Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Documents reveal Ravnsborg, Noem opposition in ethics probe


A new set of documents released last Friday reveal arguments in a case before the state Government Accountability Board. 

They outline a complaint from the former Attorney General, citing alleged interference by Gov. Kristi Noem to influence her daughter’s appraiser license upgrade. They also show that Noem sought to have the case dismissed. 

Former Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg’s initial complaint is filled out on a Government Accountability Board form. 

He checked the box for an investigation into the "Governor of South Dakota" and attached a news article first reported by the Associated Press that detailed a meeting the governor had with a state employee who oversees license upgrades. Noem’s daughter and other top government lawyers and department heads were also at that meeting. 

Ravnsborg filed this initial complaint a day after the Associated Press broke the story about the meeting.

 Two days prior, Noem reiterated calls for Ravnsborg to resign and for the House to take up impeachment articles against him.   

In total, Ravnsborg wrote three letters to the Government Accountability Board. One he submitted alongside the initial complaint outlined independent, out-of-state resources the board could utilize to assist in investigating the matter further.  

“Obviously, an investigation into either or both of these matters would require considerably more administrative and budgetary support and professional expertise than has, to date, been necessary,” Ravnsborg wrote. 

The two other letters lay out, in detail, the conflict of interest issue Ravnsborg sees, including examples from hearings that were held into the matter.

In one of the letters, Ravnsborg said the matter is not “simply about Kassidy Peters [the governor's daughter] and the status of her certification. It is about what processes were utilized for Kassidy Peters to obtain her certification, the potential conflicts of interest at play here which numerous national scholars have already weighed in as being present and were there any abuse of power by the governor.” 

Gov. Noem has said her daughter did not receive special treatment and that she’s been trying to fix the difficult process to become an appraiser. 

On April 15, 2022, Noem moved to have the case dismissed.

The governor's lawyer, Lisa Prostrollo with Redstone Law Firm, said the complaint by Ravnsborg is an election year political attack.

They said the complaint was filed in retaliation for the governor publicly calling for Ravsnborg’s impeachment. 

"Which suggests the Complaint was filed as retaliation," Prostrollo's response reads.

Ravnsborg was impeached and removed from office earlier this year.

They also said Ravnsborg was not acting in good faith when filing the complaint because he publicly announced questions regarding Kassidy Peters’s application for certification.  

They said that’s a violation of state law, which states “information, reports or complaints must remain confidential unless and until the accountability board votes to conduct a contested case hearing.”

The governor’s lawyers also said issuing a charge of official misconduct at the governor by the board would violate the constitution because there’s no constitutional provision that authorizes the board to rule on the governor’s conduct.

Prostrollo said a contested case hearing is synonymous with “adjudication,” meaning it could be appealed to the Circuit Court and state Supreme Court.

“Ultimately, the Attorney General’s complaint would necessarily require the judicial branch to review and address the propriety of the Governor’s official actions,” Prostrollo wrote. “The South Dakota Supreme Court has declared that the judiciary 'should carefully avoid anything which would appear like an improper interference with the actions of the Governor in the discharge of [the executive] function.'”

Noem’s lawyer also said the former AG lacked standing and abused his own power by using the resources of his office to compile a complaint against the governor.  

Also the accountability board’s funding falls under the AG’s office. 

Noem’s lawyer said the Government Accountability Board’s authority falls outside of the purview of the constitution, because it’s not part of the executive, judicial, or legislative branches of government.

They said a ruling would violate the separation of powers doctrine.

What comes next remains unclear. Gov. Noem could address the allegations brought up in the contested case hearing. The board can determine if there was misconduct. If it does, the board has three options: 

  • Issue a public or private reprimand.  
  • Direct a person to engage in coursework or community service.  
  • Make specific recommendations to the Governor.  
Politics Top StoriesKristi NoemJason RavnsborgFinance | Banking | Money | Cryptocurrency
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.