South Dakota AG reviewing Noem’s meeting with daughter

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FILE — South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem speaks during the Family Leadership Summit in this July 16, 2021, file photo in Des Moines, Iowa. Ethics officials are questioning whether Noem had a conflict of interest by meeting with her daughter and top state officials last year in the governor’s office while her daughter was pursuing a real estate certification. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, file)

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota’s attorney general said Tuesday he is reviewing concerns from state lawmakers over a meeting Gov. Kristi Noem held last year that included both her daughter and a state employee who was overseeing her daughter’s application to become a certified real estate appraiser.

“I have been contacted by concerned citizens and legislators,” Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg said in a statement. “I am actively reviewing their concerns and I will be following the steps prescribed in codified law in relation to those questions.”

Ravnsborg didn’t immediately respond to a question about what steps he might take. The attorney general is tasked under state law with issuing legal opinions to lawmakers.

The Associated Press reported Monday that Noem held the meeting shortly after the state agency had moved to deny her daughter the license last year. Noem’s daughter eventually received her license four months later. Afterward, the state employee who directed the agency was allegedly pressured to retire by Noem’s cabinet secretary. The state employee, Sherry Bren, eventually received a $200,000 payment from the state to withdraw the complaint and leave her job.

Ethics experts said the episode raised concerns that the governor had abused the power of her office.

The governor’s office declined to answer detailed questions from the AP, and Noem’s spokesman dismissed the AP’s report as a political attack on the governor.

Noem, 49, is seen among a handful of early GOP hopefuls for the White House in 2024. In just her first term as governor after nearly a decade in Congress, her star has risen as she has honed a message of more freedom and less government — particularly during the coronavirus pandemic, when she decried restrictions being put in place elsewhere. Though Noem has said she’s focused on re-election in 2022, she’s visited key early presidential states Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina and shown a willingness to jab at potential rivals.

Though Ravnsborg and Noem are both Republicans, they have become political enemies over the last year after the governor pressured Ravnsborg to resign following a car crash in which he struck and killed a man walking on a highway. The attorney general pleaded no contest to two misdemeanors in the crash. The Legislature is planning to convene in November to consider whether to proceed with impeaching Ravnsborg.

Democrats in the Legislature, who hold just a handful of seats, have also called for an investigation into the governor’s conduct during her daughter’s appraiser certification application.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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