Government Accountability Board moves forward on Gov. Noem complaints

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The South Dakota Government Accountability board is moving forward in its examination of complaints against Governor Kristi Noem.

The complaints involve the use of the state airplane and a meeting at the governor’s mansion concerning her daughter’s appraiser license. Today’s meeting moved to the executive session quickly.

After about 45 minutes the executive session ended and the board announced their next move.

They decided to hire an attorney to advise them on the legality of the issues being raised.

Assistant Attorney General Katie Mallery usually advises the board but will step aside to avoid any conflict of interest.

The Governor has been a big critic of Mallery’s current boss Attorney General Jason Ravsnborg.

The board’s involvement started in February of 2021, when some state lawmakers requested the Attorney General investigate whether Governor Noem violated state law by flying a state airplane to events hosted by political organizations.

The other issue before the Accountability Board involves allegations that the governor interfered when the Department of Labor and Regulation originally denied her daughter’s appraiser license application in 2020.

The longtime head of the program, Sherry Bren, later told lawmakers she was forced to resign after a meeting at the governor’s mansion involving Bren, Noem, Noem’s daughter and others.

Some might find it odd that an Accountability Board does most of its work in executive session. State Representative Linda Duba of Sioux Falls attended the meeting. She says the law surrounding what the board can and cannot do when it comes to information is stifling.

“They’re not even able to talk about the complaints themselves, the process they are going through, everything is in executive session, we heard this morning where they had to go retain an attorney and they can’t even disclose why they need to do that,” said Duba.

We reached out to the Governor’s office to ask if she responded to the board’s request for information from her. A spokesman says it would be a violation of state law to reveal that information.

“For a law that was supposed to provide transparency we are in the dark,” said Duba.

If the board finds violations, it can take a wide range of actions from issuing a private reprimand to requesting a criminal investigation.

Duba says if she is re-elected, she will work with other lawmakers to change the laws restraining the accountability board.

There are three other people also running for the District 15 representative in the November election. Only three members of the board are looking into the complaints. Former Supreme Court Chief Justice David Gilbertson recused himself because he was appointed to the board by Governor Noem.