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Image: South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem speaks in Sioux Falls on June 22, 2020.Stephen Groves / AP file

Accountability Board to review Noem's abuse-of-power controversy

If South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem was hoping to see her abuse-of-power controversy quietly go away, the latest developments will be disappointing.


If South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem was hoping to see her abuse-of-power controversy quietly go away, the latest Associated Press report probably disappointed the Republican.

South Dakota's attorney general said Wednesday he has asked the state's Government Accountability Board to review questions about whether Gov. Kristi Noem improperly interfered in a state agency's evaluation of her daughter's application for a real estate appraiser license. The board, which was created in 2017 to review allegations of misconduct from state officials, is a panel of four retired judges appointed by the governor; the current panel includes one Noem appointee.

Jason Ravnsborg, the state's Republican attorney general, said in a statement that he made the referral "in response to questions and concerns from a number of legislators and citizens who reached out to me."

For those who may need a refresher, the Associated Press reported a couple of weeks ago that the governor's adult daughter applied to become a certified real estate appraiser. When the relevant South Dakota agency moved to deny the application, Noem "summoned to her office the state employee who ran the agency, the woman's direct supervisor and the state labor secretary." The governor's daughter also attended the meeting.

Soon after, Noem's daughter ended up getting the certification she sought, at which point the state labor secretary allegedly demanded the retirement of the relevant agency head.

As we've discussed, you don't have to be an expert in government ethics to see this story as a legitimate abuse-of-power controversy. Making matters worse, at least at first, the governor didn't even try to deny the core elements of the story, choosing instead to accuse the media of "trying to destroy" her children, which was a bizarre response.

Not long after the story broke, Ravnsborg issued a statement saying he was "actively reviewing" the matter. For the governor's critics, that may have seemed like an encouraging step, but Ravsborg is also facing possible impeachment about an unrelated scandal.

In other words, the state attorney general may be interested in the controversy, but if he's removed from office, he won't be in a position to maintain an investigation.

For her part, Noem tried to help put the matter to rest with a YouTube video last week, but the attempt at damage control was largely ineffective because much of her defense missed the point of the controversy.

All of which brings us to South Dakota's Government Accountability Board, which was already asked to investigate the governor's possible misuse of a state airplane for political purposes, and which will now be tasked with examining Noem's newest controversy.

As for what the Government Accountability Board is, KELO in Sioux Falls published a helpful summary.