South Dakota ethics board wants more information on Noem

·3 min read

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota's Government Accountability Board called Monday for more information in at least one ethics complaint against Gov. Kristi Noem as it weighed multiple requests from the attorney general to consider whether the governor twice abused the powers of her office.

Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg asked the board to consider two issues: Whether Noem's use of state airplanes should be investigated for breaking the law and concerns about whether she interfered in a state agency that was evaluating her daughter’s application for a real estate appraiser license. The board also considered a third complaint, but the details of who made it or whom it was against were not public.

After meeting for nearly an hour in a closed-door session, the four retired judges on the board dismissed one of the complaints, but did not make public which one. It is sending the other two complaints back to the people who made them with requests for more information.

Attorney general spokesman Tim Bormann said the office had not heard anything from the Government Accountability Board following the meeting.

The board is required to keep the details secret unless it decides the complaints warrant a public hearing. When members of the public were allowed in Monday's meeting, board members said next to nothing about the complaints besides taking a vote on them.

Former Supreme Court Chief Justice David Gilbertson, who was appointed to the board by Noem, abstained from voting on the requests for more information on two of the complaints. He did not give a reason for doing so.

The Legislature is conducting a separate inquiry into the state agency that grants real estate appraiser licenses.

Noem has faced scrutiny over the matter since The Associated Press reported that just days after the Department of Labor and Regulation moved to deny her daughter's application for an appraiser license last year, Noem called a meeting with her daughter, the labor secretary and the then-director of the appraiser certification program. Noem's daughter received her license four months later.

Ravnsborg and Noem are both Republicans but are not allies.

In response to the board's action Monday, Noem's spokesman Ian Fury said, “We’re not surprised the Board has apparently sent these baseless attacks back.”

Noem, who has positioned herself as a prospect for the GOP presidential ticket in 2024, has defended her conduct by saying she was working to “cut red tape” to solve a shortage of appraisers and calling the report on the meeting a political attack.

She used a similar defense when a report from the news website Raw Story detailed her use of the state's airplane. Noem flew in 2019 to events hosted by political organizations like the National Rifle Association, Turning Point USA, and the Republican Jewish Coalition. Noem called that report politically motivated and explained that she was acting as an ambassador for the state.

South Dakota officials are not allowed to use the planes for anything other than state business, and Democratic Sen. Reynold Nesiba had asked the attorney general to investigate. Ravnsborg referred that request to the Government Accountability Board in September.

The board has not scheduled its next meeting. Former South Dakota Supreme Court Justice Lori Wilbur said it would once it has something to act upon.

Stephen Groves, The Associated Press

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