Ethics board decided Governor Noem may have engaged in misconduct

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Monday, inside a closed-door meeting, three members of the Government Accountability Board determined that “appropriate action” could be taken against Governor Kristi Noem. Although they did not say what that action would be.

The rules surrounding the board, formed in 2017, call for the possibility of a contested case hearing that would give Noem a chance to publicly defend herself against the allegations. Noem has denied any wrongdoing.

The board also referred a complaint that Noem flew on state-owned airplanes to political events to the attorney general’s office for further investigation.

The Government Accountability Board, made up of retired judges and justices, felt there was enough merit for the complaints to move forward, even after the governor requested they be dismissed. Much of what the board does is in executive session and they are limited in what information can be released to the public.

The board’s involvement started in February of 2021, when some state lawmakers requested the attorney general investigate whether Governor Noem violated state law by flying a state airplane to events hosted by political organizations.

The other issue before the Accountability Board involves allegations that the governor interfered when the Department of Labor and Regulation denied her daughter’s appraiser license application in 2020. The longtime head of the program, Sherry Bren, later told lawmakers she was forced to resign after a meeting at the governor’s mansion involving Bren, Noem, Noem’s daughter and others.

The board operates under the wing of the attorney general’s office, which is now run by Mark Vargo, who Noem appointed to the position last month after Jason Ravnsborg was removed from office.

Governor Noem’s Communications Director Ian Paul released the following statement:

“The actions taken by the GAB today did not follow state law or precedent. They have yet to point to one single statute the Governor has violated in either of these complaints.

“These complaints are all political and filed by a disgraced former attorney general who literally killed a man, lied about it, and tried to cover it up. Governor Noem was the first to call him out for this, and he filed these complaints in retaliation.

“It is unfortunate the board chose not to bring this charade to an end today. Kassidy Peters did not receive any special treatment, and Governor Noem followed the law, period!”