Why forward any complaint to the Government Accountability Board if the Board won’t hold a corrupt government official publicly accountable?
Four weeks ago, the Government Accountability Board issued its first ever public statement about any ethics complaint it received, declaring that Governor Kristi Noem’s personal use of the state plane should be reviewed by the Attorney General and that Noem’s nepotistic intervention in her daughter Kassidy Peters’s struggle to become a real estate appraiser potentially constituted “misconduct” that warranted “appropriate action”. But strangely, the GAB appeared to let Noem herself choose the GAB’s response… and Noem gets to choose to keep the board’s action secret from the public:
South Dakota’s ethics board won’t publicly disclose the “appropriate action” it took after finding evidence Gov. Kristi Noem intervened with a state agency to influence her daughter’s application for a real estate appraiser license, a lawyer for the board told The Associated Press.
…A lawyer hired by the board, Mark Haigh, responded to an open records request by telling the AP this week that the board’s response would remain “confidential.”
…the board appeared to let Noem decide whether to defend herself in a public hearing, known as a contested case hearing, or simply accept the “appropriate action” and let the matter quietly die. As a deadline passed last week to contest the board’s finding, Noem stayed silent, and the board’s lawyer says the case remains closed [Stephen Groves, “Ethics Board Keeps ‘Action’ Secret on Complaint Against Noem,” AP, 2022.09.20].
Let’s universalize the maxim of the board’s action.
- You get to pick whether the HiPo gives you a ticket or a warning, and your interaction with law enforcement is never put on the record.
- Jason Ravnsborg gets to pick whether he’s disqualified from public office or just impeached, and the Senate never tells us whether he’s disqualified or not.
- Murderers get to pick life in prison or death by means of their choice (that would save a lot of trail expense) and we never tell the victims whether the convict goes to solitary or the gallows.
I’m sorry to be silly, but I can’t think of a non-silly example in which an individual commits an action that harms the public but is allowed to choose not to be held to account before the public. Even if we let some malefactress off with a tickle on the wrist (and malefact Kristi most certainly did, or the Government Accountability Board would not have deemed any response necessary), we still must announce that tickle so the public may determine if justice was done and or if its institutions of justice need a swift kick in the can.
The Government Accountability faced its first public test in the two complaints against Governor Noem. Its return of the state-plane question to the Attorney General appears to be a proper move, directing a complaint about lawbreaking to law enforcement. But the GAB’s sweeping of the appraiser-nepotism complaint under Noem’s expensive rugs betrays the public trust and tells other corrupt officials that the watchdog will not hunt.