PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg knew Governor Kristi Noem would give to the public his investigation report on Minnehaha County State’s Attorney Aaron McGowan.
“Yes, the attorney general was fully aware that the governor, as our client, had decided to release the findings of the investigation as a matter of transparency,” Tim Bormann, who is Ravnsborg’s chief of staff, said Thursday.
KELOLAND News asked why Governor Noem released the report Wednesday, after she had decided she wouldn’t seek criminal charges or remove McGowan through a Prohibition-era law regarding intoxication or drunkenness by law enforcement officials.
The governor’s press secretary, Kristin Wileman, responded in a written statement Thursday afternoon.
“The governor released the summary report from the attorney general to be transparent with the people of South Dakota who elect leaders to public office,” Wileman wrote.
“The facts speak for themselves. There were questions about recent incidents that deserved answers. As the governor stated yesterday, she will not be pursuing any further action at this time,” Wileman continued.
Noem and Ravnsborg are Republicans while McGowan is a Democrat. His fellow prosecutors honored McGowan as South Dakota State’s Attorney of the Year in 2017.
The governor on September 18 asked the attorney general to investigate the handling of an incident July 13 when Sioux Falls police went to McGowan’s home. The matter wasn’t reported on the police log.
Ravnsborg, whose responsibilities include overseeing the state Division of Criminal Investigation, gave to Noem a five-page summary of the findings and an 18-page supplement.
The report found McGowan routinely consumed alcohol, including before a noon meeting of the South Dakota State’s Attorney Association in Deadwood in May.
In his investigation summary to Noem, Ravnsborg said there wasn’t evidence to accuse McGowan of a felony or a misdemeanor crime.
“As your original correspondence stated, this is a matter of public interest and a swift resolution is prudent,” Ravnsborg wrote in the report’s final paragraph.
Noem issued a statement with the report Wednesday. It said in part: “The facts that were uncovered are unsettling. The attorney general concludes that there isn’t the evidence to pursue charges against McGowan. I will not be pursuing any further action at this time.”
McGowan told KELOLAND News Wednesday he hadn’t received a copy of the report. He said there were inaccuracies but he didn’t say what they were. McGowan said he would decide whether to issue a response later.