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South Dakota ethics board, asked to investigate Noem, wants more information

The Government Accountability Board had been asked to look into the governor's use of a state airplane as well as her meddling into her daughter's realty appraiser certification. The board voted to decline to look further into one question on Monday, though they did not reveal at the public meeting which matter they declined.

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South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem arrives at the Sturgis Buffalo Chip campground after riding in the Legends Ride for charity on a 2021 Indian Chief on August 9, 2021 near Sturgis, South Dakota. (Scott Olson/Getty Images/TNS)

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — A state board overseeing ethics violations dismissed one of the items of potential concern believed to be related to Gov. Kristi Noem and asked for more information on two others on Monday, Nov. 1.

The Government Accountability Board had been asked by Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg to look into both the Republican governor's intervention in her daughter's realty appraiser certification as well as her frequent use of a state airplane, which has drawn scrutiny from lawmakers.

Monday, the board returned from a private executive session to dismiss one numbered item for lack of standing. The board also requested more information on two other items, though it's unclear from the public portions of the meeting which, if any, of the items related to allegations against Noem.

"It was a big nothing-burger," Rep. Linda Duba, a Sioux Falls Democrat, told Forum News Service following the meeting. "We don't know what complaints are still being looked into. It's just strange."

Prior to Monday's meeting, the Government Accountability Board, had been scheduled to discuss what the agenda opaquely called "new business." There was no public discussion among the members, and no member of the public testified.

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Earlier this fall, Ravnsborg passed onto the board a request for investigation from Sen. Reynold Nesiba, D-Sioux Falls. Nesiba had criticized Noem's use of the state airplane for personal travel, including to her daughter's wedding, in apparent violation of state law.

Days later, in October, Ravnsborg also referred questions concerning Kassidy Peters' pursuit of a realty appraiser certification in 2020, which included a sit-down with Noem and the program's top executive, Sherry Bren, to the board.

Peters is Noem's daughter.

Last week, a legislative accountability committee hearing was spurned by Bren. Secretary of the Department of Labor and Regulation Marcia Hultman contended that Bren had no direct role in assessing Peters' work product for certification and, thus, any meeting with the governor wouldn't have applied pressure on Bren.

Jim Park, executive director of the Appraisal Subcommittee , the federal regulator of state appraiser programs, told FNS that he'd only heard rumors regarding Peters' application.

"We wouldn't know anything specific about what's happened in South Dakota until we do a compliance review," Park said. He said COVID-19 has sidelined compliance reviews for all states until 2023.

While Bren's insisted to media outlets last week she'd provide "relevant" information to the public, it's unclear whether this would be in a formal hearing setting.

The Government Accountability Board itself has a storied history, emerging from the Legislature in 2017 only after lawmakers and Gov. Dennis Daugaard repealed a wide-ranging revision of campaign finance and lobbying laws. The current board meets without a virtual broadcast to SD.net , as do most state boards, and its members are appointed by the governor.

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After Monday's meeting, Duba was frustrated with the lack of transparency, adding, "I need to contact the retired chief justice, and ask what I need to do to change [this board]."

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