Reviewing the documents released yesterday by the Government Accountability Board relating to its investigation of Governor Kristi Noem’s nepotistic intervention in her daughter Kassidy Peters’s appraiser certification, I must struggle through the flaccid prose of killer Jason Ravnsborg, who while lingering in the Attorney General’s office filed the formal complaint that spurred the GAB to its first ever actual if vague action.
Ravnsborg’s initial complaint, filed September 28, 2021, the day after AP reporter Stephen Groves posted his bombshell article detailing Noem’s summoning of appraiser chief Sherry Bren to a bullying session at the Governor’s mansion with Noem’s daughter and several Noem Administration officials and lawyers, Bren’s forced resignation, and the state’s expensive settlement and silencing of Bren’s age-discrimination complaint. Ravnsborg’s initial complaint includes that Groves article, a list of the four statutory points that justify the complaint (subsections 2, 4, 5, and 9 of SDCL 3-24-3), and a list of people the Attorney General says could testify:
I believe Kristi Noem, Kassidy Peters, Sherry Bren, Tom Hart, Mark Miller, Tony Venhuizen, Ian Fury, Marcia Hultman, Aaron Scheibe, and Kristi Juelfs could have knowledge of the facts and circumstances. I do not have the contact information for all of these individuals, but believe it could easily be found in an investigation [Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, complaint to Government Accountability Board, 2021.09.28].
That contact information for eight state officials, one recently fired state official, and one civilian advertising her services online could surely be found easily by an amateur blogger—I found and posted a screen cap of Peters’s Google-cached appraiser website, complete with her phone number, the day before Ravnsborg filed is complaint. Surely the state’s top law enforcement officer, with a Division of Criminal Investigation headed by a campaign-donor crony, could have found that same contact information and more and provided it with the complaint. Better yet, the Attorney General could have conducted his own investigation and added some value to the details uncovered by the AP’s intrepid reporter.
But this is Jason Ravnsborg, not a real investigator, prosecutor, or Attorney General we’re talking about here.
Ravnsborg did show some good sense in proposing, in a letter accompanying the September 28 complaint, an independent counsel to assist the Government Accountability Board in investigating the complaint:
Ravnsborg followed up with a letter on November 22, 2021, recapitulating testimony from the October 28, 2021, hearing of the Legislature’s Government Operations and Audit Committee. From that hearing and subsequent hearings, GOAC concluded that Noem’s daughter did indeed receive special treatment in the appraiser certification process.
Ravnsborg’s one weak contribution to the powerful body of evidence and testimony uncovered by our legislators is a claim of anecdotal evidence (i.e.: hearsay) that Noem’s daughter failed the appraiser exam four times before Mom called the appraiser chief in for that Mansion meeting:
If Ravnsborg really has such anecdotal evidence, he has not made it public, and the GAB documents don’t indicate that he shared it with them.
Ravnsborg’s third letter to the GAB, dated February 25, 2022, again mostly recapitulating GOAC testimony. Ravnsborg also adds a transcript of Noem’s comments to the Sioux Falls Rotary Club on December 13, 2021, to support the point that Noem and Labor Secretary Marcia Hultman were making contradictory statements about the Peters/Bren scandal.
Predictably, Ravnsborg’s complaint and supporting letters don’t reveal much new information or demonstrate any additive persuasive power beyond what GOAC and the press have already revealed. But Ravnsborg’s schlubby peddling of this complaint does not disprove the facts reported by Stephen Groves and the evidence and testimony produced in the GOAC hearings that the Governor’s daughter received special treatment in the appraiser certification process.