SIOUX FALLS, SD – An ethics board investigating a pair of complaints leveled against Gov. Kristi Noem voted to refer one of those complaints to the South Dakota Attorney General’s Office for investigation.
The second complaint was partially dismissed by the Government Accountability Board, because “appropriate action” had been determined.
The decision was part of the board’s seventh meeting, which happened Monday and came nearly three weeks after they decided to extend the probe another 60 days.
What are the complaints against Gov. Kristy Noem?
Noem faced two complaints: one for the alleged personal use of the state airplane, and the second for misusing her position as governor to help her daughter through the state real estate appraiser program.
the head of the certification appraiser programSherry Bren, retired in March 2021 after she sat in a closed door meeting with Noem and her daughter at the Governor’s Mansion in Pierre.
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The complaint heading to the AG’s office involves Noem’s alleged personal use of the state airplane, according to the Associated Press.
The attorney general’s office, headed by Mark Vargo, who was appointed by Noem after former AG Jason Ravnsborg was impeached earlier this year, has been tapped to investigate Complaint 2021-4, the board determined. The office will also be in charge of taking any actions on the complaint.
What happens next?
“We will be diligent in our duty and thoroughly investigate the complaint that the Government Accountability Board has presented to the Attorney General’s Office,” Vargo said in a statement. “The investigation, as with all other investigations, will remain confidential, as does the complaint that has been presented to us.”
Vargo added the decision had not yet been made to recuse himself from the investigation.
The second complaint, Complaint 2021-3 that’s now partially closed, found Noem may have “engaged in misconduct” when intervening on her daughter’s behalf to obtain a real estate appraiser license, the Associated Press reported.
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If more evidence came to light in the future could be reopened, board chair Lori Wilbur explained. Portions of the complaint, after redactions are made, will be released to the public, though a date has not yet been determined.
The decision also came before a scheduled Tuesday meeting of the Rules Review Committee in Pierre, where changes to the Appraiser Certification Program are expected. Proposed rule changes include revising exam requirements for certain credentials and “bring rules into closer alignment with federal rules.”
Response to the ethics board’s decision
Kristi for Governor Communications Director Ian Fury responded to the board’s decision Monday evening in a statement, calling the action “illegal.”
“The actions taken by the GAB today did not follow state law or precedent,” stated Fury, who is helping with Noem’s reelection efforts. “They have yet to point to one single statute the Governor has violated in either of these complaints.”
He went on to call the complaints “all political and filed by a disgraced former attorney general who literally killed a man, lied about it, and tried to cover it up.”
“Gov. Noem was the first to call him out for this, and he filed these complaints in retaliation,” Fury stated.
He then doubled down and said Noem’s daughter didn’t receive any special treatment, and that the first-term governor followed the law.
“It is unfortunate the board chose not to bring this charade to an end today,” he stated.
More:Ethics board investigating complaints against Gov. Kristi Noem extends probe another 60 days
Reynold Nesiba, D-Sioux Falls, who initiated the complaint against Noem’s alleged personal use of the state airplane, said there should be a regular process to review the use of public resources.
“It shouldn’t take a legislative complaint to the AG, who then sends the investigation to the GAB, to assess whether our elected leaders are appropriately using public resources,” he said.
Nesiba echoed frustrations about the board’s lack of transparency.
“They should be able to have public hearings where they can tell the public what issues are under consideration and investigation,” he said.
The GAB was created in 2017 by the South Dakota State Legislature and complaints are considered in secret. Complaint details are confidential during the proceedings, and details are only shared if the board finds they have merit.
Noem is currently running for her second term in office, and faces Democratic challenger Jamie Smith this November.
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism