South Dakota attorney general will not investigate Gov. Kristi Noem’s use of state airplane

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PIERRE, S.D. — At the end of a week of heightening scrutiny of Gov. Kristi Noem, South Dakota’s attorney general says his office will not investigate Noem’s use of a state aircraft to ferry her and family members to political and personal events.

In a letter sent from Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg to Sen. Reynold Nesiba, D-Sioux Falls, Ravnsborg says the Attorney General’s Office has handed over questions about the legality of Noem’s past use of a state aircraft to the Government Accountability Board to review the matter.

“[I]n order to handle these questions, which would require considerable resources and investigation, I have referred your letter to the Government Accountability Board for review and action as they deem fit and proper,” Ravnsborg wrote in the letter dated Sept. 28.

In a statement to the media, Nesiba said he was frustrated that Ravnsborg — whom he’d sent a letter to on the aircraft controversy back in February — would not tackle an investigation head-on.

“My initial hope was that an independently elected AG’s office would investigate this matter and take appropriate action, if warranted,” Nesiba said. “For his office to simply pass this along to the Government Accountability Board — where all four members are appointed by the Governor — is a disappointment.”

The Government Accountability Board, which was established in 2017 by the South Dakota Legislature, is composed of four retired judges, including former Supreme Court Chief Justice David Gilbertson and former Justice Lori Wilbur. Wilbur is the board chair.


The board last met in August. It is not known when they’ll meet next. A phone call to Assistant Attorney General Katie L. Mallery, who is assigned to assist the Board by the Attorney General’s Office, was not immediately returned.

Noem flew aboard the state aircraft to political events, including meetings organized by the National Rifle Association and Turning Point USA, according to flight records reviewed by Raw Story, a liberal news website. According to Raw Story’s reporting, Noem also used the airplane for her daughter Kassidy Peters‘ wedding in the Black Hills.

State law forbids use of the state-owned aircraft for anything other than the “conduct of state business.” Earlier this week, both Ravnsborg and a legislative committee tasked with scrutinizing government behavior said they would consider investigating Noem for her intervention in a realty appraiser certification sought by Peters.

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