Now that Governor Kristi Noem has ratted her out for illegally taking $603,000 in coronavirus relief funds for her Little Nest Preschool, Senator Jessica Castleberry (R-35/Rapid City) has announced she won’t run for reëlection in 2024. However, she has not announced that she will resign from the post to which Noem appointed her back in 2019. Nor has she said she will pay the money back by the August 7 deadline that Attorney General Marty Jackley imposed last week to avoid going to court.
But now the poor (I don’t think she has $603K on hand) woman has her Senate Majority Leader Casey Crabtree (R-8/Madison) suggesting she might want to move up her Senate exit date:
The leader of the Senate’s Republican caucus said the allegations against Castleberry are serious.
“South Dakotans expect their lawmakers to follow the letter of the law, especially when it comes to taxpayer dollars,” Casey Crabtree, R-Madison, said. “I have full faith in [Attorney General] Marty Jackley and his team to investigate the matter” [Lee Strubinger, “Senate Leader Concerned with Castleberry Conduct,” SDPB Radio, 2023.07.31].
Crabtree, another Noem appointee, supported the suspension and censure of Senator Julie Frye-Mueller (R-30/Rapid City) last winter after Frye-Mueller’s unprofessional harassment of a Legislative Research Council staffperson. Crabtree could easily argue that Castleberry’s violation of the South Dakota Constitution’s prohibition on legislators’ taking state money is an even greater violation of the public trust than Frye-Mueller’s indecorum. And Crabtree’s public weigh-in on the issue suggests that, even if Noem’s public crucifixion of the generally leadership pliant and untroublesome Castleberry stems from some as yet unknown personal or political motive, it has legs among the Republican leadership.
Noem handed Castleberry her seat four years ago to replace Lynne DiSanto, who quit the Senate after disgracing the body with a variety of questionable conduct. Even if she can’t immediately hand back her illegal $603K grant, she should take Senator Crabtree’s hint and hand back her Senate seat so the Governor can appoint someone else who won’t be a liability to the Senate and the Republican party heading into the 2024 Session and election.