Ethics board subpoenas DCI for investigation report into if Gov. Kristi Noem misused the state airplane

Gun Rights

The Government Accountability Board issued a subpoena for the Division of Criminal Investigation relating to its investigation into Gov. Kristi Noem’s alleged personal use of the state airplane, during a Monday afternoon meeting in Sioux Falls.

The action comes after the Hughes County State’s Attorney found there were “no facts to support a criminal prosecution under current law” on Oct. 25 and returned the complaint to the GAB. It’s the latest in a tango that has lasted almost two years.

The board, made up of four retired judges, said during the hour-long meeting they had requested the DCI report, but had not received it prior to the meeting, leading to the 3-0 vote in favor of the subpoena. Most of the meeting was held behind closed doors.

The complaint, which alleges Noem misused the state airplane to travel to events organized by political organizations, such as the National Rifle Association, Turning Point USA and the Republican Jewish Coalition, was filed by state Sen. Reynold Nesiba (D-Sioux Falls) to the attorney general’s office in February 2021.

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Noem defended the travel as part of her job as “an ambassador for the state.”

The plane complaint was originally referred to the GAB in October 2021, by former Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg who was impeached this summer after he hit and killed a man in 2020.

At the time, another complaint that Noem had misused her position as governor to help her daughter obtain a real estate appraisers license also went in front of the GAB. The board determined in August that Noem had engaged in conflict of interest and malfeasance. They voted to take “appropriate action,” but the action was not defined nor was that action made public.

During the August meeting, the GAB returned the airplane complaint to the AG’s office. Acting Attorney General Mark Vargo recused himself from the investigation. Instead Jessica LaMie, the Hughes County State’s Attorney, and the Division of Criminal Investigation explored the complaint.

While Vargo and DCI have not received notification about the subpoena, Vargo will comply with the law, according to Stewart Huntington, a spokesperson for the AG’s Office.

Chief Justice David Gibertson, who was appointed to the board by Noem, has been recusing himself from the investigations pertaining to the governor.

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