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Governor: No action against Minnehaha prosecutor

PIERRE, S.D. — Gov. Kristi Noem said Wednesday that she would take no action against Minnehaha County’s top prosecutor despite an investigation that found he might have a drinking problem.

Noem asked the attorney general to investigate after Aaron McGowan was absent from work without explanation from mid-July through mid-September. She called Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg’s investigation report “unsettling” but said it concluded there wasn’t evidence to pursue charges.

A woman who answered the phone in McGowan’s office said staff had been instructed not to take messages for him and that he would decide whether to comment after receiving the report.

McGowan was first elected state’s attorney in Minnehaha, the state’s most populous county, in 2008. After his absence was noted by news organizations, McGowan said he was on medical leave.

The attorney general’s report said McGowan’s family sought to have an intervention for alcohol use on July 13, but McGowan refused to participate. A 911 call that night brought police and a mobile crisis team to the house, but they eventually determined that McGowan wasn’t a threat to himself or others.

Some office employees told investigators of incidents involving McGowan and alcohol. Those included asking employees to bring alcohol to his house when he was at home during business hours. Some employees also said McGowan sometimes asked them to take him to work because he was too drunk to drive.

Investigators said McGowan denied both claims, and some other employees in the office said it ran effectively while he was gone, with McGowan checking in daily.

Ravnsborg noted in his report that Noem could remove McGowan if he failed to perform his duties due to intoxication, but he cited three earlier cases where attempts to invoke the law failed.

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