Dakota Provisions CEO addresses weekend memo, Dept of Health in contact

HURON — An internal memorandum from Mark “Smoky” Heuston, which was shared on social media over the weekend and was seen by Dakota Provisions employees as pressuring them to come to work while ill, was addressed by the company’s CEO Ken Rutledge on Tuesday.

Heuston is the human resources director for the Dakota Provisions plant in Huron.

The memo reads:

“Boning this Saturday was a disaster. To the 60 Boning and the 53 Kill employees that came to work Saturday, we can’t tell you how much we appreciate your loyalty.

Coronavirus has changed many of our lives, but we will recover. 100 employees did not attend work today. Getting together and purposely hurting Dakota Provision’s (SIC) today will hurt the company financially forever.

I do everything I can due (SIC) to support the Karen community every way I can. There is not one family or person that I have not helped in some way! When you do something like this, I struggle convincing the owners they should help you.

Dakota Provisions has paid thousands of dollars building homes for you, educating you, paying for your celebrations, soccer tournaments, and recently paying you when you are too sick to attend work.

You have greatly disappointed me!


The memo concluded with schedules for boning and kill sides of the facility listed.

The Plainsman confirmed that the memo was sent to employees on Saturday afternoon and reached out to Dakota Provisions for any response, which came Tuesday by way of a different memo to employees, this time from from Rutledge, for posting at all Dakota Provisions locations:

“To all employees who have worked the scheduled timing at the DP plant locations, a sincere and heartfelt Thank You.

To any employee that was upset by the recent personal posting from Smoky Heuston, I would ask that you consider everything that Smoky has done for all of our employees and understand that his comments came from a genuine concern for the future of our company and for the future of our employees.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a high level of frustration for everyone and we need to remember we are all in this together.

Smoky has been told never to allow this situation to happen again.

To those employees who were upset, I humbly and sincerely, apologize.

Ken Rutledge”

Dakota Provisions had limited case numbers, while Link Snacks Inc., the other meat processing operation in the area, had multiple positive cases throughout much of May and early June. However over the past three weeks, cases at Dakota Provisions has gone from near 10 cases  to more than 75 positive cases.

In the South Dakota Department of Health's Wednesday press conference, Secretary Kim Malsam-Rysdon did acknowledge that her department had received the emails and been in contact with Dakota Provisions to offer assistance in ensuring employee safety.


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