On Thursday, the South Dakota government accountability board set April as the deadline for Gov. Kristi Noem will respond to two ethics complaints filed by the attorney general of South Dakota. This indicates that it thinks the complaints may have merit.
Jason Ravnsborg is an attorney general and a Republican. He asked the board to address two issues. The first is whether Noem used state planes in violation of the law. The second is whether she illegally interfered with a state agency evaluating her daughter’s application to become a real-estate appraiser.
Noem insists that she did nothing wrong.
After meeting for about 10 minutes behind closed doors the Government Accountability Board , which is composed of retired judges, decided to give Noem until April 15, after the legislative session has ended, to respond to the complaints. It requested a response to one of the complaints in December. However, the governor’s office demanded more time.
Retired judge Gene Kean said, “This is probably the worst time of the year.” He was referring to Governor Scott’s hectic work schedule.
Noem appointed former Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court, David Gilbertson, to the board. He has now withdrawn from the consideration of the complaints.
Unless the board decides that they merit a public hearing, the details of complaints are kept secret by the board. It has previously dismissed complaints without requiring targeted officials to respond.
Ravnsborg refused to discuss specific details of the complaints on Thursday. However, he explained that the board requires a response from the subject to a complaint before it decides whether to “dismiss, move forward with the matter or seek an investigation.”
The board can request a criminal investigation, issue a private warning, or require community service if it finds any ethics violations. In the five years that it has been in existence, however, the board never considered taking action against a governor.
Ravnsborg stated that the board is given a wide discretion and they are all still learning. He also said that there haven’t been many complaints. It’s a relatively new board.
Ravnsborg is a Republican, but Noem and Noem do not consider themselves to be allies. After Ravnsborg struck and killed a pedestrian in 2020, the governor tried to get Ravnsborg out of office.
Noem is under scrutiny for her participation in the state’s Appraiser Certificate Program . The Associated Press reported Noem called a meeting to her daughter, Sherry Bren (the labor secretary) just days after the Department of Labor and Regulation denied her daughter’s 2020 appraiser license application.
In December , Bren told a legislative panel looking into the episode she felt intimidated at that meeting and that Kassidy Peters (Noem’s daughter) received an unprecedented additional opportunity to demonstrate that her appraiser work can meet federal requirements.
Noem is running for reelection. She has also positioned herself to bid for the 2024 White House.
After the revelations by Raw Story that state-owned planes were used to fly to 2019 events hosted at political organizations like the Republican Jewish Coalition, Turning Point USA, and the National Rifle Association – Noem dismissed the criticism of her state plane use as a political attack. Noem considers her trips part of her role as an “ambassador” for the state.
South Dakota officials cannot use the planes for any other state business. Democratic state senator Reynold Nesiba requested that the attorney general investigate.
Ian Fury, Noem’s spokesperson, stated that after the board had announced its decision, her office was “focused on the work in the legislative session.”