South Dakota ethics board refers Noem probe to attorney general, moves for possible contested case hearing

During their meeting on Monday, Aug. 22, the Government Accountability Board made decisions on two investigations into ethics complaints against Gov. Kristi Noem. They referred an investigation into abuse of the state airplane to the attorney general and invoked a contested case hearing in possible conflict of interest relating to an appraisal license received by Noem's daughter.

Surrounded by her family, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem delivers a victory speech at a primary Election Day watch party on Tuesday, June 7, 2022 at the Hilton Garden Inn Downtown in Sioux Falls.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — The Government Accountability Board, a state ethics board made up of three retired judges, made progress during their meeting on Monday, Aug. 22, regarding two ethics complaints against Gov. Kristi Noem for abuses of office.

Complaint 2021-04, which stemmed from a report earlier this year that Noem had used the state airplane for travel unrelated to her duties as governor, was referred to the office of the state’s attorney general for further investigation.

The office did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding whether Attorney General Mark Vargo, who was appointed by Gov. Noem in June, will recuse himself from the investigation.

The other investigation, referred to on the docket as complaint 2021-03, relates to whether Noem abused the powers of her office by aiding her daughter, Kassidy Peters, in obtaining a real estate appraisal license, a possible conflict of interest first reported by the Associated Press .

The action taken by the board on this complaint is slightly more complicated; after meeting in private for around an hour, Lori Wilbur, the current chair of the board, said the matter had been “partially dismissed and partially closed.”


However, the board also appeared to lay plans to move forward with holding a contested case hearing into the complaint, meaning they believe there is “sufficient evidence” at this time that Noem “engaged in misconduct.”

The contested case hearing procedure would allow Gov. Noem to respond to the complaint. Noem’s office did not comment on the decision, though she has maintained a lack of wrongdoing in both cases.

A date for the next board meeting has not been set.

Sen. Julie Frye-Mueller, of Rapid City, is on her way toward reinstatement in the Senate as early as tomorrow, along with censure and "limited" access to LRC.

Jason Harward is a Report for America corps reporter who writes about state politics in South Dakota. Contact him at 605-301-0496 or

Related Topics: KRISTI NOEM
Jason Harward covers South Dakota news for Forum News Service. Email him at
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