The gag order that Governor Kristi Noem has imposed across state government leaves citizens in the dark about how elected officials and public agencies are using the power and tax dollars granted to them by the people. But the state Board of Finance’s failure to post its meeting minutes actually violates state law.
SDCL 1-25-1.4 requires all state boards, commissions, and departments that have to provide public notice of their meetings to post their meeting minutes to a state website designated by the Bureau of Finance and Management for that purpose. BFM designates the Boards and Commissions Portal for that purpose. The Board of Finance is required by SDCL 4-1-2 to hold public meetings on the third Tuesday of every month.
The Board of Finance was pretty good about posting its minutes in previous years. In 2019, they posted minutes for all but one of their meetings, the November 19, 2019 meeting, thus denying us the ability to confirm whether the board approved reimbursing GOED’s Kyle Peters, the Governor’s son-in-law, for the $36.64 lunch plus $6.60 tip he spent at the Bullpen Steakhouse & Spirits in Lake Norden schmoozing a business prospect.
But in September 2022, the Board of Finance’s secretary, then-Secretary of State Steve Barnett, appears to have stopped posting minutes. That may have been when Barnett started preparing his early exit to the South Dakota Rural Electric Association, which was announced in October. But minutes remain absent in December 2022, when Barnett’s early replacement, Monae Johnson, took office. Johnson has posted minutes for only one of eight Board of Finance meetings so far this year, the March 21 meeting (which now, instead of a convenient PDF that opens in the web browser like all the pervious minutes, downloads as a Word document that one must open on one’s computer in a separate word processing app), at which the board approved reimbursing the Department of Tourism for hosting travel writers from Canada and Italy last fall. For the rest of the Board of Finance meetings since September 2022, the Secretary of State’s office has published nothing but agendae, in violation of SDCL 1-25-1.4.
It’s one thing to stonewall the press, muzzle state employees, and delay and deny public records requests. But even our reticent state has to follow the law. Post those Board of Finance minutes, Secretary Johnson!