Yesterday SDPB gave nearly 16 minutes of air time to Marty Jackley, who will return the Attorney General’s office this January thanks to the lack of lawyers from any other party willing to run for that office. At the end of the interview, Jackley addressed the Attorney General’s proper role with the Government Accountability Board, which has struggled to handle valid complaints against Jackley’s current political ally, Governor Kristi Noem.
Jackley said the public should expect the Attorney General and the Division of Criminal Investigation to assist the Government Accountability Board in its investigations. However, Jackley said the public should expect and demand that criminal matters should not go to the GAB but instead should be addressed by the Attorney General or the state’s attorney with jurisdiction.
Jackley’s comment noteworthily applies to the complaint about Noem’s illegal personal use of the state plane. Jackley’s impeached predecessor, killer Jason Ravnsborg, received the initial complaint about Noem’s abuse of the state plane from travel-watchdog Senator Reynold Nesiba in February 2021. Nesiba’s complaint referred to a state law (SDCL 5-25-1.1) with a criminal penalty, thus making clear he was asking the Attorney General to look into a criminal matter, not merely an ethical violation. Yet then-AG Ravnsborg sat on that complaint of criminal activity for seven months before referring it to the Government Accountability Board. The GAB sat on the complaint for nearly eleven more months before figuring out what Jackley enunciated yesterday: the Attorney General should have handled the criminal complaint in the first place instead of passing that buck to the GAB.
Attorney General Mark Vargo has handed this warm potato to Hughes County state’s attorney Jessica LaMie to avoid any appearance that he might bias the investigation in favor of the Governor who appointed him to his six-month gig in the Attorney General’s seat.
But Jackley appears to be saying that the complaint against Noem’s friends-and-family flight plan is just one more thing that Jason Ravnsborg screwed up. The Attorney General should not need the Government Accountability Board to tell him whether a state official has broken the law; the Attorney General ought to have the brains and the balls to make that legal determination himself.