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Vargo Rex: New Attorney General Purges Ravnsborg Cronies

Mark Vargo follows through! The new Attorney General‘s first act in office is to clean out the cronies left by the impeached killer he prosecuted and replaced:

Chief of Staff Tim Bormann and Department of Criminal Investigations (DCI) Director David Natvig were fired Tuesday from their positions in the office.

“They are no longer employed by the Attorney General’s office,” Vargo confirmed to Dakota News Now/KOTA Territory.

…Vargo declined to provide a reason as to why the two were terminated.

“We are not commenting on personnel decisions” [Austin Goss, “Ravnsborg’s Appointees Ousted from Attorney General’s Office,” KSFY, 2022.06.28].

But elsewhere, Vargo makes his reason pretty clear:

Asked whether he plans to remove anyone else, Vargo said, “It is a last resort as far as I’m concerned.” He added, “I know most of them are dedicated professionals and I need to get out of their way” [Bob Mercer, “Vargo, as Interim AG, Fires Bormann and Natvig,” KELO-TV, 2022.06.28].

If you are a dedicated professional, Attorney General Vargo will keep you on and let you do your job. If you’re not a dedicated professional, who’s taking up space in Pierre only because you donated money to Jason Ravnsborg, pack your bags.

Natvig and Bormann were both maximum donors to Jason Ravnsborg’s 2018 campaign for Attorney General. Bormann worked for Ravnsborg’s 2018 AG campaign and his 2014 U.S. Senate bid. Ravnsborg appointed Natvig to run DCI, despite the fact that, unlike all recent DCI directors, Natvig had never worked as a law enforcement officer. Natvig’s tenure at DCI has raised concerns about staff turnover and declining efficiency. And Natvig appears to have lied to the House impeachment committee to cover his friend Ravnsborg’s abuse of office.

It’s harder to compare Bormann’s qualifications and performance as AG chief of staff because the AG never had a chief of staff until Ravnsborg decided he needed one.

Natvig was getting $125,228.53 a year to run DCI. Taxpayers were handing Bormann the exact same salary to hand Ravnsborg his papers. Vargo’s firings yesterday will thus save taxpayers an eighth of a million dollars this year. If Vargo’s elected successor follows Vargo’s lead, does without the unnecessary chief of staff, and simply boosts to DCI chief one of the two assistant DCI directors on whom Vargo is relying, this slimdown will save us a quarter million dollars a year, which could be used to hire four or five actual law enforcement officers to serve the public.


  1. larry kurtz 2022-06-29 09:37

    Can either or both Natvig and Bormann for obstruction of justice?

  2. Bob Newland 2022-06-29 09:47

    Natvig and Bormann for obstruction of justice?

    Yes, they are.

  3. 96Tears 2022-06-29 10:05

    Note to Vargo: Huzzah!

  4. larry kurtz 2022-06-29 10:17

    Can or will they be tried for obstruction, Bob?

  5. Neal 2022-06-29 10:57

    Do y’all have faith that Noem-appointee Vargo will vigorously continue the investigations into Noem that were occurring?

  6. Guy 2022-06-29 11:09

    Neal, I think Vargo’s office was recently investigated for “prosecutorial misconduct” that led to a murder case being thrown out by the court over such conduct. Vargo also missed a deadline for the death penalty sentencing in a brutal murder case because as he said: he “forgot the deadline” by 3 days. Yeah, ask the people in Rapid City what they think about Vargo.

  7. Guy 2022-06-29 11:10

    Neal, with that record, I have absolutely no hope in Vargo pursuing the investigations around Noem’s corruption investigations.

  8. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-06-29 11:25

    Neal, Guy, how dare you impugn the integrity of a Republican official. You must have Vargo Derangement Syndrome.

  9. Guy 2022-06-29 11:44

    LOL…ohhh my…I need to go to the shrink for that, right, Cory? LOL

  10. Guy 2022-06-29 11:49

    Or as in the words of the late Maude Findley: “God will get me for that, Cory!”

  11. cibvet 2022-06-29 11:51

    I remember someone saying” I will vouch for Mark Vargo personally”. Your optimism will be shattered as he is a dancing puppet with
    a celebrant party buffoon pulling the strings. Republican corruption accepted as normal business in SD.

  12. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-06-29 12:04

    Cibvet, I stand by my vouching. Mark Vargo will kick ass where ass-kicking is warranted, as evinced by his immediate removal of Ravnsborg’s underqualified lackeys.

    The absence of an AG’s prosecution of Noem will not by itself prove that Vargo is covering for Noem.

    However, provide me evidence over the next six months that Vargo is playing games for Noem and covering up illegal actions by the Executive Branch, and I will take Vargo’s inaction as a betrayal of the public trust as well as my personal trust and endorsement, and I will raise holy heck.

    Of course, if y’all really are worried about inbred Republican corruption (and I appreciate the suggestion that you are so worried and not just grinding personal or internaly partisan axes in favor of the mugwump Know-Nothing faction of the party that Ravnsborg, Bormann, and Natvig represented), you have a moral and civic obligation to vote for Jamie Smith and every other Democrat on the ballot, remove these corrupt Republicans from power, and put Democrats in charge of all the closets where Noem, Jackley, et al. have been stashing skeletons. A Smith Administration would expose documentable corruption in the Noem Administration and previous Administrations more quickly and effectively than any alternative method I’ve heard proposed. Guy, Neal, are you game?

  13. All Mammal 2022-06-29 12:50

    Ravnsborg had a chief of staff getting paid… about the same amount that would be set aside for hiring a full-time employee to man the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Children office. I have not noticed a single drop of info coming from RCPD Chief Don Hedrick, who was appointed the position after St Joseph’s Indian School donated three years’ salary for the work to get done… still nothing. Still missing. Still unsolved murders. Still no database.. Sadly, our Amber Alert system is also just a pretend position for someone to get a handsome salary while not doing the work. Bunch of people cashing checks to play dress up.

