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“Gov. Noem May Have Engaged in Misconduct”
GAB Refers Allegations to Noem Appointee, Mark Vargo

August 22, 2022- By Breeauna Sagdal

As previously reported by The Dakota Leader, Governor Kristi Noem pushed hard for the impeachment of former Attorney General, Jason Ravnsborg. Following the tragic and fatal collision with Highmore resident, Joseph Boever, Gov. Noem urged the impeachment of Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg. Prior to that tragic incident however, Ravnsborg had opened investigations into Gov. Noem for alleged "misuse of public funds," and "nepotism."

Ravnsborg had also launched an investigation into Noem's wealthiest donor Denny Sanford, after child pornography was allegedly found on his home computer, according to information provided by The Centers For Missing and Exploited Children. The case was dropped against Sanford, shortly after the impeachment of Ravnsborg.

Stephan Groves of the Associated Press shares the South Dakota GAB (Government Accountability Board) has found sufficient information that Gov. Kristi Noem may have “engaged in misconduct, when she intervened in her daughter’s application for a real estate appraiser license, and it referred a separate complaint over her state airplane use to the state's attorney general for investigation."

The three retired judges who comprise the Government Accountability Board, determined that the case was partially closed and partially dismissed. The board voted unanimously to invoke procedures allowing for a contested case hearing that gives Noem a chance to publicly defend herself against allegations related to her daughter's appraisal license.

The board dismissed allegations claiming Noem misused state funds for personal use. In 2019, Noem upgraded the state's plane, and was later accused of jet-setting on taxpayer dollars to attend political events, and campaign for the re-election of former President, Donald Trump. Though South Dakota law bars state-owned airplanes from being used for anything other than state business, Noem says she was acting as a state ambassador, and has denied allegations of misuse or wrong-doing.

The matter has now been referred to acting A.G, Mark Vargo, whom Noem herself appointed after the impeachment of former A.G Jason Ravnsborg. Vargo,
who has had a past of publicly questioning then A.G Jason Ranvsborg, was also brought onto the prosecution team, against the wishes of the House Committee on Investigation. Senator Lee Schoenbeck later appointed Vargo to prosecute Ravnsborg in the Senate trial, which ultimately led to the impeachment of Ravnsborg from office.

Upon taking office, Vargo cleaned house, firing the top brass considered to be loyal to Ravnsborg. DCI Director David Natvig and Assistant Director Tim Borrman, were both let go without notice, and only days after the Republican Convention was held where Natvig challenged Marty Jackley (Noem's choice for A.G) for the Republican nomination. Vargo has said he has no intention of appointing a replacement director for the Division of Criminal Investigations.



The Dakota Leader's Editor Breeauna Sagdal, was sent a private text message from someone close to the situation, directly after Vargo was appointed by Noem. "How much do you want to bet that the investigation is referred to Vargo, and everything gets quietly swept under the rug? There's a reason he was appointed, and top brass cleaned out," the text reads.

Many within South Dakota's political sphere, report believing that Ravnsborg was impeached prior to being able to investigate Noem, and her long-time donor Denny Sanford, citing concerns over Noem's actions during the course of the investigation.

The House launched an investigation at the behest of Gov. Noem, to determine if Ravnsborg had acted in a manner that warranted impeachment per South Dakota law. During that time however, Gov. Kristi Noem was issued cease and desist orders for interference. Gov. Noem and her administration continued to publicly release sensitive and inaccurate information during the course of an on-going investigation. Noem's actions were considered erratic and unethical according to her colleagues, who allege she was also involved with a state-wide billboard campaign questioning the motives of political opponents.

Additionally, false information was leaked to the press during the investigation. Initially, it was reported that Ravnsborg had been distracted while driving, but in February of 2021, Michael Moore of Beadle County shared that both of Ravnsborg's phones were locked at least one minute and 15 seconds leading up to the crash, meaning he was not in fact on his phone as initially reported by the press. National media also falsely reported that Ravnsborg had been drinking when he hit Boever, and then fled the scene of the crime. These allegations were all proven incorrect after the 911 audio was released to the public, but the source of that information was never revealed.

Although the House Committee on Investigation found Ravnsborg not-guilty of charges warranting impeachment, the fully assembly voted 36-31 to impeach. Ravnsborg was later impeached after a short two-day trial in the Senate, led by prosecutor Mark Vargo. Ultimately, Ravnsborg was impeached for the two misdemeanor charges he had plead "no-contest" to, and not for violating the terms of his office, per state law.

Mark Vargo has been asked if he will recuse himself from investigating Gov. Noem, due to the conflicts of interest. Vargo said in a statement to the AP: “Based on the fact that this just happened, no decision has been made.”

Conversely, the board, while saying they have found sufficient information that Noem "may have engaged in misconduct," has stated that “appropriate action” could be taken against Noem for her role in her daughter's appraiser licensure. The board however, has not specified what, if any action that might be.

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--Breeauna Sagdal- Editor At Large

Post Date: 2022-08-22 10:20:41Last Update: 2022-08-22 20:36:56


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