South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem Tried to Avoid Ethics Hearings and Seal Cases, Newly Released Documents Show

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem asked a state ethics committee to dismiss a complaint against her without a public hearing and to s...


South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem asked a state ethics committee to dismiss a complaint against her without a public hearing and to seal some records, according to documents released Friday by the state’s Government Accountability Board.

The Republican governor, who is widely believed to be considering a 2024 White House bid, argued in an April motion that the state’s attorney general, another Republican who filed the complaint, had left for political reprisals and should be removed from the complaint. Noema had pushed former attorney general Jason Ravnsborg to resign and later for his impeachment for his involvement in a fatal car accident.

The attorney general’s complaint was sparked by an Associated Press report last year that Noem had played a hands-on role at a state agency. Shortly after the agency decided to deny his daughter, Kassidy Peters, a real estate appraiser’s license in July 2020, Noem held a meeting with Peters and key decision makers on his license. A few days after the meeting, Peters signed an agreement that gave him another opportunity to meet licensing requirements.

The Republican-controlled South Dakota Legislature Audit Committee unanimously approved a report in May that found Noem’s daughter received preferential treatment.

Documents released on Friday provided new information about an investigation the Government Accountability Board conducted mostly in secret for nearly a year. The three retired judges who assessed the ethics complaint unanimously concluded last month that there was enough evidence for them to believe Noem ‘was wrong’ by committing wrongdoing. and a conflict of interest.

The board said “appropriate action” would be taken against Noem, although it did not specify the action. It’s also unclear if Noem will seek a contested case hearing before the board to publicly defend himself against the allegations.

Neither her office nor her campaign said Friday whether she would proceed with a public hearing. She continued to insist publicly that she had done nothing wrong.

Records show that Noem, in a 29-page motion to council, launched a series of arguments to dismiss the complaint. His lawyer, Lisa Prostrollo, mocked Ravnsborg’s allegations as “preposterous”, a “political attack” and based on “outlandish conspiracy theories”.

The motion argues that Noem’s daughter joined the July 2020 meeting to give her perspective as a candidate and attempts to defend how this was appropriate as she faced a denial of her license. Government ethics experts said the timing and circumstances of the meeting created a clear conflict of interest for the governor.

Noem’s attorney argued that the Government Accountability Board had no constitutional authority to act against the governor or assess the complaint against her. And the attorney suggested that Ravnsborg, who had been forced out of office, be removed from the suit and replaced by the assistant attorney general who was overseeing the office at the time.

The council in August denied Noem’s request. However, he later seemed to pay attention to Noem’s requests. He dismissed two of Ravnsborg’s allegations that she misused public funds and sealed the release of certain documents.

Ravnbsorg suggested the council launch a full investigation into the episode by engaging a Minneapolis law firm. However, the council seems ready to settle the matter. He closed the complaint and has so far kept secret any “action” he might take against the governor, although he suggested the complaint could be reopened later.

The secrecy of the council’s potential action against the governor has drawn criticism from government ethics experts who say the council should be transparent.

“I hope they release their action plan as soon as possible,” Karen Soli, a former Democratic state congresswoman who helped create the council, told the AP last month.

Noem also made a motion to remove certain documents from the record, but it is unclear what those documents were because the board did not release that motion. Council counsel Mark Haigh said the motion was not released because it contained the list of redacted documents.

The board previously voted to redact records that “contain inside information” related to a state litigation payment fund. Former agency director Sherry Bren received a $200,000 payment from the fund to settle an age discrimination complaint she filed after Labor Secretary Marcia Hultman forced her to retire in December 2020.

Meanwhile, the board sent a separate complaint to Mark Vargo, the attorney general Noem appointed to replace Ravnsborg, to investigate his use of state planes. Ravnsborg alleged that his use of the state-owned aircraft to travel to political events and escort family members around the state violated a state law that only allows the use of the aircraft for state business.

Vargo’s office said Friday that, “to avoid even the appearance of impropriety,” he asked Hughes County State’s Attorney Jessica LaMie to oversee the work of the Criminal Investigations Division. and make any charging decisions.

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Newsrust - US Top News: South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem Tried to Avoid Ethics Hearings and Seal Cases, Newly Released Documents Show
South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem Tried to Avoid Ethics Hearings and Seal Cases, Newly Released Documents Show
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