Kristi Noem’s campaign still has not provided any evidence to back up its Trumpian claim that the Government Accountability Board broke the law in handling two ethics complaints against the Governor. But the South Dakota Newspaper Association suggests the GAB may have violated open meetings law.
I could see cause for such a complaint in the draft minutes from the August 22 meeting describing the board’s action on Complaint 2021-03, pertaining to Noem’s nepotistic intervention in the appraiser certification process on behalf of her daughter Kassidy Peters.
Gienapp moved that the Board dismiss Complaint 2021-03 as it relates to subsections (5) and (9) of SDCL 3-24-3. Gienapp further moved that pursuant to GAB Rule A.(c), the board make an initial determination that the complaint, as it relates to subsections (2) and (4) of SDCL 3-24-3, alleges facts sufficient to constitute a violation of SDCL 3-24-3 and, further, that appropriate action pursuant to Rule A.(c) has been taken and Complaint 2021-03 as it relates to subdivisions (2) and (4) should be closed subject to the board’s discretion to reopen the file, if it deems it appropriate. Kean seconded the motion. Motion carried unanimously [emphasis mine; Government Accountability Board, draft minutes, 2022.08.22].
The minutes say action has been taken; however, the GAB has not held a public vote to take such action. The law creating the GAB is unclear, but for every other public board or commission, no matter what a board may be allowed to discuss behind closed doors, it must open the doors to approve taking any action.
According to state law, “any official action concerning the matters pursuant to this section shall be made at an open official meeting.”
“It goes back to this board and to what degree does this board have to comply with the open meetings law,” he said. “But you would assume still it’s a public board, it’s a government board and it needs to comply with the open meetings law unless otherwise directed and at this point, I don’t see where it says that it can vote in closed session” [Annie Todd, “Ethics Board That Investigated Kristi Noem Is Under Fire for Vague Interpretation of Rules,” Sioux Falls Argus Leader, 2022.09.02].
We should all keep in mind that the difficulty the Government Accountability Board is having in dealing with its relatively new and untested statutes is far less grave than the ethical soup Governor Noem has brewed for herself by abusing the power of her office for her daughter’s professional gain and her personal travel comfort and Presidential campaign. But if we’re going to hold Governor Noem and other members of the Executive Branch accountable, we need an accountability board that can do its job by the book, with public accountability.