case. That was granted in March. On May 10 the Supreme Court denied the state’s request to proceed with the case at the Supreme Court level, but said they could bring action in circuit court.

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