  14. bearcreekbat 2022-06-29 13:30

    Let’s hope Vargo “forgets” about the timing requirements for notice of the State’s decision to impose the death sentence on the first woman, doctor, helper that the State decides to prosecute under the 1st degree murder statutes for an unauthorized termination of a pregnancy.

  15. Guy 2022-06-29 15:14

    Cory, first off I’m voting for Jamie Smith.
    Secondly the Legislative Committee that was investigating Noem officially said she abused her position to influence and give favorable treatment to her daughter. Now, that is on the official record in that committee’s final report, even you reported on that.

  16. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-06-29 20:41

    Larry, I’m not sure anyone has the stomach for bringing any more charges related to Ravnsborg’s corrupt subregime. Vargo has dished out the best punishment possible for Ravnsborg’s cronies: immediate firing. This punishment cost the state nothing—no trial, no time in court, no risk of losing to Mike Butler. As I note above, this punishment is actually saving the state $125K this year.

    This is surely part of why Noem appointed Vargo and not Jackley. Had she appointed Jackley, and if Jackley had fired Natvig and Bormann (and, come on—they had to go! You don’t impeach a scumbag and then leave the scumbag’s two closest cronies in office to leak information to Jason and help him microphone-bomb the Government Accountability Board), Jackley would have upset the GOP mugwumps and possibly lost a couple more points in the general election. Vargo isn’t on the ballot, so he’ll face no voter wrath and cause little trouble for the folks who are on the ballot, Jackley and Noem.

  17. grudznick 2022-06-29 20:46

    Mr. H makes more than his usual sense, here. With the killer gone, his liars and passive accomplices had to be hauled out of the palace by their noses, and I just bet you a gravy laden breakfast that a whole passel, or perhaps they call it a squad, of DCI fellows were happier than happy to carry this duty out, giggling like school girls as their shiny boots thumped down the hall leaving scuff marks behind that the custodians giggled about that evening when they mopped.

  18. grudznick 2022-06-29 21:17

    Now, we need a forensic audit of the door keys, the arsenal, and the dollars. They call these DAD audits, if I remember from way back in the day. Forensic DAD audit, that’s what they need.

  19. Guy 2022-06-29 21:21

    Grudz, we need the investigations on Kristi Noem to continue. The Legislative Committee said so in their final report on the matter concerning Sherry Bren.

  20. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-06-29 21:22

    Guy, I’m glad you have your voting hat screwed on straight for Governor. Thank you.

    As for Noem’s corruption, yes, absolutely, Noem’s nepotism on behalf of her daughter is on the record, and GOAC agrees. Remind me: what crimes did GOAC say Noem committed? What charges can Vargo bring against Noem?

    GOAC heard all the evidence of Noem’s nepotism publicly last fall. Ravnsborg was still in office then. What charges did he bring based on the evidence that was available to all of us, evidence that has not changed since that time?

    I’m not defending any potential abuse of power by Vargo. But the guy’s been in office for two days now. Firing the lackeys of the guy who just got impeached was necessary and easy. Assembling a legal case against the sitting Governor is a bit harder. Even if Noem had appointed me to the job, I’d probably be doing exactly what Vargo is doing:

    First, firing Natvig and Bormann, in part to make clear to anyone else feeling sorry for Jason that they can shape up or ship out and that it would be better if those lingering lackies shipped out now of their own volition rather than waiting for me to come around and put “FIRED” on their résumés.

    Second, getting my computer logins, printer codes, parking stickers (one for my car, one for my bike!), and the names of the maintenance people I call to get more whiteboards and markers for my office.

    Third, talking to McGuigan, the two guys I just made co-heads of DCI, and other key managers to find out what’s in process, what’s working, and what needs to be fixed.

    Fourth, I ask staff to prepare a list of court priorities, consisting of the two most pressing criminal prosecutions and the two most pressing cases we have pending on appeal at any level, SD Supreme Court, federal appeals court, or SCOTUS. By “pressing” I mean, important that we win and, for whatever reason—lack of staff time, errors or bad arguments put on the flow by the previous AG, whatever—most in need of intervention from another legal mind if not hands-on focus from the top.

    When I’ve taken care of those important tasks, tasks which will make clear that I am the boss, I know what I’m doing, and I can help identify and solve problems, then, some Friday later in July, I will turn to the knowledgeable person in the office who seems most trustworthy and ask that person to hand me the files on the Noem ethics complaints. I take those files home, review them over the weekend, and consider what action may be warranted and what action I can practically take in the five months I have left in office.

  21. Guy 2022-06-29 21:37

    Cory, true. I’ll give you that. I’ll have to have sometime too…to find out what GOAC officially found she did wrong. All I can give you now is that I remember they said she “gave special treatment” to her daughter. There has got to be some evidence somewhere that she abused her power in forcing Bren’s retirement. There has to be since Bren willingly testified that she felt intimidated in that meeting with Noem. I wish someone with integrity would come forward. I guess we can just pray now?

  22. grudznick 2022-06-29 22:25

    What Mr. H leaves out is that he would also contract, on the side, with grudznick, to run an internal forensic audit of the staff and draw out the remaining Deep State fellows who are lurking there, beneath the surface, that want to rise up and sink Mr. Jackley’s ship. grudznick could do most of this task from the cafeteria there, just outside Mr. H’s (or Mr. Vargo’s) door, where the lasagna is outstanding at lunch. I do hope Mr. Vargo likes the lasagna.

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