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Vargo Says No Official Word from GAB Yet on Noem Plane Complaint

Seven days ago, the Government Accountability Board referred the complaint about Governor Kristi Noem’s possible personal and political misuse of the state plane back to the Attorney General’s office. Six days ago, Democratic Representative Jamie Smith, Republican Representative Scott Odenbach, and Republican Speaker of the House Spencer Gosch called on the Noem-appointed Attorney General Mark Vargo to name a special prosecutor to avoid any conflict of interest in the handling of that complaint.

But Attorney General Vargo says he can’t do anything about the complaint or a special prosecutor until GAB formally notifies him that the complaint is back in his lap:

Vargo says in an exclusive interview with KOTA Territory News, that he has not received any official statement from the GAB yet, although he expects to sometime soon.

He adds he won’t decide whether or not to recuse himself until he hears more.

”I obviously understand it’s important that my office be non-partisan, and that we avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety,” Vargo said [Nick Nelson, “AG Vargo Says He’s Waiting on an Official Word from GAB Before Deciding Whether or Not to Recuse Himself,” KOTA-TV, 2022.08.28].

We can’t tell from the outside who’s dragging feet on this important investigation. The Government Accountability Board shouldn’t need a whole week to get official notice of its actions to the Attorney General: at the end of last Monday’s meeting, they could have directed their assistant, Katie Mallery, to dash off an email and a fax that afternoon telling the Attorney General, “Hey, your ball!” Even if the GAB is still ordering letterhead—after all, these are the first two complaints they’ve done anything about other than quiet dismissal, so maybe they haven’t needed to send any external communications yet—the state plane complaint came from the Attorney General’s office last year. A.G. Vargo should have his impeached predecessor’s complete folder on the complaint; Vargo could be reviewing those documents now and get a pretty god picture of whether he can objectively decide the complaint or whether he needs to bring in Clay County State’s Attorney Alexis Tracy or some other suitable independent investigator.

Whether the drag is coming from one side or the other or both of this slow path to accountability, the drag needs to end. Every day of delay makes South Dakota look more like the Keystone Cops on corruption, which only gives the corrupt more aid and comfort.


  1. Jad I 2022-08-29 08:13

    The Republicans want to delay everything until after the election and then make a late Friday announcement that there is not enough valid information to take any action.

  2. 96Tears 2022-08-29 08:18

    Seven days? Obviously, this is running down the clock. The five D’s are Delay, Derail, Deny, Drag and Delay.

    Who’s dragging their feet? They all are, from the GAB to Vargo himself. The excuse here is as plausible as the dog ate the homework. It’s a safe move in a state where one party overwhelming runs the justice system and all statehouse positions except nine percent of the legislature. Who’s going to force Vargo to do his job? Nobody.

    If the RNC was lassoing a gaggle of GOP state attorneys general to file a suit to stop a Biden initiative or stop the Justice Department from putting Trump in prison, Vargo and the rest of them won’t waste more than two minutes before signing on. In this case, Noem owns Vargo’s testicles. Conflicts? Only when the Snow Queen gives them a twist. Vargo knows he’s a captive caretaker.

  3. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-08-29 08:26

    It took state law enforcement less than three weeks to investigate the August 9 police shooting in Sioux Falls and determine that Jacob Michael James had it coming. It took the previous AG’s office seven months just to decide to pass the buck on the state plane complaint to the GAB; the GAB took nearly eleven more months to decide to boot the complaint back. 18 months of inaction, and now we’re fussing about official notice.

  4. mike from iowa 2022-08-29 08:51

    96 Tears left out despicable and deplorable. Just saying.

  5. 96Tears 2022-08-29 12:05

    mfi – I thought the visual I left at the end of my missive was despicable and deplorable enough. :-)

  6. Arlo Blundt 2022-08-29 18:00

    Well..of course there is a bias in state government to sweep accountability issues within the Executive Branch under the nearest rug. Cover-up has become precedent. I doubt if the Retired Judges on the GAB want to become complicit in a cover-up. They seek to comply with established rules and procedures, and they do not want to appear to “rush to judgement.” The fact is the Attorney General’s Office is just down the hall in the Capitol Building. Time to spray a little WD-40 on the Wheels of Justice. Justice delayed is Justice denied.

  7. Jake 2022-08-29 20:12

    ‘”Justice delayed IS justice denied”!!! The GOP in SD want this to come out AFTER the November election of course. Denying justice is “OK” by the GOP here, if it suits there candidates for holding office in the burgeoning government they are creating while at the same time blaming the Democrats (who haven’t held reins of power in SD for over 40 years; even then briefly) for wanting to grow the government. Look at their governess, Noem, who put in the “Coon Tails to Pheasants” to eradicate predators in favor of more pheasants to sell to out-of-state hunters, and giving a conservative college (Hillsdale) hundreds of thousands $$$ to create HER version of history to be taught our kids! Tie that to her current fight with accountability to the GAB (her daughter’s issue) and the AG/GAB foopah about personal state plane usage,and combining the AG Dept with DENR to upset the prior ability of the DENR to protect the people of this state from extreme environmental damage.
    Oh yeah, GOP is who to vote for in SD if you want limited government-the kind that limits its focus on the well-to-do higher incomes that contribute hunreds/thousands to the conservative causes.

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