At its February 3 meeting, the Government Accountability Board gave Governor Kristi Noem until April 15 to respond to two ethics complaints received by the GAB last fall: one relating to the Governor’s use of the state plane for national campaigning, the other dealing with the Governor’s nepotistic intervention in her daughter’s struggle to obtain certification to appraise real estate. The GAB discussed these complaints, 2021-03 and 2021-04, at its November and December meetings. The three retired judges hearing these complaints (the fourth GAB member, former Chief Justice David Gilbertson, has recused himself from these complaints, since Noem appointed him to the GAB last year) gave Noem the extra time to respond because of her busy work schedule during the Legislative Session:
After meeting for roughly 10 minutes behind closed doors, the Government Accountability Board, which is made up of retired judges, decided to give Noem until April 15 — after the legislative session ends — to respond to the complaints. In December, it requested a response on one of the complaints, but the governor’s office asked for more time.
“This is probably not the best time of the year,” said retired judge Gene Kean, referring to the governor’s busy work schedule [Stephen Groves, “South Dakota Ethics Board Wants Response from Noem by April,” AP via ABC News, 2022.02.03].
Busy indeed—since receiving that extension, Noem has traveled to Houston, Dallas, the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Washington, Salt Lake City, Long Island, Jackson Hole, and Orlando. But her office won’t confirm whether she was able squeeze her GAB homework into her travels:
Her communications director wouldn’t say Tuesday whether South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem provided more information to a panel of four retired state circuit judges and Supreme Court justices who are looking into two complaints filed against her.
The Republican governor faced an April 15 deadline to respond to the state Government Accountability Board. KELOLAND News asked her spokesman, Ian Fury, whether she did so.
Fury in an email answered, “It would be a violation of state law to comment on your question. See SDCL 3-24-4” [Bob Mercer, “Noem Spokesman: ‘Can’t Comment’ on GAB Question,” KELO-TV, 2022.04.19].
The Governor’s Office is misreading the law. The relevant clause of SDCL 3-24-4 says “The information, reports, or complaints and the investigative records and files of the board are confidential and not a public record according to chapter 1-27 until the board votes in favor of conducting a contested case hearing.” The law binds the GAB to secrecy but not subjects of the GAB’s investigations. The law does not prohibit the Governor from commenting on what she has told the board about her use of state plane and the favors she did her daughter and the retribution she exacted against the appraiser certifier would would not do such favors. The law does not prohibit the Governor from saying, “Yes, I submitted responses by April 15.”
The Government Accountability Board will consider whatever response the Governor may or may not have provided at its next meeting, on May 2, 10 a.m., at the Minnehaha County Administration Building Commission Meeting Room.