PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — His office’s top staff recently placed South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg’s signature on a letter joining other states’ Republican attorneys general in criticizing U.S. President Joe Biden.
The decision came while Ravsnborg remains suspended from official duties, as he awaits an impeachment trial by the South Dakota Senate that opens Tuesday morning.
Ravnsborg would be removed from state office if two-thirds — 24 — of the senators find him guilty of either article of impeachment resulting from the September 12, 2020, crash that killed pedestrian Joe Boever and the criminal investigation afterward.
KELOLAND News asked his chief of staff why Ravnsborg’s signature appeared on the Republican AGs’ letter. The South Dakota Attorney General’s office distributed a news release announcing the letter on Tuesday, June 14.
“The signature that appears on the official letter is the e-signature of Attorney General Ravnsborg. That signature acts as a seal for the Office of the Attorney General during his suspension because, as you are aware, he is still the AG,” Tim Bormann answered. “The decision to join the letter was made, on behalf of the Office, by Chief Deputy Charles McGuigan and Solicitor General Paul Swedlund.”
KELOLAND News sought responses from top members of the Legislature and the governor’s communications director about how that could be done while Ravnsborg is suspended.
“Jason has no ability to act as AG, virtually, electronically or otherwise, pursuant to our state Constitution, pending the outcome of the impeachment trial,” Senator Lee Schoenbeck, R-Watertown, answered.
Schoenbeck, the Senate president pro tem, would preside over Ravnsborg’s two-day trial if Lieutenant Governor Larry Rhoden isn’t available. Rhoden is the Senate’s president.
House Speaker Spencer Gosch, R-Glenham, didn’t respond to several KELOLAND News requests. He chaired the House special committee. Its Republican majority decided against recommending impeachment. Gosch voted against impeachment when the House considered it.
Ian Fury, spokesman for Governor Kristi Noem and Rhoden, also didn’t reply to those requests. Fury takes an unpaid leave of absence starting June 24 to join her re-election campaign.
Noem, a Republican, has repeatedly called for Ravnsborg’s resignation and suggested the House impeach him if he didn’t step down.
Ravnsborg has since said he doesn’t plan to seek re-election.
Noem endorsed former Attorney General Marty Jackley for the GOP nomination that will be decided by delegates on June 25 at the South Dakota Republican convention in Watertown. Noem defeated Jackley for the Republican nomination for governor in 2018.
South Dakota voters haven’t elected a Democrat as attorney general since 1972 when Kermit Sande defeated Republican Ron Schmidt.
Ravnsborg can return to official duties if the Senate doesn’t convict him.