PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The South Dakota Legislature’s Executive Board hired a new code counsel Tuesday.

The vote was 12-0 for John McCullough. His starting annual salary will be $112,000. He currently works for the Minnesota Legislature as chief deputy revisor, where he performs similar work.

“I feel like we came up with a good member for your recommendation here today,” House Speaker Spencer Gosch said prior to the vote. 

McCullough succeeds Justin Goetz, who was hired as code counsel August 31, 2020.

Goetz recently was promoted to chief research and legal analyst, upon the June 8 retirement of David Ortbahn, who had been an LRC staff member 42 years.

Goetz had replaced Wenzel Cummings as code counsel. Cummings held the post approximately one year and decided he needed to work in a different atmosphere.

Cummings had been chosen code counsel June 10, 2019. He succeeded Doug Decker, who retired June 8, 2019. Decker, who served 36 years in state government, was hired as code counsel in 1998.

There was a brief discussion about whether the board needed to move into closed-door session, because a screening subcommittee chaired by Senate Democrat leader Troy Heinert had already recommended McCullough.

“I think this is better done in the regular meeting,” Senator Lee Schoenbeck said, arguing against executive session.

Gosch said he agreed, but proceeded with a vote to privately discuss the matter that wound up 11-1. Schoenbeck was the only opponent of going behind closed doors.

“He’s an excellent candidate for the position,” House Democrat leader Jamie Smith said. 

“We had plenty of great applicants,” Gosch said afterward, thanking the others who applied “We had a very difficult choice to make.”