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Lawmaker recuses himself from impeachment vote

The South Dakota House of Representatives.

State Rep. Scott Odenbach, R-Spearfish, has recused himself from the upcoming vote in the House of Representatives on the impeachment of Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg.

SDPB News reported Tuesday that Odenbach, a lawyer, gave what he described as legal counsel to Ravnsborg in the days following Ravnsborg's involvement in a fatal crash.

Representative Scott Odenbach
Rep. Scott Odenbach, R-Spearfish

That revelation was contained in an audio recording of investigators questioning Odenbach. The recording was one of hundreds of items in the Ravnsborg crash investigative file, which was released recently by the House impeachment committee.

Odenbach initially told SDPB News that the legal advice he offered Ravnsborg — along with their friendship dating to their law-school days — did not preclude him from voting on impeachment.

Then, on Wednesday, Odenbach sent a letter to Speaker of the House Spencer Gosch.

"Recent news reports have raised the issue of a potential attorney-client relationship between me and Attorney General Ravnsborg arising out of conversations in the days following his traffic accident," Odenbach wrote. "To avoid even the appearance of impropriety I am writing to let you know that I will be recusing myself from the House vote and will not be attending the proceedings in Pierre on April 12th, 2022."

The impeachment vote on Tuesday comes after months of hearings by a House impeachment committee. A majority of the committee recommended against impeachment.

The committee studied Ravnsborg's involvement in a September 2020 accident. Ravnsborg's car struck and killed Joe Boever, a Highmore resident who was walking alongside a rural highway at night. Ravnsborg has said he didn't initially know what he hit. He eventually pleaded no contest to a pair of misdemeanors in a criminal case.

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