Ethics board: SD Gov. Noem may have ‘engaged in misconduct’



SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — A South Dakota ethics board on Monday said it found sufficient information that Gov. Kristi…

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — A South Dakota ethics board on Monday said it found sufficient information that Gov. Kristi Noem may have “engaged in misconduct” when she intervened in her daughter’s application for a real estate appraiser license, and it referred an investigation into her state airplane use to the state’s attorney general.

The three retired judges on the Government Accountability Board determined that “appropriate action” could be taken against Noem for her role in her daughter’s appraiser licensure, though it didn’t specify the action.

The board’s moves potentially escalate the ramifications of investigations into Noem. The Republican governor faces reelection this year and has also positioned herself as an aspirant to the White House in 2024. She is under scrutiny from the board after Jason Ravnsborg, the state’s former Republican attorney general, filed complaints that stemmed from media reports on Noem’s actions in office. She has denied any wrongdoing.

After meeting in a closed-door session for one hour Monday, the board voted unanimously to invoke procedures calling for a contested case hearing that would give Noem, who has denied wrongdoing, a chance to publicly defend herself against the allegations related to “conflicts of interest” or “malfeasance.” The board also dismissed Ravnsborg’s allegations that Noem misused state funds in the episode.

However, the retired judges left it unclear how they will proceed. Lori Wilbur, the board chair, said the complaint was “partially dismissed and partially closed,” but added that the complaint could be reopened. She declined to discuss what would cause the board to reopen the complaint.

The retired judges also referred a complaint that Noem flew on state-owned airplanes to political events to the state attorney general’s office for further investigation. That puts the investigation under the oversight of the interim attorney general, Mark Vargo, who was appointed by Noem.

The board handled the complaints only by case number and did not refer to Noem directly in either case. Ravnsborg provided the case numbers to The Associated Press.

“Knowing what I know as the complainant, Gov. Noem should be fully investigated for her abuse of power in getting her daughter an appraiser license, and Gov. Noem should be prosecuted for her criminal use of state resources for personal gain,” he said in a statement.

Noem and Ravnsborg have become political enemies since he fatally struck a pedestrian in 2020. Noem pushed hard for him to be removed from office, and the state Senate convicted him on impeachment charges and removed him as attorney general. He had continued to press the complaints as a private citizen.

Noem did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

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