S.D. SIOUX FALLS On Monday, the South Dakota ethics board stated that it had sufficient evidence that governor Kristi Noem may have violated the law when she interfered with her daughter’s application for a real estate appraiser license. The board also forwarded a separate complaint regarding her use of the state airplane to the attorney general of the state for further investigation.
The Government Accountability Board’s three retired judges concluded that Noem may face appropriate repercussions for her involvement in her daughter’s appraisal license, albeit they did not define what those repercussions should be.
The Boards’ actions could intensify the effects of investigations into Noem. The Republican governor is up for reelection this year and has declared her candidacy for president in 2024. She is being investigated by the board as a result of accusations made by Jason Ravnsborg, the state’s former Republican attorney general, regarding Noem’s behavior while in office. She has denied doing anything improper.
The board unanimously decided to use procedures that for a contested case hearing to offer Noem a chance to publicly defend herself against accusations of misconduct linked to conflicts of interest and misbehavior after meeting in closed-door session for an hour on Monday. The board also rejected Ravnsborg’s claims that Noem had abused state resources during the incident.
The retiring judges did not specify how they intend to proceed, though. The case was partially dismissed and partially closed, but the board chair, Lori Wilbur, emphasized that it may be reopened. She refused to comment on the circumstances under which the board would reopen the complaint.
The board has the authority to chastise someone in public or private or to order them to perform community service. It can also advise the governor, though that choice appears unlikely given that Noem is the target of the allegations.
The AP first reported that shortly after a state agency attempted to reject her daughter’s application for an appraiser license in 2020, the governor got involved directly. Kassidy Peters, the governor’s daughter, was given a second chance to demonstrate that she could fulfill federal standards in her appraiser work after Noem arranged a conference with her, the labor secretary, and the program’s then-director.
The board, which was established in 2017 in response to many scandals in the state government, is proving to be undergoing its first significant test as a result of the accusations. It has never publicly retaliated against a state representative.
Later on Monday, Noem retaliated against the board of retired judges. The board’s move, according to a spokesman for her campaign, Ian Fury, did not adhere to state law or precedent.
He stated in a statement that they have yet to identify a single statute in either of these charges that the governor has broken.
The retired judges also forwarded a complaint to the state attorney general’s office for further investigation over Noem’s use of state-owned aircraft to travel to political events. As a result, Noem’s designated interim attorney general, Mark Vargo, will be in charge of overseeing the probe.
Vargo responded in a statement when asked if he would withdraw from the investigation: Based on what just transpired, no decision has been made.
In a previous statement, he stated, “We will be diligent in our job and thoroughly investigate the allegation that the Government Accountability Board has given to the Attorney General’s Office.” The complaint that has been brought to our attention, as well as the inquiry, will both remain confidential. At this point, we have nothing further to say.
The board simply dealt with the complaints based on their case numbers, and in neither instance did it specifically mention Noem. The Associated Press received the case numbers from Ravnsborg.
According to what I know as the complainant, Gov. Noem should be thoroughly investigated for abusing her position of authority to secure her daughter a license as an appraiser and prosecuted for her illegal use of public resources for private gain, he said in a statement.
After redacting certain portions, the board intends to publicly publicize the complaint regarding Noem’s appraiser license. A timeframe for when that will occur was not provided.
Since Ravnsborg killed a pedestrian in 2020, he and Noem have developed a political rivalry. The state Senate found him guilty of the allegations of impeachment and removed him from his position as attorney general after Noem fought hard to have him removed from office. As a private citizen, he had persisted in pursuing the charges.
Ravnsborg’s charges, according to Fury, a spokeswoman for Noem, are entirely political and were submitted by a discredited former attorney general who really murdered a guy, lied about it, and attempted to cover it up. Gov. Noem was the first to call him out on it, and as retaliation, he filed these accusations.
He also recited Noem’s defense, according to which she handled her daughter’s license application in accordance with the law and did not provide Peters any special treatment.
However, the agency’s director, Sherry Bren, told a legislative committee, claimed last year that she felt intimidated during the meeting at the governor’s mansion where Peters’ unsuccessful application was discussed in detail. Noems office has stated that the plan for Peters to get another chance was already in the works before the meeting. A legislative committee run by Republicans that looked into the incident came to the conclusion that Peters was given preferential treatment.
Additionally, Bren came under pressure to leave her job later in 2020, and she ultimately settled with an age discrimination claim for $200,000 to do so.
The former attorney generals other complaint was sparked when the online news outlet Raw Story discovered that Noem had in 2019 flown on a state aircraft to events hosted by political groups like the National Rifle Association and the Republican Jewish Coalition, despite South Dakota law prohibiting the use of state aircraft for purposes other than official business.
According to Noem, she was attending the activities as a state ambassador.