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Accountability Board votes for hearing on possible Noem misconduct

South Dakota governor talks to legislators on the state budget.
State of South Dakota

The state Government Accountability Board says it finds ‘sufficient information’ Gov. Kristi Noem may have engaged in misconduct.

The action in question involves a member of the governor’s family.

The board's conclusion comes months after reports detailed a meeting in which Gov. Noem intervened in her daughter’s real estate appraiser license application.

The Government Accountability Board voted unanimously to hold a contested case hearing for Noem to response to allegations of ‘malfeasance’ and ‘conflict of interest.’

A spokesperson for Gov. Noem called the actions of the board "illegal."

“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," said Ian Fury in an email from Noem's campaign. “It is unfortunate the board chose not to bring this charade to an end today."

The Government Accountability Board is comprised of four retired judges, including two from the state supreme court—Chief Justice David Gilbertson and Justice Lori Wilbur.

Complaints about the incident were forwarded to the board by then-Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, who has since been impeached.

The Government Accountability Board has referred another complaint against Noem back to interim-Attorney General Mark Vargo’s office. That complaint is related to her use of a state-owned airplane.

Vargo was appointed by Noem following Ravnsborg’s impeachment.

“We will be diligent in our duty and thoroughly investigate the complaint that the Government Accountability Board has presented to the Attorney General’s Office," Vargo said in a statement. "The investigation, as with all other investigations, will remain confidential as does the complaint that has been presented to us. We have no other comment at this time.”

In the statement, Vargo says due to the recent action by the board he has not decided whether to recuse himself.

“Based on the fact that this just happened, no decision has yet been made,” the statement read.

The Government Accountability Board has not scheduled a date for its next meeting, nor when it would hold the hearing on Noem’s case.

Lee Strubinger is SDPB’s Rapid City-based news and political reporter. A former reporter for Fort Lupton Press (CO) and Colorado Public Radio, Lee holds a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.