ETHICS BOARD: SD Gov. Kristi Noem may have “engaged in misconduct”

ETHICS BOARD: SD Gov. Kristi Noem may have "engaged in misconduct"

Kristi Noem, the Republican governor of South Dakota, may have “engaged in misconduct,” according to the state’s Government Accountability Board. The three-panel ethics board has found “sufficient information”  regarding Noem’s interference in her daughter’s application for a real estate appraiser license that could lead to “appropriate action” being taken.

Up for re-election in November, Noem has been the subject of multiple ethics complaints investigated by former Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg – who himself was convicted of two impeachment charges after a 2020 fatal hit-and-run car crash that resulted in the death of a 55-year-old pedestrian.

After Ravnsborg’s removal from office, he filed a complaint accusing Noem of abusing the powers of her office, misusing official state aircraft, and intervening in her daughter’s evaluation for her licensure. The disgraced former Attorney General told the Associated Press:

“I’m not going to let this just drop. I think that they should pursue it and I do believe that, ultimately, the House will pursue it.”

Last year, the Associated Press reported on a meeting the governor held with her daughter, Kassidy Peters, and key decision-makers in the application process – days after Peters’ application was in the process of being denied. Noem refuted claims of “preferential treatment” and said in December 2021 that “There’s been a continual narrative that I did something to help her get licensed, which is absolutely false.”

A Republican-led board disagreed – unanimously approving a report from the Government Operations and Audit Committee that contradicted the governor’s statements.

Peters was allowed additional time to meet federal standards, getting her appraisal license four months after the meeting initiated by her mother.

Noem’s daughter failed not once, but multiple times to meet the required qualifications – receiving additional training and entering into an agreement to fix errors and resubmit her work. Labor Secretary Marcia Hultman took a hands-on role in seeing her boss’ daughter get licensed.

“Secretary Hultman changed the disposition agreement and removed the requirement for additional course training, ” the report says. “This was the first time the Department of Labor and Regulation Secretary inserted herself into any disposition agreement.”

Agency director Sherry Bren testified that she had been forced to retire after being asked to attend a meeting to discuss helping Peters pass her certification. Gov. Noem accused Bren of “getting in the way of new appraisers getting their certification,” but the opposite was found by the legislature. Bren received a $200,000 settlement from the state after filing an age discrimination complaint – and just before submitting her resignation.

Gov. Noem was instrumental in the impeachment and removal of former Attorney General Ravnsborg, but he insists his complaint isn’t about revenge against his former boss. Instead, he claims that it is about transparency and accountability.

“I think that along these two complaints – and there are other scandals that she’s involved in – that she did not want the information to come to light,” he said. “Knowing what I know as the complainant, Gov. Noem should be fully investigated for her abuse of power in getting her daughter an appraiser license, and Gov. Noem should be prosecuted for her criminal use of state resources for personal gain.”

It’s been rumored that the South Dakota governor has her sights set on a 2024 Presidential run or at least consideration for a Republican VP role. While allegations of misappropriation of state funds were dismissed by the board, that will allow Noem to publicly defend herself against allegations of “malfeasance,” and “misconduct.” Allegations that she misused the state’s airplane, however, have been referred to the current state Attorney General for investigation.

We’ll soon see whether the ethics charges will help Kristi Noem lose some of the political luster she’s exploited during the Trump era in Republican politics.

Original reporting by Stephen Groves at AP News

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Vinnie Longobardo

is the Managing Editor of Washington Press and a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile, & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music, and art.