So last month, Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg told that Sioux Falls paper that his office was “looking into how the Sioux Falls Police Department” responded to the now infamous but still undetailed July 13 911 call to Minnehaha County state’s attorney Aaron McGowan’s house. Then on Monday, the AG’s office said there was no investigation into the SFPD or the Minnehaha County state’s attorney’s office.
Now Governor Kristi Noem whipsaws Ravnsborg and tells his to do his job… which, of course, is to do the bidding of the Republican elites who gave him his sinecure and investigate Democrats like McGowan:
A matter of public interest was reported by the media on at least two occasions regarding the extended absence of the elected official holding the office of the Minnehaha County State’s Attorney. The Attorney General has the duty of exercising supervision over state’s attorneys in matters pertaining to their duties of office. Due to these media reports, the public information that has been disseminated, and several inquiries into the Office of the Governor, our Office formally requests an investigation into this matter [Governor Kristi Noem, letter to Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, 2019.09.18].
Governor Noem signals that she wants an investigation to justify her taking action to remove the elected state’s attorney of Minnehaha County from his position:
Further, the governor has the power and duty to remove officials who “willfully fail, neglect, or refuse to perform any of the duties imposed upon him by, or to enforce any of the provisions of law relating to intoxicating liquors, or who shall willfully fail, neglect, or refuse to perform any duties imposed upon them by law, or who shall be guilty of intoxication or drunkenness, or who shall be guilty of the violation of any law, or who shall assist or connive in the violation of any law, or who shall be grossly incompetent to perform the duties of his office.” SDCL 3-17-3. An investigation is necessary to determine if grounds for removal exist or not. This is a matter of public interest and swift resolution is prudent [Noem, 2019.09.18].
Notice that the statute in question empowers the Governor to oust state’s attorney, sheriffs, or and their deputies and police officers, but only “after notice and hearing.” SDCL 3-17-7 appears to direct that such hearing be held in circuit court in the county of the official so targeted by the Governor. SDCL 3-17-8 directs that the judge suspend such an accused official from the official’s duties until final determination of the issues and appoint “some competent person” in the official’s place during the suspension. If the accused official prevails, the officials gets salary from the suspension period and legal costs paid by the jurisdiction that employs the official.
Wait a minute: Governor Noem can dispatch her bumbling Attorney General to lose another case for her, and she can make Minnehaha County pay for the defense costs? Minnehaha County Commissioners, you might want to send a memo before Governor Noem takes another chunk out of your budget.
Meanwhile, state’s attorney McGowan tells KELO-TV what really happened at his house: after 23 years of insomnia, chronic knee pain, and PTSD from a bad experience in the hospital, on the one-year anniversary of his mother’s death, he “had several drinks” at home, and someone else called the police to do a wellness check. McGowan says the police came to his house, he “cooperated” and “cleared quickly,” and the police had “no concerns about my well-being or anyone else’s.” And while Governor Noem might be doing McGowan a favor by removing him from his stressful job, McGowan says he’s ready to get back to work and seek reëlection:
“I absolutely intend on running for State’s Attorney again,” McGowan said.
Kennecke: Why did you want to run again? You mentioned the overwhelming caseloads, some of the disturbing cases you have to deal with and how they affect you personally? Why would anybody want this job?
McGowan: Part of it is, I just feel duty bound to do it. I have no other aspirations for any other office. This is the office I love and job I love.
Kennecke: What can you say to the public to regain their confidence if any has been lost? Should they have confidence in you?
McGowan: I think they absolutely should. I haven’t done anything wrong. I just took care of myself for the first time in a long time [Angela Kennecke, “A Prosecutor’s Personal Trial,” KELO-TV, 2019.09.18].
McGowan says has no objection to releasing the July 13 911 call, and he “welcomes” Noem’s call for Ravnsborg to investigate him:
An “accurate and credible determination of the facts”—if that’s what Governor Noem is after, she’ll need to outsource the job.