SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — A bipartisan group of South Dakota state lawmakers are calling on Attorney General Mark Vargo to recuse himself and appoint special counsel to investigate an inquiry into whether or not Governor Kristi Noem misused the state airplane
Among them is Jamie Smith, the Democratic nominee challenging Noem, who is calling for a special prosecutor to “investigate the extent to which Governor Noem engaged in misconduct.”
Smith’s calls for a special prosecutor come after the Government Accountability Board determined that “appropriate action” could be taken for Noem’s involvement when the Department of Labor and Regulation denied her daughter’s appraiser license application in 2020.
Smith was joined in his calls for a special prosecutor by current Speaker of the House Spencer Gosch (R, Glenham) and Rep. Scott Odenbach (R, Spearfish).
The board, which formed in 2017 and is made up of retired judges, also referred a complaint that Noem flew on state-owned airplanes to political events to the attorney general’s office for further investigation.
Noem appointed acting Attorney General Mark Vargo after Jason Ravnsborg was impeached and removed from office in June.
“This board has now met seven times and took the appropriate steps to evaluate these complaints against the governor,” Smith’s statement said. “I have always known Attorney General Vargo to be a hard-working and honest public servant. However, his appointment by the governor calls into question the neutrality of his office. For such a sensitive matter, it is only fair that he recuse himself from the process, appoint a special prosecutor, and allow for an impartial investigation into the allegations.”
In early August, the board denied a motion to dismiss the complaints. Noem’s office has previously stated it could not comment on the complaints but on Monday her campaign spokesman released a statement saying the board’s actions were “illegal.”
“The actions taken by the GAB today did not follow state law or precedent. They have yet to point to one single statute the Governor has violated in either of these complaints,” Ian Fury said in an emailed statement. “It is unfortunate the board chose not to bring this charade to an end today. Kassidy Peters did not receive any special treatment, and Governor Noem followed the law, period!”
Fury also said the complaints were filed by Ravnsborg in retaliation to Noem calling for him to resign and then for him to be impeached.